Understanding the Lemon Law Claims Process

by Aaron Fhima on Sep. 11, 2017

Motor Vehicle Defect and Lemon Law Consumer Rights 

Summary: When you find out that you’ve purchased a lemon vehicle, you discover that it’s not just a hassle. Buying a defective vehicle can be a safety hazard and a drain on your finances.

Understanding the Lemon Law Claims Process

When you find out that you’ve purchased a lemon vehicle, you discover that it’s not just a hassle. Buying a defective vehicle can be a safety hazard and a drain on your finances. Fortunately, many states have strong lemon laws that afford consumers the opportunity to seek repayment or replacement of their vehicle.

If you plan to file a lemon law claim in California, it’s helpful to understand the claims process. The more you know about the process, the less anxiety and frustration you’ll experience during a claim. Being an informed consumer helps you know what you can expect when dealing with manufacturers of faulty products. It can also help you when discussing your claim with a lemon law attorney.  

Attorneys play a big role in helping consumers get the most out of their claim. While it is not required that a consumer seek the services of an attorney, the Department of Motor Vehicles points out that having an experienced attorney will help you navigate the process and maximize your results.

Seeking a Lemon Law Attorney

For many consumers, the claims process begins with an attorney consultation. During this meeting, you and your attorney determine whether your vehicle qualifies as a lemon and, if so, the best way to proceed. Your attorney can help you handle initial documentation and paperwork, along with drafting a demand letter, negotiating settlement and pursuing litigation, if necessary. Your attorney can also answer specific questions about the claims process. As a result, you'll feel more confident in your ability to obtain a refund or a replacement, and less anxious about the potential litigation.

Notifying the Manufacturer

After documenting the problems with your vehicle and filing a claim, your legal representative will contact the vehicle manufacturer on your behalf, outlining your complaint and your attempts at repairing the malfunction. The demand letter will also state your rights as a consumer protected by the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.

While the demand letter is an essential step in the lemon law claims process, it rarely is enough to resolve the problem. Few manufacturers settle claims purely because they've been contacted by a consumer. However, a well-written letter can kick-start the claims process, show the manufacturer you are serious and significantly improve your chances of reaching a favorable outcome.

The Settlement Process

If the manufacturer fails to remedy the situation after receiving an initial demand letter, the legal representative proceeds with a claim, often resulting in the negotiation of a settlement. Ideally, this process will involve a series of counteroffers, ending with a mutually acceptable resolution.

During the settlement process, both sides discuss 'trouble spots' in the case. For example, the manufacturer may believe that the consumer operated the vehicle recklessly or otherwise worsened the damage through misuse. Evidence of vehicle misuse could lead to a smaller settlement. 

Throughout settlement proceedings, both parties typically try to find middle ground. A quick resolution is more likely if the manufacturer deems the consumer and his or her legal team a formidable opponent. 


Stubborn manufacturers may make settlement impossible. The next step is litigation, which begins with the attorney filing a formal complaint alleging breach of warranty contract. After the manufacturer files a response, the court sets a trial date. This launches the discovery phase, in which both sides gather additional evidence and build on their existing case. The discovery phase may also include depositions or pre-trial motions.

In court, both sides present evidence obtained during the discovery phase. The trial ends with a final verdict. If the consumer wins, the manufacturer must cover not only vehicle replacement or refund, but also the cost of attorney fees. If the manufacturer wins, most attorneys will shoulder the cost of the case.

Dealing with A Lemon Law Claim? Contact Neale & Fhima Today

Do you suspect your vehicle is a lemon? Our team can help you secure a refund or a replacement vehicle. Call (949) 661-1007 to request a case consultation.

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