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Lemon Checklist

If you live in California and find yourself the unfortunate owner of a lemon, you can start keeping records for your own protection.

  • To document your case, write a letter to the manufacturer outlining the problems you've had with the vehicle. Ask if they'd be willing to buy back your car because it is a lemon. Send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the address published in your vehicle's owner's manual. Manufacturers are required to provide the address clearly in all new owner's manuals. Even if the manufacturer has a customer service number, don't waste time by calling, because a letter is required to document your case.

  • The manufacturer may decide to voluntarily buy your lemon back without any further action on your part. If the manufacturer gives you a hard time about buying back the lemon vehicle, you can hire an attorney or use the manufacturer's arbitration program, if it has one. Feel free to contact California lemon lawyer Michael Saunders for a free consultation.

  • Gather all documents that can help prove your case—your warranty, repair orders, reports of inspections and technical service bulletins. Make copies and submit them to your lawyer or the arbitration panel.

    The arbitration program must give you a hearing date withing 40 days. It is a good idea to go to the hearing to present your side. You may accept or reject the program's decision. If you accept, the manufacturer is bound by the decision and has 30 days to comply. There is no appeal process for the manufacturer. Don't be discouraged if you lose in arbitration—you can go to court to sue for a replacement or refund and most Lemon Law cases are settled in the consumer's favor.

  • If the manufacturer does not have a certified arbitration program, or you prefer to pursue your Lemon Law rights in court, you can file a lawsuit. In this case, you will need to hire an attorney. If you win, you are entitled to be reimbursed for your attorney's fees, however many attorneys work on a "contingency" basis, which means you don't have to pay your legal fees up front. It is best to hire an attorney who is familiar with Lemon Law disputes or consumer warranty law, as well as one who represents only consumer—not auto company—interests. Michael Saunders, Esq. exclusively practices California lemon law.


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