Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“What is a Lemon?”

What do you think of when I say the word “lemon”?  Lemon bars?  Lemon meringue pie?  If you’re thinking “my new car”, then we need to talk.

That kind of “lemon” is, as we all know, a new car or truck that just isn’t any good, for one reason or another.  What can you do about it?  California, luckily enough, has very strong laws to protect you, as the consumer, if you’ve been sold a lemon.  If your new car has serious problems that the dealer’s service department isn’t getting fixed, and you’ve given them a reasonable number of chances to fix it, then chances are your car legally qualifies as a lemon.

What does that mean for you?  That means that the manufacturer--Ford, Mercedes, whatever, is required to buy it back from you.  What do you get back?   Generally speaking, you get back your down payment and the monthly payments you’ve made, and your loan gets paid off.  Of course, you have to give them back the car.  There are usually different credits and adjustments that come into play, but that has to be decided based on the specifics of your situation.

How much is this going to cost you in attorney’s fees?  That’s the best part, because the answer is—“$0”.  

Too good to be true?  Fortunately, the California lawmakers realized that it would not make sense for you, the car buyer, to pay the attorney’s fees that a Lemon Law case would require, so they made it a part of California law that the manufacturer has to pay the attorney’s fees.  So—it’s free for you!  (Keep that in mind if you’re talking to an attorney about your Lemon Law case and he or she is trying to charge you.)

Notice I’ve been using the words “new car”.  What does that actually mean?  It means that the car or truck we’re talking about has to have been under warranty, the original manufacturer’s warranty, when the problems started.  It doesn’t matter if the warranty has expired now.  I’ve had clients with vehicles where the warranty has expired years ago, and been able to get the vehicle bought back.  But—there are time limits, so don’t delay in seeing a lawyer.

What’s your next step?  First, you need to make sure that you have made a good record of the problems with your vehicle.  How do you do that?  That’s going to be the subject of my next blog.

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