The next step in the Lemon Law process is "Getting Ready to See Your Lemon Law Lawyer". First, you may ask, "Do I need to have a lawyer help me with this, or this is just shameless self-promotion on Doug's part?" Actually, it's not, and you do. The unfortunate reality is that you are far more likely to get what you are entitled to under the law if you have an attorney representing you.
More importantly, this isn't going to cost you anything. Before you toss this into the "too good to be true" basket, let me explain. The California legislature realized that consumers were not going to be able to effectively pursue their rights under the Lemon Law unless they hired an attorney, and that it did not make economic sense to spend the thousands of dollars on attorney's fees in this type of case. Because of this, it was made part of California Lemon Law that the manufacturer (Ford, Mercedes, etc.) was required to pay any attorney's fees and costs incurred by the consumer. In other words, when you hire a lawyer for a Lemon Law case, it won't cost you a dime!
Now, getting back to what you need to do to get ready to see the lawyer. The most important thing is to make sure you have all the necessary paperwork. I break this down into three categories:
1. Ownership Documents. This would start with your purchase contract and everything else you were handed that night you left the dealership with the keys to your beautiful new car clutched in your trembling hand. (Usually because of low blood sugar after the four-hour ordeal that is car buying.) Next would be anything having to do with any loan you have on the car. (Loan application, letter from the loan company at the start of the loan, monthly statements, coupon books, cancelled checks, that sort of thing.) Next, the current registration and any registrations before that. Next, receipts for anything you added to the vehicle, after-market items such as stereos, custom wheels, trailer hitches, etc. Finally, all the owner's manuals, warranties and other booklets. These are typically in a black plastic folder in the glove compartments, and usually you haven't looked at them since the salesman handed them to you along with those keys we started out with.
2. Service Documents. These are the documents that are going to tell your lawyer whether or not you have a case. Included are all the repair documents you ever got. As I explained last time, usually, when you take your car or truck to the dealer, they give you one set of paperwork, frequently called a "work order" that shows that you left your vehicle with them and what you said was wrong with it. When you pick up your vehicle they will give you a "Repair Order" or "Invoice", showing what they did to try to fix it. You need to bring both documents for every time you took your car in. Didn't keep them? Then you have to go to the dealer and ask for copies. Don't let them give you a "summary" or "history". You need full copies of all the work orders and repair orders, and you're entitled to them. As always, be "polite but firm". Of course, if you've been following my advice, you already have these. You also need copies of any maintenance work you've have done, whether or not done at the dealer. This would include oil changes, brake replacements and tire replacements.
3. Everything else. Gather up any letters or e-mails you may have sent or gotten about the problems with your car. Also, any logs, notes or memos you may have made about the problems. If you took a video of your beautiful new car being hauled away by the tow truck or any video or pictures showing the problems, bring those. I've had clients bring in pictures of the warning lights shining on the dashboard, and they were very effective. (And, yes, I've been brought the tow truck pictures!) Our slogan around here is, "If it's on paper and it has anything to do with your car, bring it!)"
Have everything on this list? It may take some time to gather it all together if you haven't been putting it in a file as you go along. (Assuming your crystal ball failed to alert you when you bought the car that you'd be seeing a Lemon Law attorney years later.) But your efforts will pay off when you go to see the lawyer.
Next time, I’ll tell you how to pick a Lemon Law lawyer.
In the meantime, for more pointers, see my website: www.sandiegolemonlaw.com
See you next week!
© 2011 Douglas C. Sohn