What Does The Lemon Law Cover: Average Attorney Fees

People who accidentally buy lemon cars endure a frustrating experience. For instance, your vehicle can stall on the highway without notice. Although it’s normal for a car to develop a defect, problems with lemon vehicles are persistent and difficult to solve.

Fortunately, lemon law protects consumers who buy defective vehicles with a manufacturer’s warranty. Although the protection is guaranteed by law, the cost of hiring a lawyer can trigger delay or denial of your consumer rights.

If the fee is too high, it will reduce the settlement amount. On the other hand, a lawyer that requires an upfront fee can discourage you from seeking justice. Understanding the average cost of legal fees and different payment structures can help you choose the right attorney.

If you want to file a refund or replacement claim, consider speaking to an affordable and experienced attorney who uses contingency-based fees.

What Does the Lemon Law Cover?

California lemon law covers new and used vehicles bought or leased in California with the manufacturer’s new warranty. 

It covers the following types of vehicles:

  • SUVs, vans, pick-up trucks, motorcycles, cars, and vans
  • Cars bought for household, personal, and family reasons
  • Many vehicles that are purchased or leased for commercial purposes
  • Chassis, chassis cab, and drivetrain of a motorhome
  • Demonstrators and dealer-owned vehicles

More importantly, if the dealer or manufacturer can’t repair a defect after a ‘’reasonable number’’ of repair attempts, the manufacturer must either:

  • Replace the vehicle
  • Refund the buying price(buyback)— whichever you prefer

Here’s how you can determine if a manufacturer has met a ‘’reasonable number’’ of repair attempts.

In most lemon law cases, a question always arises whether a manufacturer has attained a ‘’reasonable number’’ of repair attempts. The answer depends on the severity of the defect and circumstances of each case.

For instance, if a vehicle has a persistent defect that affects its safety features, the manufacturer is allowed at least two repair attempts. On the other hand, manufacturers are permitted more attempts on annoying issues.

More importantly, a manufacturer has a limit on the number of days they can spend trying to solve a defect.

Ultimately, no number determines a reasonable number’’ of repair attempts; however, California lemon law presumption offers the following guidelines to determine if a manufacturer was accorded a sufficient window to solve the defect:

  • The vehicle defect could cause death or severe injury, and the manufacturer has made at least two unsuccessful repair attempts.
  • The vehicle has been in the repair shop for 30 days— not necessarily consecutive for a defect covered by warranty.
  • The dealer or manufacturer hasn’t solved the defect after four or more repair attempts.

Vehicles Covered by Lemon Law Protection

A vehicle qualifies for lemon law protection if it has a substantial defect that impacts its value, use, and safety. 

Here’s a brief look at how defects impact a vehicle:

  • A defect that Impacts Vehicle Safety: If a vehicle defect affects the safety of driver and vehicle occupants, you should consider claiming for a refund or replacement . Typical vehicle safety defects include seat belts, service brakes, speed control units, defective power steering, and airbags.
  • Defects that Impair Vehicle Use: A vehicle owner buys a vehicle hoping to fulfill a particular objective in their business or family. Unfortunately, some vehicle malfunctions make it challenging to achieve the goal. For instance, if you had bought a vehicle hoping to make frequent road trips across California. However, soon after purchasing the car, it developed a persistent transmission defect that made it undrivable for long distances.
  • Defects that Impact the Value of a Vehicle: A fault can impair the value of a vehicle in monetary and non-monetary terms. For instance, a car that produces strange or whining noises because of an engine defect can make you lose your love for it. You could also lose a lot of money if you intend to sell a vehicle known in the market for having numerous defects.

While many defects are covered by lemon law, there are some exceptions, including:

Defects Caused By Accidents: Once a vehicle is involved in an accident, it will likely develop an issue even after complete repairs. Unfortunately, lemon law doesn’t cover defects that occur after an accident.

Defects Due to Owner Negligence: Although lemon law protects consumers, affected vehicle owners must comply with warranty terms to enjoy their rights. With that in mind, lemon law doesn’t protect consumers who fail in their duty to maintain vehicles. For instance, lemon law cannot cover an engine defect that occurred because the owner could not change the engine oil according to the manual.

Defects Due to Unauthorized Vehicle Repairs: A manufacturer warranty requires consumers to take their vehicles to an authorized repair shop. Therefore, you could void your warranty terms and lemon law protection if you repair the car or take it to an independent repair shop.


How Much Do Lemon Law Attorneys Typically Charge? Breaking Down the Costs

Most lemon law attorneys charge contingency fees at the rate of between 30-40%. Although California lemon law requires a manufacturer to pay the legal fee after the consumer wins the case, it’s essential to understand the breakdown.

The contingency fee includes the legal fee and other expenses such as court filing fees, court attendance, discovery costs, and out-of-pocket expenses such as preparing documentation, accommodation, and miscellaneous expenses.

Hourly Rates vs Contingency Fees: Your Attorney`s Payment Structure

Contingency Fee

A contingency fee is a legal charge where an attorney or legal firm agrees that their compensation will become due upon a successful conclusion of the matter. Further, the amount depends on the litigation’s result after the dispute settles.

According to the lawyers’ professional code of conduct, the consumer should sign the contingency fee agreement in writing. It should also state the method by which the fee will be determined and the expenses the client will be required to pay, among other obligations.

Benefits of contingency-based fees include:

  • Enhanced Access to Justice: The contingency fee allows clients to enforce consumer rights irrespective of their financial position.
  • Motivation for Attorneys: The lawyer will only earn after a successful outcome, which motivates them to work hard for the paycheck.
  • Shifts the Burden to the Client: It is mentally and financially draining to keep paying the attorney based on hours. Once you agree on a contingency fee, you can enjoy peace of mind and transfer the risk of losing to the lawyer.

Critics of contingency fees say it encourages lawyers to settle too soon for too little. On the other hand, some people feel that the payment to a lawyer is too high compared to the risks of a particular case.

Hourly Rate

An hourly rate is a billing arrangement where the client is charged a fixed rate for the time a client spends working on the case or providing legal advice. The lawyer provides the client with a detailed invoice, e.g., monthly outlining tasks performed, time on each task, and total fees payable.

Transparency is one of the most significant advantages of an hourly rate. It allows clients to get a breakdown of the services rendered and how the money is being sent, making it easy to track costs in a complex case.

Even so, it may lead to unpredictable costs than earlier anticipated if the matter takes a different route. It may also encourage the lawyer to prolong the case to increase the earnings.

Factors that Affect Attorney Fees for Lemon Law Cases: What to Consider

An attorney will estimate the total chargeable fee based on several factors.

Here’s a breakdown of the factors:

Experience and Expertise

Experience plays a significant part in a case’s successful outcome and an attorney’s price. If you want to solve a dispute with a manufacturer who has tabled an insufficient offer, you’d like an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. When you hire an experienced attorney with over 20 years of experience and a proven track record, you gain confidence for a positive outcome.

The Complexity of the Case

If your case is complicated, the attorney must spend more time gathering documentation and preparing the defense, which explains the high fee. Suppose the manufacturer claims you didn’t give them enough window to fix the vehicle. In that case, the attorney will spend more time finding documentation, speaking with experts, or engaging an independent investigator, increasing the legal fee.

Geographical Location

An attorney in a big city will charge a higher fee compared to a counterpart in a smaller town. Lawyers in bigger towns are mostly experienced and established attorneys, explaining their high fees. Similarly, they have a bigger team to prepare a defense strategy, which increases the cost of their operations. More importantly, the cost of rent, overheads, and staff overheads is higher in big towns, explaining the fee disparity.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Besides the compensation for the time spent working or consulting on your case, the attorney will require compensation for out-of-pocket expenses. The lawyer will require reimbursement for travel expenses, court filing expenses, or paying an expert witness.

The Value of the Case

If the anticipated settlement value of the case is high, expect to be billed a colossal legal fee. First, the manufacturer will do everything possible to minimize the amount payable to the client. Therefore, the attorney must involve a significant effort to prepare a strong case and convincing defense to manufacturer claims. If the legal fee is contingency-based, the attorney will get a higher fee when the settlement amount increases.

Time and Effort

The time and effort required to execute a case directly influences what an attorney will charge. A complex trial that requires lengthy research and time will attract a higher attorney fee.

Is Hiring a Lemon Law Attorney Worth the Cost? Weighing the Benefits Against the Expenses

Legal representation in a lemon case comes at a cost, whether the attorney charges on an hourly or a contingency basis. Even so, clients get the privilege to enforce their rights with the help of a professional.

Here are the benefits of hiring a lemon law attorney:

Maximize Your Settlement

The manufacturer is out to preserve their interest anytime they negotiate. For instance, they can push back the mileage offset to increase the allowable deductions and, as a result, reduce the settlement amount to a consumer. The role of an attorney is to counter-check all claims made by a manufacturer and verify them against the facts. Similarly, the attorney knows how much a manufacturer is willing to pay a consumer, which helps them negotiate for a better settlement.

Legal Advice

If you unknowingly buy a vehicle with persistent defects, you may need to know your legal options. Fortunately, a lemon law attorney has dealt with lemon law claims for many years. As such, an attorney is strategically positioned to advise you on your rights, manufacturer obligations, and ways to find reprieve under California lemon laws. A lemon lawyer may review your case at no cost and give a verdict on its chances of success.

Gives You Peace of Mind

Managing a lawsuit on your own is challenging. On the contrary, an experienced lemon law attorney can handle things more efficiently. For instance, you may have a sleepless night if a manufacturer tables new evidence during arbitration. Fortunately, you can leave all the intricate details of the case to an attorney. The lawyer will update you regularly on the case’s progress or call you for input whenever needed. Ultimately, hiring an attorney gives you peace of mind to concentrate on your work or taking care of your family.

Strong Defense

Manufacturers face lemon law claims regularly. They are, therefore, highly prepared with a team of attorneys who might frustrate your efforts for a refund or replacement. If you got any chance against them, you need the help of an attorney who will prepare a strong case and defense.

Enforce Your Consumer Rights

Although your consumer rights are guaranteed by express warranty and California lemon law, you must make a claim. Unfortunately, claiming a refund or replacement has several hurdles you should face. For instance, you should give the manufacturer a ‘’reasonable number’’ of repair attempts to fix the defect. Consumers must also maintain their vehicles regularly as part of their duties under warranty terms. 

Once you notice that your car is a lemon, having a lawyer can help you enforce your consumer rights. First, the lawyer will advise you to gather the necessary documentation to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. If your case doesn’t succeed under California lemon law, an attorney is willing to pursue the manufacturer for breach of manufacturer warranty.


Speak to an Experienced and Affordable Lemon Law Attorney

If you’re stuck with a lemon car, you deserve representation from a knowledgeable and experienced lemon law attorney. However, a hefty legal fee can reduce your settlement amount or make justice out of your reach.

That said, consider working with an affordable attorney who charges on a contingency basis instead of hourly rates.

At LemonLaw123, we only charge our clients a commission after winning the case, which benefits you and motivates our team.

Contact us online or call us at 657.529.5239 for a free case review.

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell, known as The Lemon Law Lady, has dedicated her entire legal career to the specialized field of Lemon Law, a journey that began immediately after her
graduation from UCLA School of Law.

With a 99% success rate and a policy of no fees unless you win, her practice stands as a testament to her expertise in California’s Lemon Law, her commitment to her clients, and her unwavering dedication to justice and consumer rights.

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