Average Attorney Fees for Lemon Law

Lemon laws cover new or used vehicles with a manufacturer’s new warranty. Therefore, if you’re stuck with a defective car that a manufacturer can’t solve after a reasonable number of attempts, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement.

Unfortunately, obtaining a refund or replacement is not a walk in the park. You’ll have to deal with an automaker who’ll do everything possible to deny, delay, or minimize your settlement amount.

It’s, therefore, crucial to work with an attorney who’ll guide you through the process, offer legal advice, and negotiate on your behalf. With that in mind, consider choosing a payment structure that will motivate the attorney and enhance the pursuit of your lemon law rights.

Understanding the distinction between hourly or contingency rates will help you make the right decision when hiring a lemon law attorney.

More importantly, consider hiring an experienced lemon law attorney who offers affordable rates and works passionately to protect your rights.

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

Hourly Rate

Some attorneys prefer an hourly rate charge for their services. An hourly rate fee is obtained by multiplying a fixed hourly cost by the hours spent working for a client. It’s essential to ask for the estimated legal payment before commencing the engagement with a lemon law attorney.

Engage the attorney beforehand to understand any complications that may arise and lead to an increment of the fee than earlier estimated. Lawyers’ hourly rates vary based on the lawyer’s experience and involvement in the case. 

The final attorney’s fee may include other direct out-of-pocket expenses such as travel, court filing, accommodation charges, and travel expenses.

Pros of Hourly Rate

  • Clarity: Some clients prefer the hourly billing rate because they can independently determine the expected pay based on the anticipated hours of engagement. It is also easy to explain the final fee without suspicions from the client.
  • Ease of Renewal: When the case length is unknown, estimating the engagement length and expected payment becomes difficult. However, an hourly rate allows clients to request the attorney’s help on recurring needs or according to the workload.

Cons of Hourly Rate

  • It can encourage in-efficiency on the lawyer’s part
  • The client faces uncertainty about the cost of the engagement
  • It may be more complex than flat fee billing

Contingency Fees

This is a legal fee where the client agrees to pay part of their settlement amount as compensation for their services. Under the lawyer’s ethics rules, the attorney and the client must enter into a written fee agreement at the onset of the representation stating the fraction of the settlement the client will cede.

If the matter is tried again or appealed, the lawyer can charge an additional percentage on the settlement. Nonetheless, the lawyer cannot deduct the contingency fee if the legal suit is unsuccessful.

Even so, the client is expected to reimburse the attorney out-of-pocket expenses such as court filing or payment made to a witness. Similarly, those costs will be deducted from the client’s settlement fee when the client wins the case.

Pros of Contingency Fee Agreement

One of the most significant advantages of a contingency fee is you don’t get to pay the cost if you lose the case. It’s a clear win for consumers who may not have the financial muscle to deal with manufacturers who sold them defective vehicles.

It’s also an incentive for a lemon law attorney who must work hard to win the case and earn a fraction of the proceeds.

Cons of Contingency Fee Agreement

A contingency fee may cost more than an hourly rate if the case settles quickly. A standard contingency fee is 30-40% of the settlement value, regardless of whether the attorney works for a week or several months.

If the attorney brokers a deal within a week, they will get the entire contingency fee, explaining the disparity with an hourly rate. 

On the other hand, lawyers working on a contingency basis are very selective about the cases they take on. They are more inclined to cases with higher odds of winning, which may lock out clients with complicated issues.

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

Market Rates

Many attorneys prefer the market rate because it is widely accepted; similarly, customers love it because they feel they’re not overcharged compared to other legal firms. The market rate is determined by several factors including by the American Bar Association, which considers the years of practice. 

The Complexity of the Lemon Law Case

Most lemon law cases settle internally and do not need the court’s intervention. In such a case, the lawyer is involved in the administration and negotiation, roles that do not attract significant legal fees.

On the contrary, if your lemon law case requires a court determination, it’s highly complex and expensive. The lawyer charges compensation for the time spent compiling the case, preparing the defense, making submissions, and attending court.

Litigation is also expensive due to related expenses such as consultation, the need for specialists, the discovery process, and post-judgment proceedings.

Time Spent 

Whether the fee structure is hourly or contingency-based, time is crucial when determining a legal fee. Most lemon law attorneys charge clients based on the hours spent on a case.

The more time an attorney spends on a case, the higher the fee will likely be. If a lemon case takes only a few days to complete, the sessions will be fewer, leading to an affordable legal cost. On the contrary, if the attorney spends months working on a case, expect to pay a premium for legal fees.

Cost of Living in the Area of Practise

All lawyers consider the general cost of living in their area of practice. If the law firm is domiciled in an expensive city, expect a higher fee. Lawyers also consider salaries, office rent, travel expenses, and overheads.

The Value of the Settlement

A contingency-based fee is a commission where an attorney fee is a fraction of the settlement amount—the higher the settlement amount, the higher the attorney fees. The contingency-based price is perfect for clients seeking legal representation without committing their financial resources.

Experience and Expertise of Lemon Law Attorney

An experienced attorney in lemon law matters may charge higher because of their expertise and track record of success. An experienced lemon attorney profoundly understands the intricacies of lemon law statutes, regulations, and precedents.

They have a deep understanding of the legal process, which helps them navigate the legal process effectively. Their expertise and deep legal knowledge contribute to their high fees; similarly, clients seek experienced attorneys to maximize their chances of success.

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

Manufacturers direct consumers to a panel of self-sponsored arbitration programs to address disputes related to a lemon law claim. Regarding cost, arbitration is a cheaper alternative to resolve a lemon law dispute than the court process.

Signing up for the arbitration program reduces your chances of getting a fair offer. Statistics indicate that most consumers lose out on arbitration only to be awarded an additional repair visit.

Unfortunately, that’s a sinister move because vehicles under warranty have a right to repair. A manufacturer may label the arbitrator as a neutral third-party company; however, that’s far from the truth.

Most arbitration companies rely on auto-makers to stay in business. On the other hand, some arbitration companies are proxy entities created by manufacturers to represent their interests in such matters, which usually disadvantages the consumers.

Although hiring a lemon law attorney comes at a cost, you’re sure they’ll act professionally and represent your interest.

Here are the benefits of a lemon law attorney.

Maximize Your Settlement

The manufacturer will push back as far as possible to reduce the settlement amount. For instance, manufacturers are fond of using the mileage offset against the consumer. Since most consumers don’t have evidence to prove the first date of a warranty repair, they’re likely to use it to their disadvantage. 

The role of an attorney is to identify the accurate value of the mileage offset to protect a consumer’s interest. Similarly, an attorney understands how long a manufacturer can go to compensate a consumer. 

With that in mind, an attorney applies their knowledge and experience to negotiate for the maximum payout.

Get Legal Advice

Most consumers who’ve never encountered a defective vehicle are caught unaware. They have little knowledge about their rights. They also don’t know what actions they can take against a manufacturer. 

Fortunately, a lemon law attorney can guide you through the murky water of lemon law and dealing with manufacturers.

For instance, an attorney can look at the evidence of your case to determine if it’s worth pursuing a refund or replacement. If you engage a lemon law attorney in advance, they may also help you compile evidence in preparation for a strong lemon law case.

Peace of Mind

Pursuing a lemon law claim is stressful if you do it independently without legal aid. However, you can make things easy by delegating the role of dealing with a manufacturer to a lemon law attorney.

All automakers have a legal department staffed with lawyers. An attorney can act on your behalf instead of facing an intimidating team of lawyers. They’ll then submit the claim, review the offer, and negotiate with the manufacturer on your behalf. 

Hiring a lawyer frees your time and lets you concentrate on work, family, and other matters. Remember, a lawyer will frequently update you on the progress of your case.

An Experienced Advocate on Your Side

Having an experienced attorney on your side is a significant milestone on your lemon law claim. A lemon law attorney specializes in representing consumers who’ve bought defective vehicles. They’ve learned the tricks, made vital networks, and gained essential lessons in their practice.

Out of experience, an attorney can identify a case worth pursuing. They can also create a strategy to process the claim in the least time possible.

You Will Create a Strong Case

Claiming a vehicle replacement or buyback becomes more manageable with a strong and compelling lemon law case. An experienced lemon attorney knows the best way to approach the matter.

First, the attorney compiles evidence to support a reasonable number of repair attempts and substantial defects. The attorney also anticipates the manufacturer’s claims in court and can prepare a solid defense to preserve the consumer’s interest.

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

Many consumers avoid hiring a lemon law attorney because they’re afraid of the lemon law fees. However, the cost of a lemon law attorney shouldn’t put you off because most attorneys charge a contingency fee. 

More importantly, California lemon laws allow consumers to sue a manufacturer to recover attorney fees incurred while pursuing a buyback claim or replacement.

A contingency fee, a percentage of the settlement value, becomes due after winning the lemon law claim. Sometimes, the attorney may charge additional out-of-pocket expenses such as witness, filing, and deposition costs.

The cost of attorney fees depends on different factors, including the case’s complexity and the settlement’s expected value. On average, the expected settlement value ranges from 32% to 40% of the settlement value.

Hourly Fee

Some lawyers prefer the hourly rate, a payment structure widely used in the industry. As a consumer, you must pay the lawyer a set fee for each hour or a fraction of an hour they work. An hourly rate lemon law attorneys can charge you as low as $50-100 per hour to as high as a few thousand per hour, depending on the complexity of the work.

According to a 2022 Clio Legal Trends Report, the average hourly attorney’s rate in 2022 was $322. However, different attorneys apply varying rates to compensate for the high cost of living, location, and type of case. 

You Might Need a Retainer

Sometimes, your lawyer might request a retainer, meaning you’ll need to pay a certain amount upfront that the lawyer bills as they continue working. A retainer is a form of pre-payment for the legal fees incurred during a lemon law case.

For instance, an attorney may require you to pay a retainer of $1,000 or $1,500 before commencing work on your lemon law case. A retainer is a testament to your financial ability to cater to legal services and is a test of commitment.

A retainer is not meant to cover the entire amount of your legal fee but as a simple deposit or downpayment. A retainer is almost always required in an hourly payment arrangement; however, it is not required when a lawyer works on a contingency basis.

Get Legal Help on a Contingency Fee-Based Arrangement

Vehicle owners who buy lemon cars undergo significant distress— disrupted plans, endangered safety, or increased running expenses. They, therefore, deserve a refund or replacement as provided by the lemon law.

While choosing a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer matters, the price and payment arrangement are equally important.

At LemonLaw123, we allow our clients to pay on a contingency basis to enjoy our legal services without financial strain.

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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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell, personally handled over 500 lemon law cases and settlements.