Your Guide to Lemon Law Claims: Step-by-Step Instructions

Owning a lemon vehicle is like being in a bad business relationship—no matter how much time and money you inject, it never gets any better.

The frustrations of a lemon are endless. For instance, you can be psyched up and ready to drive to an important meeting, then boom, your car fails to ignite. You’re forced to hire an Uber, an unbudgeted expense, or cancel the appointment.

Worse still, a lemon can often be a safety hazard. 

Many consumers have sustained severe injuries or died after airbags failed to deploy in an accident. In other instances, vehicles with substantial defects unexpectedly stall on the road leading to fatal accidents.

Fortunately, lemon laws protect consumers who accidentally buy defective vehicles through refunds and buybacks. If you’re looking for a seamless refund or buyback process, consider working with a California lemon law attorney.

Understanding the Lemon Law and What it Covers

California Lemon laws— Civil Code 1793.2— protects consumers who buy defective vehicles that cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. The Lemon law applies to new or used cars bought or leased in California that are still under the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty.

While the general rule requires vehicles bought in California, members of the armed forces on full-time active duty are exempted. Therefore, any new or used car that they buy outside California is also covered by lemon laws.

It’s also worth noting that subsequent owners who buy used vehicles with existing new vehicle warranties are also covered.

California lemon laws cover many types of vehicles, including cars, pick-up trucks, vans, SUVs, and motorcycles.

The law also applies to the following types of vehicles;

  • Cars bought or leased for family, household, or personal reasons
  • Many vehicles are leased or bought for business reasons
  • Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators
  • Drive train, chassis, and chassis cab of a motorhome

More importantly, if the dealer or manufacturer can’t fix the defect in your vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer must either refund the buying price or replace the car.

Identifying if Your Vehicle Qualifies for a Lemon Law Claim

Under lemon laws, a manufacturer must offer a refund or replacement if they fail to repair a vehicle with substantial defects after a ‘reasonable number of repair attempts.’ 

How to Establish a Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts

No set number determines ‘’a reasonable number of repair attempts.’’ Nonetheless, California’s Lemon Law presumption contains a few guidelines establishing whether a dealer or manufacturer has made ‘‘a reasonable number of repair attempts.’’

Here’s the list;

  • The manufacturer or the dealer hasn’t fixed the vehicle’s defect after four or more attempts. 
  • The car’s defect could cause death or serious bodily injury if driven, and the dealer or manufacturer has made two unsuccessful repair attempts.
  • The vehicle has been in the repair shop for more than 30 days — not necessarily consecutive for problems covered by the new vehicle warranty.

Substantial Defects that Qualify for a Lemon Law Claim

A substantial defect is a common term used to describe lemons. For a vehicle to qualify for a lemon law claim, it should have a significant defect that affects its use, value, and safety.

It means a car doesn’t have to be entirely undrivable to qualify as a lemon; instead, it should have a substantial defect.

Here’s what the different defects mean;

Impaired Vehicle Use

A defective vehicle must impair its use in some way to qualify for a lemon law claim. For instance, if you bought a pick-up truck intending to use it in your electrical repair and installation job.

However, the vehicle develops acceleration defects that make it impossible to drive for long distances. Although the vehicle works perfectly within the town, the inability to move for long distances is a form of impaired vehicle use.

Impaired Vehicle Value

Impaired vehicle value is not all about its cash value— it can mean you perceive it as less valuable, making it a lemon. If your brand new Nissan Altima develops acceleration problems, it could be a source of nuisance.

Its frequent jerking, hesitation, reduced fuel economy, or surging can put you off. The vehicle gradually shifts from a source of convenience to an embarrassment making you use it less often.

Impaired Vehicle Safety

Any defect that endangers the life of a driver or a passenger qualifies as a substantial malfunction. Some of the common significant defects that endanger the life of drivers and passengers include brake failure, electrical malfunction, defective airbags, and broken seat belts.

Substantial defects that Lemon laws do not cover Include;

  • Malfunction as result of owner Negligence
  • Defects due to unauthorized repair or alterations
  • Malfunctions caused by accidents
  • Defects that don’t impair the car’s use, value, and safety

Preparing Your Lemon Law Claim: Gathering Evidence and Documentation

Any legal case, including a lemon law claim, is more robust when backed with solid evidence and documentation. Once you notice that you own a defective car, keeping documentation in a file is a good idea to simplify claim processing.

Below is a list of relevant documentation for a lemon law claim;

Repair Orders

A repair order is a document that the dealership hands you after dropping your vehicle off for repairs. It is an essential document that describes the vehicle you brought in for repairs, the problem that requires it to be fixed, and the mileage at the time you brought it in. Ensure it correctly describes the vehicle mileage, date, and defect.

If the dealer has previously dealt with the warranty repair, remind them to note it instead of recording it as a new problem.

Repair Invoice

A repair invoice is a document that the repair facility hands you after picking up your vehicle. It is similar to the repair order as it describes the repairs the dealership has attempted and a detailed description of the problem.

Ensure it accurately lists vehicle defects, repairs completed, mileage, and the cost of repairs.

Manufacturer’s Warranty

You’ll also need the manufacturer’s warranty included in the owner’s manual, usually given to you after buying the vehicle. The warranty booklet contains the manufacturer’s express warranty with terms, conditions, and duration.

If you cannot get a refund or replacement using lemon laws, you can rely on the manufacturer’s warranty to sue for a refund or replacement.

Original Purchase or Lease Documents

You’ll need an original purchase or lease document as proof of ownership or vested interest in the vehicle. The documentation includes crucial information about your date of sale, cost of the vehicle, after-market purchase, and any item added after market.

Other valuable documentation to your claim includes;

  • Accident history
  • Car’s Registration
  • Maintenance Records
  • Additional expenses related to vehicle defect; e.g., a receipt of a rental vehicle
  • Correspondence with the dealer

The Lemon Law Claim Process: Filling, Negotiating, and Receiving a Settlement


Usually, some manufacturers require consumers to file claims through the National Center for Dispute Settlement (NCDS). A lemon law attorney can help file a claim to such an agency and follow up on the progress.

Once the manufacturer, through the agency, finds that the lemon case is worthy, an attorney can look to enforce a decision. Usually, agency decisions don’t bind any party; therefore, a consumer has the right to file a lawsuit.

If the manufacturer fails to settle in pre-litigation, it’s time to file a lawsuit. Fortunately, many lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they do not require the legal fee upfront but instead deduct it from the refund proceeds.


Manufacturers do not make it easy for consumers during the claim processing— simply put, they’re not ready to write you a check because you asked for it. For instance, they push for arbitration as an affordable and quicker option.

Generally, you have a higher chance of getting a better deal with attorneys or courts than a manufacturer. Always opt for a lawyer because a manufacturer will fight tooth and nail to give you the least payout possible.

Receiving a Settlement

Sometimes, consumers suffer for not hiring a lemon law attorney keen on their case. As a result, they end up with low cash settlements because attorneys didn’t take enough time to study their cases.

If you win the case, the court will always compel the manufacturer to pay the legal fees. More importantly, an experienced attorney can quickly evaluate if your case has substantial grounds to avoid incurring unnecessary legal fees.

Speak to an Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney

A lemon law vehicle can drain your finances. If the car is with a dealer for repairs, you need an alternative means of transport, which is expensive. On the other hand, a sudden breakdown translates to disruption of plans and inconveniences.

Considering the magnitude of loss and inconvenience associated with lemons, your case deserves the best representation to increase your chances of success.

At LemonLaw123, we have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who settles 99% of lemon cases without going to trial.

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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"Pleased with the Service"

Happy to hear from you. I was very pleased with the service you provided. I couldn’t be happier. The timing was excellent. I retired June 1st and didn’t really need the car anymore. I didn’t go out and buy another car. I decided to hang on to my money for a while.


“Great Help and Great Service”

Valerie did a fantastic job handling my lawsuit. She was in constant contact with me, she was honest and kept me informed every step of the way. I appreciate her great help and her great service and I would definitely use her again and recommend her to anybody out there that needs help.


"Beyond Satisfied"

I am beyond satisfied. After being told that I did not have a case by other attorneys, I was referred to Ms. Campbell and I am so glad I called her. During the initial consultation, Ms. Campbell was very thorough and answered all of my concerns. She assured me that this was not an overnight fix, however, it took less than three (3) months to resolve. Ms. Campbell was available every step of the way. I rarely called or emailed her because she always kept me in the loop. Every case is different but I am glad mine was quick and painless. I would recommend LemonLaw123 to anyone without any reservations. I could not have asked for better representation. Thank you!!!!


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"Amazing Attorney"

Valerie C. is an amazing attorney who is extremely experienced in the area of Lemon Law. As a fellow attorney, she earned my respect as an experienced litigator who never settled for anything less than the best for her clients. I recommend Lemon Law 123 to my family and friends as I know she will give them the care, attention, and legal expertise every client deserves. You will get the best results with the Lemon Law 123 team.