How to File a Lemon Law Claim in California in 4 Easy Steps

California lemon lawyer advising clients

If you’re a California driver saddled with a defective vehicle that’s costing you time and peace of mind from the frequent breakdowns and visits to the dealership, it’s time to do something about that lemon. Vehicle owners in California who purchased or leased a defective vehicle have the option to file a Lemon Law claim and seek compensation from the vehicle manufacturer. In this article, we will show you how to file a lemon law claim and resolve your lemon car problem in four easy steps.


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What Makes A Car A Lemon?

Having some problems with your car that require occasional visits to the dealership doesn’t automatically make it a lemon. These three critical elements must be present for your defective vehicle to qualify for compensation:

Major Defects

The vehicle’s defect must be material or significant enough as to severely impair the safety, ease of use, and value of the vehicle. If you’re experiencing issues like power steering failure, persistent electrical malfunction, transmission slipping, loss of power when shifting and other serious defects that warrant constant repairs, you may have a lemon in your hand.

Repair Attempts

The auto manufacturer must have been made aware of the vehicle’s problem and made repeated attempts to rectify the problem. For major safety-related problems, at least two repair attempts must be made. For non-safety issues, the vehicle must have been brought back to the dealership at least four times. In addition, the vehicle must have been kept at the dealership for over 30 days for repair of various issues. If any of these conditions are satisfied, your car is most likely to be presumed a lemon.

Within Warranty Period

Finally, did the problem occur or was detected during the vehicle’s warranty period? This is important because without a valid written warranty from the manufacturer, you have no case. If the problem started after the original warranty lapsed, you will no longer be able to seek compensation under California Lemon Law.

Now that we’re aware of these three crucial elements, let’s find out how to file a Lemon Law claim in California in four easy steps.

Additional information: Lemon Law Legal Presumption in California



How To File A Lemon Law Claim in Four Easy Steps

If these three elements (vehicle has persistent material defect, numerous repair attempts by the manufacturer, and the problem occurred while the vehicle was still under warranty) are present, you may have a very strong case and it’s time to file a lemon law claim. Here are the four steps in the process:

  1. Case Evaluation
  2. Build Up Your Case
  3. File the case
  4. Reach a Settlement


Step One: Have Your Case Evaluated

It’s one thing to speculate that your car might qualify for Lemon Law; it’s a totally different case when a Lemon Law expert confirms that your car is indeed a lemon.

Your first step should be to have your case evaluated by a legal professional. In California, most Lemon Law attorneys offer a free, no-obligations initial consultation to discuss the merits of your case. This is exactly the opportunity that you need to take advantage of in order for your case to be accurately assessed by a legal expert, who has the experience in handling Lemon Law claims and who knows the legal requirements you will need to meet.


Do you want to find out if your car qualifies for a Lemon Law claim?
We offer a FREE no-obligations consultation.
Call (323) 553-7525 right now to find out if you have a case.


Step Two: Build Up Your Case

Essential Documents

If your lawyer says you have a strong case and agrees to represent you, the next step is to ensure that all requirements are met and all documents are submitted.

A paper trail documenting all your repair visits and purchases will provide the evidence to strengthen your case. At this stage, you will be required to gather and submit all the necessary documents related to the vehicle and its repair issues. Some of the documents that your attorney might require include:

  • Repair orders
  • Repair invoices
  • Sale or lease contract
  • Warranty booklet
  • Vehicle registration
  • Maintenance history
  • Receipts of expenses related to the vehicle’s defect

If you’re having difficulty obtaining some of these documents or the dealership had refused to provide you with a copy of an important document, you can file a complaint or ask for assistance from the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Repair Visits

As mentioned above, the auto manufacturer is legally responsible to repair the vehicle and should be allowed to make a number of repair attempts to try and fix the problem. This is a legal prerequisite and if the number of repair visits is not enough, your lawyer may advise you to take the vehicle a few more times back to the dealership to satisfy this legal requirement.


Step Three: File The Case

When the build-up of evidence is completed, your lawyer will then proceed to file a case before the court. Some lawyers may advise you to make the claim directly with the manufacturer, instead, in the hope that they make a settlement offer at this stage.

In our experience, auto manufacturers respond faster to a lemon law claim when a court case has already been filed knowing that the attorney will not take on the case, much less make the court filing if the available evidence is not strong enough.

Another advantage of filing the case right away is that it puts the auto manufacturer on a strict timeline to evaluate your case and respond to it.


Step Four: Reach a Settlement

When the case is filed, it opens up two possible tracks through which the auto manufacturer can satisfy your claim:

  • Out of court negotiated settlement.
  • Reaching a favorable court verdict.

Negotiated Settlement

In the majority of Lemon Law cases we’ve handled, the auto manufacturer opted to settle the claim instead of going to trial after seeing the documentary evidence. Settling a lemon law claim out-of-court before the case goes any further actually makes a lot of financial sense to the manufacturer. If the evidence is strong and all requirements are met, the manufacturer will have very little room to wiggle out of their obligation. The outcome of litigation will likely be the same (they will be compelled by the court to pay you). Why not settle before trial and avoid incurring additional litigation costs?

Settlement options include vehicle buyback or refund, vehicle replacement, and cash and keep settlement. The type of settlement or amount of compensation you will receive (in the case of a buyback or a cash and keep arrangement) will depend on factors such as the purchase cost of your vehicle, mileage, the extent of the repair issue, collateral expenses you have incurred related to the problem, and lastly, on the negotiating expertise and experience of your attorney.

Go to Trial If Necessary

In rare instances where the manufacturer fails to offer a settlement that’s agreeable to the vehicle owner, the case will then go to trial. If all three essential prerequisites mentioned above are present and the documentary evidence is strong enough, the court will probably declare the vehicle a lemon and issue a favorable judgment. In this scenario, the manufacturer will then be directed by the court to pay compensation to the vehicle owner and take care of all legal expenses, as well.



Talk To A Lemon Law Attorney

Did you know that you can retain the services of any top-notch California Lemon Law attorney without incurring any legal costs?

At the outset, you should consult with an attorney experienced in Lemon Law litigations in California. The earlier you’re able to talk to a lawyer, the faster and easier the process will be for you.

Answer Your Questions

A Lemon Law attorney can help determine whether you have the three critical elements needed to win your case. They can easily answer your questions, such as: Is the defect in your vehicle substantial or material enough for it to be deemed a lemon? Is the number of repair visits to the dealership sufficient to satisfy the legal requirements? What are the documents you will need to present as evidence? How does the process usually play out? And, how long does it take to pursue a lemon law claim?

No Win-No Fee

Vehicle owners often hesitate to consult with a lawyer out of fear that they might be required to shell out cash for payment of legal fees even if they don’t have a case. This is a huge mistake because lemon law attorneys work on a “no win-no fee” basis and they don’t get paid unless they win your case. Their legal fees are paid by the vehicle manufacturer as provided by law and you will not be asked to make any out-of-pocket payments when you retain the lawyer’s services.


Talk to a California Lemon Law Attorney today to start your claim.
We offer a FREE no-obligations consultation.
Book a call or dial (323) 553-7525 right now to find out if you have a case.



California has one of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country and owners of defective “lemon” vehicles can easily seek legal reprieve by filing a Lemon Law claim. For as long as the three essential elements to a strong case are present and your documentary evidence is sufficient, you can expect to win your lemon law claim and obtain compensation either through a court verdict or an out-of-court settlement. 

More information: California Lemon Law FAQs