Defects vs. Design Flaws: What’s Eligible for Lemon Claims?

Defects vs. Design Flaws: What’s Eligible for Lemon Claims?

Imagine your brand-new car keeps winding up in the shop for the same issue. If the problem is the manufacturer’s fault, you should be able to file a lemon claim, right?

In many cases, the answer is yes. However, things get complicated if the issue is caused by a design flaw instead of a defect. The difference between defects and design flaws can influence whether your case qualifies under California’s lemon law. Let’s break down these concepts and discuss how they impact lemon claims.

Defining Vehicle Design Flaws

Design flaws are inherent issues that originate from the vehicle’s blueprint or design specifications. These flaws affect every unit produced with the same plans and can lead to widespread problems. Key characteristics of design flaws include:

  1. Inherent to the Model: Design flaws are part of the vehicle’s original plans and affect all units of the same model. They are not the result of the manufacturing process but stem from the initial planning stages.
  2. Systemic Issues: Since flaws are part of the vehicle’s design, they tend to cause systemic issues that affect the overall performance, safety, or reliability of the car.
  3. Widespread Impact: These flaws typically impact a large number of vehicles, potentially leading to recalls or widespread dissatisfaction among consumers.

Examples of design flaws include:

  • Inadequate Braking System: A braking system that fails to provide adequate stopping power due to poor planning, affecting the safety of all vehicles with this system.
  • Faulty Airbag Deployment: An airbag system that deploys too forcefully or not at all in certain crash scenarios, endangering the passengers in all vehicles of the same model.
  • Poor Aerodynamics: A vehicle frame that causes excessive wind noise or instability at high speeds, affecting the driving experience of all units produced with that frame.

Defining Vehicle Defects

Defects, on the other hand, are problems that arise during the manufacturing process. These issues are not part of the vehicle’s design but occur due to errors, faults, or irregularities during production. Key characteristics of defects include:

  1. Manufacturing Errors: Defects result from mistakes or failures during the manufacturing process. This can include issues with assembly, materials, or quality control.
  2. Isolated Incidents: Unlike design problems, defects often affect only certain units or batches of vehicles rather than the entire model line.
  3. Variable Impact: The impact of defects can vary widely, from minor inconveniences to major safety hazards.

Examples of car defects include: 

  • Faulty Transmissions: A transmission that fails to shift properly due to a manufacturing error in a specific batch of vehicles.
  • Electrical Issues: Problems with the vehicle’s electrical system, such as faulty wiring or malfunctioning components, arising from poor manufacturing practices.
  • Material Failures: The use of substandard materials that lead to premature wear, rusting, or breakage in specific units.

Lemon Claims: Defects vs. Design Flaws

Under California lemon law, a vehicle may be eligible for a lemon claim if it has substantial problems that impair its use, value, or safety. These flaws can be defects or design flaws, but it’s important to understand the difference. 

Vehicles with defects are typically eligible for lemon claims if the defect substantially impairs the vehicle and persists after a reasonable number of repair attempts by the manufacturer or dealer. These issues are typically easier to prove with documentation of repair attempts and a demonstration of the impact of the defect on the vehicle’s performance.

Design flaws can be more complex in terms of eligibility for lemon claims. If the flaw results in a substantial impairment and affects the vehicle’s use, value, or safety, it may still qualify. However, proving a design flaw can be more challenging because it often requires showing that the flaw impacts the entire model line. It might be necessary to collect evidence such as recalls, technical service bulletins, or expert testimony to support a claim based on a fundamental flaw. 

Furthermore, if you make a lemon claim due to a design flaw, you may not be eligible to participate in any class action lawsuits filed against the manufacturer for the problem later. Due to the extra complications and potential consequences of making a claim, you should always talk to an experienced lemon law attorney before filing a lemon claim for your car’s flaws. 

Is Your Car Experiencing a Defect or a Design Flaw?

Determining whether a car issue is due to a design flaw or a defect involves a systematic approach to diagnose the problem accurately. Here are the steps to help you identify the nature of the issue:

  1. Identify the Symptoms: Note down the specific issue you are experiencing, including any unusual sounds, performance problems, or safety concerns. Determine if the problem occurs consistently or under particular conditions (e.g., only when the engine is cold or at high speeds).
  2. Research and Gather Information: Check for any mentions of the issue in the vehicle’s manual or other official documentation. Look for technical service bulletins (TSBs) and recalls issued by the manufacturer, which can indicate known issues and suggested repairs. You can also read reviews and complaints from other owners to see if the problem is common.
  3. Professional Diagnosis: Take your vehicle to a certified mechanic or dealership for a thorough inspection. Consider getting a second opinion from another mechanic to verify the diagnosis.

An experienced attorney can help you determine whether the problem stems from a specific manufacturing error (defect) or if it’s inherent in the vehicle (design flaw).

Learn More About Whether Your Car Is a Lemon 

Understanding the distinction between defects and design flaws is essential when pursuing a lemon claim in California. While both can impact the eligibility of your claim, defects typically have a more straightforward path to qualification. Design flaws require more extensive evidence but can still be grounds for a successful lemon claim if they significantly impair the vehicle. 

If you believe your vehicle suffers from a defect or design flaw, the lemon law experts at Johnson & Buxton – The Lemon Law Guys are here to help you navigate your claim and secure the resolution you deserve. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help. 

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