California has some of the strongest warranty laws in the country. The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act sets strict rules regarding when warranties must be offered and how they should be honored. Under the law, manufacturers, from technology factories to food processing plants, are considered strictly liable for any harm caused by their defective products.
However, some companies are held to higher standards than others. For example, carmakers are specifically singled out in the Act and given unique responsibilities toward their customers. These sections of the Act are known as California’s lemon laws because they define when a car can be considered defective or a “lemon.”
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act allows consumers to file lemon law claims for defective vehicles. However, these claims aren’t the only way consumers can hold manufacturers accountable for faulty cars. One well-known alternative is to file a class action lawsuit against the carmaker.
If your car has a serious manufacturing defect, it’s important to understand when you should file a lemon law claim vs. a class action lawsuit. Here’s what you need to know about these claims, how they differ from class actions, and how to choose the right solution for your situation.
Is a Lemon Law Claim a Lawsuit?
Yes, lemon law claims are lawsuits. They occur after you have made multiple warranty claims against the manufacturer that fail to resolve the defect.
Lemon complaints are different than warranty claims. In a warranty claim, you contact the customer service department of the carmaker and provide your warranty information. Depending on the problem and your coverage, the customer service department may instruct you to bring your car to a certified mechanic for a free or reduced-cost repair, reimburse some costs, or state that you are responsible for paying for the repair. There is no outside interference.
Lemon claims in California are different. To file these claims, you will consult with a skilled attorney. Your attorney will draft a complaint summarizing the problem and submit it to the court and the manufacturer. The carmaker will file a response, and the matter will proceed as a civil lawsuit.
If the manufacturer doesn’t offer a satisfactory settlement, the judge or jury will determine whether you receive damages for your claim. California is very friendly to warranty lawsuits, so if no settlement is offered, you still have a strong chance of receiving compensation for your defective vehicle.
Lemon Law Claims vs. Class Action Lawsuits
While a lemon claim is a lawsuit, it is not the same as a class action lawsuit. Lemon lawsuits are filed on behalf of one person regarding a specific faulty vehicle. In contrast, class actions are filed on behalf of a “class,” or collection of people who have purchased cars with similar faults.
This difference affects everything about the case, from how long it takes to resolve to what kinds of settlements and resolutions are likely to be offered. For instance, California warranty law requires carmakers to refund or replace vehicles with manufacturing defects if they cannot repair them. Filing a individual claim is how you demand this type of compensation. If you win or settle, you will usually receive a new, non-defective vehicle or the purchase price of your car, less reasonable depreciation.
This is not the case with class action lawsuits. Carmakers fight back against class actions significantly harder because of the potential cost of refunding thousands of owners for defective cars. Very few class actions result in buybacks; even successful ones typically award individual owners a modest amount of compensation, extended warranties, or free repairs.
Should You File a Lemon Claim or a Class Action Lawsuit?
If your car has a manufacturing defect, you should hold the maker accountable. The question is whether a lemon law claim or class actions will better serve you. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “when should I file a lemon law claim,” the following questions can help you figure that out.
Are You Eligible for a Lemon Claim?
You may be eligible for a lemon claim if your car is still under warranty and the maker has failed to repair a manufacturing defect in a reasonable number of attempts. You can learn more about whether you’re eligible by checking out our guide on California lemon law eligibility. A class action may be a better fit if you aren’t eligible.
Are Other People Reporting the Same Issue?
A class action lawsuit is only possible if a “class” of people can be represented. In most cases, judges expect plaintiffs to demonstrate that they are acting on behalf of at least thirty or forty people before they will certify the lawsuit and allow it to proceed.
If other people report the same problem, that may mean a class action is the better solution. However, if you can only find scattered complaints or your car’s defects seem unique, an individual claim is the better way to go.
How Quickly Do You Need Your Claim Resolved?
Class actions are not resolved quickly. They frequently take years to make it to court in the first place and months or years longer to reach a settlement or judgment. Meanwhile, lemon claims in California can be resolved in a matter of months, making them a significantly easier and faster way to resolve your car problems if you’re eligible.
Discuss Your Case With Expert Lemon Attorneys
If your defective car is still under warranty, you may be able to file an individual claim and receive a complete refund. However, working with an experienced attorney is essential to ensure your claim has the best possible chance of success. At Johnson & Buxton – The Lemon Law Guys, we are dedicated to helping out clients hold carmakers accountable for producing defective vehicles. Learn more about how we can use our years of experience on your behalf by scheduling your consultation today.