Do I Need a Lawyer to Submit a California Lemon Law Claim?

Reasons to Avoid “Do-it-Yourself” Lemon Law Claims

Vehicle manufacturers generally always prefer that you attempt to resolve your California lemon law claim by yourself, without the assistance of a lemon law attorney. But pursuing a lemon law buyback by yourself makes no sense because the California lemon law statute makes it essentially free to hire a lemon law attorney. Further, when represented by an experienced California lemon lawyer you can increase your monetary recovery by virtue of the fact that you will have greater negotiating leverage, you will reduce the chances of committing legal errors, and you will not have to worry that your attempts to settle the case by yourself will make it impossible for you to later hire a lemon lawyer if the manufacturer refuses to voluntarily buyback your lemon vehicle.

Under the California Lemon Law, the Vehicle’s Manufacturer – And Not You – Must Pay Your Attorney’s Fees

First of all, in enacting the California lemon law statute, the California legislature in Sacramento explicitly included a provision in the lemon law (California Civil Code Section 1794(d)) that requires the manufacturer to pay a prevailing car buyer’s attorney’s fees. Thus, if you have a meritorious case you will essentially be able to hire a lemon law attorney for “no money down,” and have the manufacturer (and not you) pay your attorney’s fees and costs when the lawsuit is over. Thus, the fees charged by California lemon law attorneys should not deter you from hiring a lawyer to represent you.

See this Web site’s page discussing How to Choose a Lemon Law Attorney for a discussion of how to go about choosing a lemon lawyer to represent you on a “no money down” contingency fee basis.

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Hiring an California Lemon Lawyer Can Increase Your Monetary Recovery

After thoroughly researching the lemon law themselves, some people wonder if they need an attorney to obtain a vehicle buyback under the California lemon law. The answer to this question is that while it is technically possible to do so, non-lawyers are taking substantial and unnecessary risks if they choose to proceed by themselves. Not hiring a qualified lemon lawyer could potentially result in you not getting the vehicle buyback that you deserve, receiving less money than you are legally entitled to, or receiving no money at all. This is true even if you have thoroughly researched the California lemon law’s rules and understand the applicable legal requirements. Not hiring a lemon lawyer to represent you can result in you receiving less money as a result of the facts that: (1) you will have reduced negotiating leverage; and (2) there is a greater likelihood of legal errors and mistakes.

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You Have More “Negotiating Leverage” When You Are Represented by a California Lemon Lawyer

“Negotiating leverage” means your ability to put pressure on the other side in a lawsuit. In a California lemon law case, the car buyer’s goal is to increase the financial risks that the manufacturer is taking by refusing to promptly buyback the lemon vehicle. And no matter how much you know about the California lemon law’s rules and requirements, if you are not represented by a reputable California lemon law attorney then you will have substantially less negotiating leverage.

There are several reasons why unrepresented consumers have less negotiating leverage in California lemon law cases. First, and most importantly, under the California lemon law statute (at California Civil Code Section 1794(d)) a manufacturer is legally obligated to both (1) replace or repurchase your lemon vehicle in accordance with California Civil Code Section 1793.2(d)(2), and (2) pay the attorney fees, costs, and expenses that you incurred enforcing your legal rights. Thus, if you request a lemon law buyback without being represented by an attorney, the manufacturer has less incentive to promptly buyback your vehicle for the full amount to which you are entitled, because your attorney’s fees and costs are not constantly increasing the total amount that the manufacturer will ultimately have to pay. When you are unrepresented, the worst thing that could happen to the manufacturer as a result of not giving you what you are entitled to immediately would be having to give you what you are entitled to at some point in the future. There is no incentive to settle promptly since companies would always prefer to pay their debts later rather than sooner. But if you are represented by a lemon lawyer, then the California lemon law’s requirement that the manufacturer pay for your attorney’s fees, costs and expenses acts a persuasive incentive for the manufacturer to promptly repurchase your vehicle, and not to quibble about technicalities in the statute or precisely how much you are owed.

An additional source of negotiating leverage that results from hiring a California lemon lawyer to pursue your lemon law buyback claim is that the manufacturer will know that you cannot be fooled or stonewalled into being shortchanged. If the manufacturer tries to claim that it is not legally liable or that it is entitled to keep some of the money that you spent on the lemon vehicle, then your lemon law attorney will have the ability to demand that they turn over their documents and other evidence in pre-litigation discovery in order to scrutinize and refute the manufacturer’s purported claims and defenses.

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A Lemon Lawyer Will Eliminate the Risk of You Committing Legal Errors While Seeking a Lemon Law Buyback

Another reason to avoid trying a “do it yourself” lemon law buyback is that non-lawyers (even highly educated and intelligent non-lawyers) risk damaging their case by not fully understanding ALL of the laws that will be applicable throughout ALL stages of a California lemon law lawsuit. When you talk to and correspond with your vehicle’s manufacturer you can do things and say things that appear completely harmless at the time, but later turn out to be very damaging to your case. Thus, it is a good idea to hire a California lemon law attorney from the beginning, in order to preserve the merits and strength of your case for trial.

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After Trying Unsuccessfully to Represent Yourself, It Can Be Difficult (or Impossible) to Hire a Lemon Law Attorney

Another important consideration to keep in mind is that if you try to start a lemon law claim by yourself and the manufacturer responds by offering to buyback your vehicle for an amount of money that is less than the amount to which you are entitled, you may find it harder (or impossible) to find a lawyer who is willing to take your case on a “no money down” contingency fee basis.

The reason for this has to do with the numerous complex appellate court decisions that have analyzed statutes (like the California lemon law), which require defendant companies to pay the attorney’s fees and costs of consumers who file lawsuits to enforce their legal rights. Although a summary of these decisions is beyond the scope of this Web site, these cases essentially mean that under the California lemon law statute a vehicle manufacturer must pay the a car buyer’s attorney’s fees if the car buyer recovers any significant relief (e.g., a lemon law buyback or payment of money damages) as a result of the lawsuit. However, the amount of attorney’s fees that the manufacturer has to pay can be reduced (or even totally eliminated) if you recover less than or approximately the same amount of money that the manufacturer was willing to give you before you hired an attorney. Accordingly, by starting the case yourself you risk the possibility that the manufacturer will make an offer that is unacceptably low to you, but which is high enough that a lemon law attorney who would otherwise represent you will decline to do so because of the risk that the final outcome will be close to or lower than the manufacturer’s initial offer, resulting in the attorney being paid little or nothing at all for his or her work.

Accordingly, if you think you have a claim under the California lemon law, it is generally in your interest to immediately contact a qualified lemon lawyer to analyze your case and enforce your rights for you.

If you think that you purchased or leased a “lemon” vehicle, then call the Vachon Law Firm at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665). Consultations are always FREE! And you can find out what the California lemon law can do for you.

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