As a California consumer, you may be entitled to recourse under the state’s lemon law if you have purchased a defective vehicle. This process can be delicate, as most consumers face this situation for the first time and may not know their rights.
Unfortunately, in many cases, automakers are unwilling to take responsibility for their defective cars and reimburse consumers. However, you may be able to receive compensation by taking legal action. In this scenario, our California lemon law lawyer tells you what the better option is: litigation or arbitration.
What is Litigation?
Litigation under the Lemon Law typically starts when the owner of the so-called “lemon” files a complaint against the manufacturer with the court. This is done by sending a copy of the complaint, along with a summons, to the defendant. The complaint will list various defects in the vehicle that make it eligible for treatment under the Lemon Law and why the defendant should be held responsible for said defects.
The manufacturer and/or dealer of the defective product has a set amount of time to file an answer to the Lemon Law complaint with the court. This answer explains the defendant’s side of the story and why they believe they are not in violation of the Lemon Law. The plaintiff may respond to the answer with a reply, further explaining their position.
How Does It Work?
Before a trial begins, each side must present its case to a judge in the form of a document called a brief. This outlines the arguments and evidence that will be used during the trial. If a jury is trying the case, then both attorneys for both sides will have the opportunity to question potential jurors. Once the jury has been selected, each side will present their outline of the case in an opening statement.
The court of appeals generally only reviews a case for legal errors. With few exceptions, the court of appeals will not review factual evidence or overturn a jury’s findings of fact. The court of appeals announces its decision in an opinion. If no errors are found, the court of appeals will affirm the verdict. However, if an error is discovered, the court of appeals may reverse the verdict or order a new trial from the lower court.
The losing party in a court case may appeal the decision to a higher court. This is done by submitting briefs and evidence from the original trial to the new court. An appeal can add significant time to the litigation process.
What is Arbitration?
Car manufacturers often use arbitration to avoid having to refund customers for faulty cars. However, getting a refund for a lemon car is not as simple as returning an item to a grocery shop. There is a legal process that must be followed.
Arbitration is often touted by manufacturers as a “quick and cheap” way to get a refund for defective products. However, in reality, it is usually only quick and cheap for the manufacturer – consumers often lose out in arbitrations, getting no refund at all. If you’re considering arbitration as an option, be aware of the potential downside before going forward.
How Does It Work?
Arbitration is an alternative to taking your case in front of a judge. An arbitrator, or panel of arbitrators, will hear both sides and then make a decision about the defective vehicle and whether or not the manufacturer is liable for a buyback.
As a car owner, you know how frustrating it can be to have a lemon. Auto manufacturers will often try to convince you that taking your claim through the court system will take months or even years and that the court fees and lawyer expenses will end up costing more than the refund you would receive. However, arbitration can resolve your claim in a matter of weeks or less.
What is the Better Option?
Arbitration may be less expensive and quicker than litigation, but it’s important to know that the arbitrators are usually paid by the company that you’re in dispute. This could create a bias in their decision-making. If you’re considering arbitration, be sure to do your research and understand all the potential risks involved.
Arbitration may be quicker and cheaper for the manufacturer, but it’s often not in the best interests of the consumer. In many cases, arbitration results in a low-cash settlement, rather than the fair refund the consumer deserves. If you’re faced with lemon, don’t agree to arbitration, no matter how enticing the manufacturer makes it sound.
When you buy or lease a car, always check the contract for a forced arbitration clause. This is another way that automakers try to avoid being held liable for selling defective products.
If you find yourself stuck with a lemon, the best thing you can do is speak to a California lemon law attorney. The manufacturer is not your friend in this situation, their goal is to avoid having to buy back lemons, which are expensive. Not only that, but if one of their vehicles is found to be defective, it damages their reputation.