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The difference between state and federal Lemon Laws

The Lemon Law’s basic premise protects those buying cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles and RVs from being taken advantage of. A manufacturer cannot repeatedly try to fix a vehicle with a recurring issue after a reasonable number of attempts. A seller or a dealer cannot misrepresent the product they sell by such subterfuge as changing the odometer, not noting crash damage repairs or omitting relevant information. Both federal and state Lemon Laws enable buyers to recover damages as well as attorney’s fees and costs.

Where California law usually goes further

The state’s Lemon Laws provide more customer protection than the federal version. This includes such details as:

  • California’s “reasonable number of repair attempts” is lower than federal – the exact number is dependent upon how serious the defect is, so more attempts are made with less serious malfunctions.
  • California Lemon Law enables buyers to recover an additional civil penalty payment if it can be proven that the seller willfully attempted to violate the Lemon Law.

When federal may be better

Californians are generally recommended to pursue damages by using the state law, but there are a few reasons to pursue damages under federal law. California’s Lemon Laws, for example, do not apply to certain vehicles, such as commercial trucks over 10,000 pounds. California Lemon Law also does not apply to businesses with more than five commercial vehicles.

Attorneys help determine the best approach

Lawyers with experience working with consumers against manufacturers or dealers of defective vehicles can often facilitate a positive outcome. Their experience and effectiveness comes from focusing on these types of cases. It also means that buyers have an advocate who is unafraid to take on bigger companies and sellers who are at fault.

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