Finding yourself in the situation that you need a lemon law attorney is never ideal.
You’ve likely just spent a bunch of money on a new vehicle that ended up being defective. The good news is you might be covered under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as California’s lemon law. However, there may be a a long, treacherous process standing between you and getting justice from the manufacturer, if you proceed without help, or with the wrong attorney on your side. This involves proving the vehicle meets the criteria of lemon law and taking the proper steps to resolve the issue. As you could imagine, the attorney handling your case makes all the difference.
Being as how this is likely your first experience with lemon law, you need to be very careful and avoid falling victim to some of the common traps when choosing a lawyer. The negative results can be: (a) you don’t get the compensation you deserve; (b) the case drags on; or (c) you lose your claim.
Here are three of the biggest red flags to look out for when selecting a lemon law attorney.
- They Aren’t Specialized in Lemon Law
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in the process of filing a lemon law case is thinking that any lawyer is capable of handling a lemon claim. Always remember, lemon law lawyers spend the bulk of their time battling with the giant auto manufacturers, of which have some of the highest-powered legal defense teams in the country. It’s safe to assume that using an unspecialized lawyer to handle a lemon law case is a lot like bringing a butter knife to a gunfight.
Keep in mind, the lemon law is different in every state. Your attorney should be well-versed in the legal landscape of the area and know the exact steps needed to resolve the case as quickly as possible. For example, a lemon law attorney in California needs to know how the process works for both new and used cars. Additionally, since there are more cars on the road in this state than anywhere else in the country, getting claims taken care of fast helps keep the hectic roads safe.
A basic rule to live by is that if a lawyer doesn’t advertise lemon law services, do not choose them to represent you. If they say they can handle the case, there is a good chance they are just looking to sign a client and make a quick buck.
2.Most of Your Communication is with Assistants or Paralegals
A key trait to look for in a lemon law attorney is a demonstrated passion for consumer justice. This should be clear in your meetings and conversations with them. If most of your interactions are with assistants or paralegals, this is a red flag that the firm sees clients as more of a number than anything else. This is typical of the big nationwide lemon law firms. Most of these organizations make their money based on the amount of clients they sign and do not necessarily value consumer justice. It’s common that these firms will try to encourage you to accept a cash settlement from the manufacturer instead of a full buyback or replacement. This cash settlement can be significantly less than what you originally paid for the vehicle.
DO NOT fall victim to this! A good lemon law attorney prides themselves on providing personalized service and bringing the giant auto manufacturers to justice for their negligence.
3.They Demand Out-of-Pocket Costs
Another HUGE red flag to look out for when hiring a lemon law lawyer is whether or not they demand upfront payments for things like retainer or arbitration fees. One of the key outcomes of winning a lemon law case is the manufacturer is required to cover ALL your legal costs.
When a skilled lemon law lawyer takes your case, they should be fully aware of this and not ask for any out-of-pocket costs. Moreover, the manufacturer is completely at fault for selling a lemon vehicle and the attorney should hold the belief that the consumer should never be charged to hire a lawyer for this purpose.
If a lemon law firm requires you to pay any amount of money upfront just to represent you, head for the door immediately.
A highly skilled lemon law lawyer is one that works very hard to craft a reputation around getting cases resolved quickly and effectively. The process of hiring the right attorney doesn’t have to be overly cumbersome. Most offer free consultations to assess your situation and won’t take your case unless they think they have a good shot at winning. Be sure you do your due diligence and don’t be afraid to keep shopping if any of these red flags come up!