Helping Clients Across California Resolve Some of Their
Most Stressful Problems
Schedule a Free Consultation
Young girl near a broken car calling for help

Driver Abuse vs Lemon: Who Is Responsible?

Law Offices of Kevin Faulk  Oct. 3, 2023

Throughout your lifetime, you’ll likely own several cars. Some of them you may purchase new, some used, and some you may only have for a few years. Sometimes you may own what you think is a new, “good” car when in fact, it turns out to be a lemon. But what really is a “lemon” in the eyes of the law? And what should you do if you think you have a “lemon” on your hands?

“Lemons” can be quite common. However, few people actually pursue getting their vehicle repurchased in court. According to the Consumers For Auto Reliability And Safety (CARS) Foundation, out of over seven million cars that were sold in California over the four-year period from 2018 to 2021, less than one-half of one percent were part of a lemon lawsuit.

If you’d like to speak with a lawyer for legal guidance for vehicle issues you believe are related to California lemon law, reach out to us at the Law Offices of Kevin Faulk. We’re able to serve clients throughout the state from our home offices in Sunnyvale, California. 

Defining Driver Abuse and Lemon Vehicles

Before considering whether or not you have grounds for a Lemon Law claim, let’s first look at what the law says about driver abuse versus a legitimate “lemon” car.   

  • Driver Abuse: Also referred to as “driver negligence,” it essentially means that the driver themselves caused the defects. These defects were not due to an error in manufacturing.  

Keep in mind that auto manufacturers have teams of lawyers working on their behalf and they will always try to prove it was not a defect of the car itself, but the driver who was responsible for the car’s failure. This can be very hard to defend against without the aid of a skilled California lemon law attorney.  However, ultimately, the manufacturer has to prove that the driver did cause the problem.

Lemon Law in California

California was the first state in the country to pass a comprehensive lemon law and soon others followed suit. In our state, lemon law eligibility includes the following requirements:  

  • The defect is covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty 

  • The manufacturer has been given a “reasonable number of attempts” or a reasonable amount of time to fix it and has failed 

  • The defect did not come about due to driver abuse  

Factors Contributing to Vehicle Issues

There are few among us who’ve never experienced some sort of issue with our vehicles— but in most cases, these can be fixed. Often, the issue is due to a design or manufacturing flaw. When this happens, the manufacturer may issue a recall for certain parts or systems to be repaired or replaced, or in extreme cases, they may recall the entire vehicle.  

Other factors that can contribute to vehicle issues lie with the owner. If you aren’t practicing safe driving habits, aren’t keeping up on regular maintenance, or frequently use the car in ways it wasn’t intended (such as off-roading), this can contribute to problems. 

Identifying Driver Abuse vs. Manufacturer Defects 

Both sides in a Lemon Law dispute will attempt to use the differences between driver abuse vs manufacturer defects to support their argument. Therefore, it’s essential you understand how this distinction can work for and against you. The manufacturer may try to claim you caused the defects through the following: 

  • Reckless driving  

  • Operating the car off-road or on harsh terrain 

  • Consistently braking too hard 

  • Not following proper vehicle maintenance practices  

Your attorney’s job will be to prove otherwise, that the defects were due to faulty manufacturing and not your driving habits. 

Seeking Legal Guidance

If you’d like lemon vehicle legal advice and to learn more about California consumer rights in general, contact us at the Law Offices of Kevin Faulk in Sunnyvale, California. We’re here to help you move forward.