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California Lemon Law: If it isn’t Written it isn’t True

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  June 25, 2010

We have written about repair orders and documentation is blogs in the past, but this is so important it can’t hurt to look at it again. It is at the heart of every California lemon law case. The following statement should be engraved in stone, or at least somewhere where the consumer can see it at least once a day.

“If it isn’t written it isn’t true.” Now just understand the concept. It isn’t altogether accurate, but an extremely workable rule. We realize of course that a client’s testimony is evidence and the truth too. But, when all is said and done, documented evidence to prove a point carries much more weight in the grand scheme of things than someone’s testimony that can be refuted when a jury is looking at a case. Why should we write about this? Because your lemon law case absolutely depends on a well recorded repair history. You will note that I said well recorded, that means accurate. If you proceed on the basis that the dealership is careful when recording all of the key data related to your repairs, you probably are open to the purchase of Los Angeles International Airport.

It isn’t that dealerships are knowingly altering the information (at least not all of the time). However, most service writers aren’t MENSA members, and like any other job they get busy and or lazy.

If the service writer fails to correctly write the date you take the vehicle in and then the day you pickup the vehicle, the wrong number of days the vehicle was in the shop will be recorded, and this may affect your ability to make a lemon law case. This is what you must do. Carefully read your service orders (going in for repair) and your service invoices (when you pick up your car) carefully, very carefully, look for the following things:

  • Correct date in and date out.
  • Correct VIN number.
  • Proper mileage/odometer reading (This also shows you if they test drove your vehicle.)
  • Did they write down the defects exactly as you described?
  • Were the repairs well-documented, with a list of all parts replaced?

I can’t tell you how many cases were delayed, made far more difficult, and even compelled the consumer to get more repairs because some of the repair orders were incorrectly filled out. Please do not forget; in the California lemon law, if it isn’t written it isn’t true.

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