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Title Jumping | What Happens If You Get Into an Accident and the Car Has a Jumped Title?

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 6 minutes

Title Jumping | What Happens If You Get Into an Accident and the Car Has a Jumped Title?

Getting in a car accident is not a particularly good situation to be in, but things can get worse still. For example, if the vehicle has a jumped title, the accident dynamic can become even more stressful. And, it is more complex. To help you determine your best next steps, let’s explore this type of title fraud and its risks and consequences. And, of course, your legal options.

What Is Title Jumping?

A car title is a legal document designating vehicle ownership. It includes the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the make and model year, date of issue, body style, fuel type, owner name and address, and lien information, among other pertinent details. 

If a person buys a vehicle without putting it in their name and then sells it, it is known as title jumping. This illegal act is also referred to as title skipping or floating. When there is a jumped title issue, the new buyer cannot register the car in their name with the DMV, and the individual becomes subject to related problems, such as unpaid fees and missing signatures.  

Car buyers title-jump for several reasons, the most common of which include:  

  • Selling multiple vehicles per year but not wishing to register with the state as a licensed dealer due to the expenses involved.  
  • Refusing to pay taxes and fees, such as registration fees, sales taxes, and titling fees, before reselling a vehicle.  
  • Not wanting to inform the new buyer about serious issues with the vehicle, such as flood damage, a failing transmission, or continual engine problems.  
  • Selling salvaged vehicles with no titles, maintenance histories, and other essential documents.

“Shady” or unscrupulous car dealership employees can also engage in this practice. However, victims of title jumping typically purchase vehicles via third-party sellers, such as private sellers or through online means. Facebook Marketplace and craigslist are two forums for local vehicle sales that can result in title floating issues.

Is Title Floating a Felony?

Title jumping is considered a felony in most states, including Iowa where it is unlawful for a manufacturer, dealer, importer, or any other vehicle seller to “sell or dispose of” a vehicle without the proper title and other registration information. Some states, such as California, use forms called Release of Liability. Sellers complete this form as part of the selling process, which includes furnishing information about their buyers. If this form is not submitted to the appropriate DMV branch, the state will suspect title fraud. This is because the California Department of Motor Vehicles does not consider a car or truck transferred out of the seller’s name unless this form is submitted. 

Was the title of your car jumped? Call 1-800-THE-LAW2 to find an attorney who can help your situation today.

Can I Sue Someone for Title Jumping?

It is possible to take legal action against someone who sold you a vehicle without the proper title, but it can be difficult. The seller might have provided a fake name, deleted their listing on craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, or left the state, making it challenging to locate the individual and serve them. If you purchased the vehicle from a car dealership, you can file a legal claim against the company.  

How to Fix Title Jumping and What to Do

Should you decide to take legal action, contact an attorney with experience in title fraud. The lawyer will assist you throughout the legal process and answer any questions you have. Typical actions include filing a police report detailing the time, location, and date of the purchase. Any conversations with the seller should be included. You will also want to capture images of your vehicle, make copies of paperwork connected to the sale, and call your local DMV. The department may be able to provide assistance regarding a new title. Such titles are known as bonded titles.

Bonded Titles

What Is a Bonded Title?

Bonded titles are furnished by surety companies. They remain bonded for a set period, and come with a risk.

Risk of Bonded Title

During this time, the previous seller can claim the bond, and therefore reveal themselves as the title owner. Whether the seller of the vehicle does or does not claim the bond, you must wait for the specified time before applying for a clean title. Clean titles indicate that the applicable insurance companies do not consider the vehicles “total losses.”

Some states do not accept bonded titles, including Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Oregon.

What is the Penalty For a Jumped Title?

The penalty for title jumping depends on the state, but it typically includes imprisonment and fines.

  • Title jumping in Texas: If a vehicle seller engages in title skipping in Texas, but does not transfer a vehicle title to a new owner within 30 days of the sale, this individual pays a fine of up to $4,000. There are no fee waivers, with the seller also facing up to two years’ imprisonment.
  • Title jumping in California: In California, the seller must pay a $1,000 fine and spend one year in jail. 
  • Title jumping in Missouri: Other states, such as Missouri, do not issue title penalties until 60 days after the date of sale.

Is it Possible to Sell a Car Without a Title in My Name?

You may wonder – Can I sell a car without a title in my name? While selling a car with no title is regarded as a felony in most states, there are loopholes. For example, if a vehicle was abandoned on your property or you purchased the property featuring such a vehicle, it is technically yours. To avoid title fraud issues, you must provide the local DMV with the VIN number to contact the previous owner. If the owner cannot be located or does not take responsibility for their vehicle, you are legally allowed to procure a title.  

What to Do If You Are a Victim of Title Jumping

If you have been a victim of title jumping, contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Speak to a lawyer near you by calling 1-800-THE-LAW2. Consultation is free and confidential, so get started today!

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