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What is Title Jumping? Exploring the Consequences of Accidents with a Jumped Title

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 11 minutes

What is Title Jumping? Exploring the Consequences of Accidents with 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 complex complex. To help you determine your best next steps, let’s explore what title jumping is, 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
  • Lien information
  • 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. 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?

Floating a title 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 today to find an attorney who can help your situation.

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 Report Someone for Title Jumping

If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of title jumping, it’s important to act quickly to protect yourself. Here are the steps to take to report someone for title jumping.

  1. Gather information. Make sure you gather all the necessary information, including details about the vehicle, the suspected title jumper, and any relevant supporting documents like the bill of sale or any communication with the seller. Obtain a copy of the title and take note of any discrepancies you notice.
  2. Contact your local police department. File a police report and explain the situation.
  3. Contact your local DMV. Find the contact information for your local DMV office and give them a call. Explain the situation with as much detail as possible and ask about the process for reporting title jumping in your area. They can investigate the matter and help you recover the title.
  4. Remain anonymous if necessary. If you’re worried about possible consequences, you can check with the DMV to find out their policy on anonymous reporting. In certain areas, you can report suspicious activities without disclosing your identity.
  5. Seek legal advice. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, especially if you have suffered financial losses.

Investigations can take a while, so it’s important to be patient.

Reporting someone for title jumping is a responsible move that helps keep the vehicle title system in check. By following these steps, you’re doing your part in ensuring a fair and legal process for buying and selling vehicles, avoiding possible fraud, and making sure the ownership transfer goes smoothly.

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. As mentioned above, 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 vehicle’s “total losses.”

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

Title Jumping Penalties

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 for title jumping penalties in Texas.
  • 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.
  • Title jumping in Michigan: In Michigan, floating a title can result in 93 days of imprisonment, a fine of up to $100, or both.

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!

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we can assist you no matter when your accident occurs.

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