Even though the waters have receded, the massive floods that afflicted West Virginia in 2016 present ongoing liability issues for auto dealers in the state. Under the West Virginia salvage title rule, when a vehicle has been submerged in water, this fact must be reflected on its legal title. This also applies to other types of pervasive damage, such as a car burned in a fire or one considered a total loss due to cosmetic reasons.
With so many West Virginia residents affected by flooding over the past few years, it is incumbent on auto dealers to understand and adhere to the relevant regulations, including:
- Application and inspection for salvage title — If a car has been underwater due to a flood or requires a salvage title for any other reason, the application should be sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles before any repair or reconstruction takes place. Once the marked certificate of title is received, the vehicle can be reconstructed but must pass inspection before road use.
- Transactions between individuals — While rules on general warranties only apply to dealers, flood damage must also be disclosed on the title when an individual vehicle owner sells his car to another individual.
- Possible changes to the law — “As is” bills that would remove dealers’ legal responsibility to warn about flood damage and other vehicle issues have been introduced many times in the West Virginia Legislature, but not one has been passed.
Once a flood-damaged vehicle passes inspection, including airbag and odometer verification, a reconstructed certificate of title, noting the type of damage that was incurred, can be issued.
Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe has represented automobile dealers in all types off matters involving allegations of fraud, warranty breaches and other types of malfeasance. We advise dealerships in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. To schedule a consultation, call 304-344-0100 or contact us online.