How to Check the Status of Release of Liability

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When you sell a vehicle, most states require that you notify the appropriate state agency – usually the department or division of motor vehicles – regarding the sale. There are several easy ways to verify that the DMV has received your forms, releasing you from any further liability for the operation of the vehicle. This covers such things as parking or traffic violations, registration fees or accidents involving the vehicle. If you've sent the notice to the DMV, but are uncertain whether it was received or properly recorded, following up with the department can save you time and trouble.

Start at the Beginning

Review your records for a copy of the release of liability you filed with the DMV. Double-check the information on the form for accuracy, especially the vehicle's identification number, or VIN, and license plate number. If any of this information was missing or incorrect, the DMV would not be able to process the release.

If you receive a registration renewal notice from the DMV for a vehicle you no longer own, that is a good indication that your release of liability was not received by the DMV or was not processed due to missing or illegible information.

Check With the DMV

If you're still uncertain, go to a DMV field office to check on the status of the release of liability. You will have to provide adequate proof of identity and your interest in the vehicle before the information will be provided. You may need to file a written record request with the DMV. There should be a special form for this type of request and most DMVs make these forms available online.

You may even be able to file the form online. In the event that you need a copy of this record for use in a court proceeding, make sure you request a certified copy of the record that is suitable for filing with the court.

Following Up with the DMV

If title to the vehicle wasn't transferred to the buyer and you cannot verify that the release of liability you sent to the DMV was accepted, file another release of liability without delay. The buyer may have agreed to file the necessary documents for you, but don't rely on this happening. It is better practice to do it yourself, as your protection from future liability regarding the vehicle. Always keep a copy of the notice of release of liability you filed with the DMV for your records, should there be a question of liability.