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 division or department of motor vehicles (DMV) – regarding the title transfer to the new owner in a timely manner. There are several easy ways to verify that the DMV has received your transfer of ownership 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 vehicle transfer 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.

Review Your Vehicle Sale Records

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

If you receive a vehicle 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 for the Vehicle Record

If you're still uncertain, go to a local DMV field office to check on the status of the DMV release of liability form. You will have to provide adequate proof of identity (such as a driver's license) 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 at the DMV website.

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 or civil litigation, 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 into the new owner's name 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 ownership of the vehicle. Always keep a copy of the bill of sale and notice of release of liability you filed with the DMV for your records, should there be a question of liability.