Can I sell my totaled car to a salvage yard before I get a judgment in small claims court case regarding the accident?

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Can I sell my totaled car to a salvage yard before I get a judgment in small claims court case regarding the accident?

My car was totaled in an accident a few weeks ago. I filed a small claims case against the driver and owner of the other car involved in the accident (2 separate people) after that party’s insurance denied liability. The auto shop where my car was towed to after the accident offered to sell the car to a salvage yard for me.  Can I sell the car before I get a judgement in the small claims case, or do I still need to possess the title to the car if I am awarded the judgement?

Asked on May 3, 2011 under Accident Law, Maine

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, as a matter of law, you do not need to have the title to the car in order to receive a judgment. Regardless of who owns the car now, if the car was totalled while you owned it, you suffered a loss. However, as practical matter, you may wish to not sell the car until you know the outcome of the case:

1) It's possible the car may be needed as evidence in one fashion or another; if so, and it's not available, then that could have serious negative implications for your case.

2) Anything you actually receive from the salvage yard will be an offset against what you can receive from your judgment. While in theory, what you *should* get could be offset even if you haven't sold the car yet, having the money in hand makes it much more likely that it will offset, and thus reduce, your recovery, since the compensation then will be actual, not theoretical.


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