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What Is DMV’s Release Of Liability? How Can You Get It?

7 December, 2023


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A Release of Liability is officially called the DMV Release of Liability. It is a legal document that protects you from a number of liabilities. Most of us have owned a vehicle at some time or the other. When no longer of use, we have also sold the vehicle.

A release of liability will protect individuals, organizations, and other legal entities. As the name suggests, it releases them from facing the financial consequences that can come with the transfer of ownership of a vehicle.

In this article, we will tell you all about the following:

  • What is a release-of-liability-agreement?
    How to check the release of liability on a car?
    What is a release of liability form?
  • And much more.

What Is A Release Of Liability DMV?

The document is called a release of liability. It is fired with the Department of Motor Vehicles in jurisdictions all across the nation. This document is proof that the seller or the owner of a vehicle is no longer responsible for it.

If you file for a release of liability, the government can no longer hold you accountable for the following.

  • Accidents related to the vehicle.
  • Damages to the vehicle.
  • Traffic or other legal violations caused by the vehicle.

The release of liability will simply state that all these responsibilities now belong to the new owner of the car.

What Happens If You Don’t File For The Release?

If you don’t file for the release of liability or don’t properly file it, you, as the seller or your buyer, will face trouble. If you are wondering why you need to file for a release, here you go.

These are the consequences if you do not file for a release or rather file it improperly.

Financial Consequences

You will lose out on money without proper reason. Without a Release of Liability, the seller will most likely remain financially responsible for the vehicle. 

  • This means if there are any accidents, damages, or violations, unfortunately, you will be the one paying for it. 
  • The bills will be made out to your name. So, if the new owner does something reckless that damages the car, would you really like to pay for that out of your pocket? No, none of us would.  

You, being the seller, could be in trouble with the law. 

  • For example, if the new owner carries out criminal activity with that vehicle. 
  • The criminal charges will include your name because the vehicle officially belongs to you.  
  • So, if there is a hit and run, drug trafficking, or other unlawful actions with your former vehicle, if you have a DMV release of liability, you are off the hook.  

Pent Up Unpaid Tickets to Your Name

Similarly, if the new owner has multiple unpaid parking tickets with the vehicle, or toll violations, you will be dragged to court. 

  • Sometimes, you might miss checking the mail or paying for these tickets. 
  • With time, you are left with unnecessary legal actions against you.

Increase Of Insurance Pay

Suppose you have sold your vehicle. 

  • Without a release of liability, the insurance company will not know of this sale. 
  • With time, you will face increased charges for insurance premiums. As months go by, the premium amount will only increase.  

Problems For The Buyer

Just like a lack of release of liability can lead to problems for you, it can also be a problem for the buyer. 

  • They can face a challenge in proving that they are the rightful owner of the vehicle. 
  • Now, unfortunately, if the vehicle is stolen, the buyer cannot lodge a police complaint without giving proof of ownership.

Unclear Ownership And Penalties

If the new owner decides to sell the vehicle, an unclear ownership history will cause a ton of trouble.

  • Since DMV rules can vary from state to state, if there is no proper release of liability, many states can issue fines and penalties against the owner.  
  • Therefore, in order to avoid these troubles, a lawful release from the DMV will be very beneficial for both parties involved.  

What Is A Release Of Liability Agreement?

A Release of Liability Agreement / Liability Waiver / Waiver of Liability, whichever name you know it by, is a legal document that releases you from liabilities related to something specific. 

  • It can be an activity, a transaction, or even a situation.
  • In this context, it is a special agreement issued by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). 
  • Its main purpose is to notify the DMV that the transfer of vehicle ownership was successful. 
  • As the name suggests, it releases the seller or the previous owner of a vehicle from obligations. These responsibilities now belong to the new owner. 

What Does A Liability Waiver Agreement Contain?

This release agreement typically contains all information related to the vehicle. 

For instance,

  • The make, model, purchase year, registered bill for the vehicle, vehicle identification number (VIN), and even the license plate number of the vehicle.
  • The seller’s name and information are also there for reference. Their name, contact information, current address, unique number of their driver’s license, all of it.  
  • The buyer also gives their complete information. This is important because both the buyer and the seller must identify themselves properly to avoid any dispute later on.
  • The document will also contain the date when the ownership of the vehicle goes from the seller to the buyer.
  •  The liability waiver is incomplete without stating the true mileage of the vehicle. To do this, many states require an odometer reading at the time of the transfer. This way, they can prevent any fraudulent practice of stating the wrong mileage.  
  • After all of this information is there in the form, both the seller and the buyer sign it. The document will now have a clear acknowledgment from both parties.

Since DMV requirements can vary from one state to another, some jurisdictions may require witnesses or an authorized notary to make a declaration.

What Is A DMV Release of Liability Form?

This is more commonly called the Release of Liability form. As you can gather from the name, it is the official document that you fill out when you want to waive your vehicle liability.

Who Issues the Form?

This very important piece of official document is available at your nearest Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

  • When you, the seller, fill out this form and submit it to the relevant authority, the ownership of the vehicle is now off your hands along with its liabilities.
  • When a sale agreement is taking place, this document is a must under the state law requirements of some jurisdictions. 
  • The primary purpose of this form is to give people and the DMV a clear idea about who owns the vehicle. 

Once the DMV accepts the form, it also formally releases the seller or previous owner liabilities that come with the vehicle.  

How Do You Get A Form?

If you want a form for your vehicle liability waiver, these are the steps you can take. For the online procedure, you will need to conduct a Google search for your nearest DMV. 

  • First, be sure to visit this DMV’s website.
  • Please note that this should be their official website. Since each state has its own DMV website, please log into your state’s portal. If you look around, you will see the Release of Liability form available for all.  
  • Ideally, it should be the “Forms” or “Documents” section.
  • When you are on the DMV website, use the search bar to look for all documents pertaining to you.  
  • To get a general idea of things, you can browse through the list of available forms.  
  • This particular liability waiver can have different names through different states. It can be “liability waiver,” “notice of transfer,” and the most common one, “release of liability.”
  • All forms have links attached to them. 
  • Click on the link to download your form. It will usually come in a PDF format. 

It is a user-friendly method because if you make a mistake while filling out the form, you can easily download another one.

What To Do After You Have Filled Out The Form?

After you have a hard copy of the form in hand, complete it by filling out the necessary information. 

  • As we have discussed earlier, you’ll need to provide details about the vehicle, the buyer, the seller, the date of transfer, and any other relevant information that the form demands. 
  • Please make sure to fill out the form accurately without any mistakes. Incorrectly filled forms will be rejected by the DMV.
  • All buyers and sellers need to sign the form. Their signatures are a form of acknowledgment of the transfer of the vehicle. If your state has requirements for a notary or witness, make the necessary arrangements.
  • Once all formalities are completed, and you have signed the form, it is time for you to submit it. Go back to your DMV website and check the submission procedure.
  • If the site says that you have to mail the form to a particular address, act accordingly.
  • Sometimes, the website also mentions certain drop-off locations where you will need to go and submit your form.
  • Always keep a copy of the form that you have submitted. This will be your proof of your submission of the form in case it gets lost in the transaction.

After you have submitted the form, you need to have a talk with your Insurance Company. This will help you to get out of premium payments that might be due before you receive the waiver.

How To Fill Out The Form Correctly?

The name and the format of the form can vary from State to State. However, its contents remain consistent. In this section, I will give you a basic idea of the information you need to fill out your DMV release of liability form.

  • First, since the form is related to a vehicle, you will need to fill out the vehicle information. 
  • It can be information regarding your identification number, your license number, the year in which you bought the vehicle, and the make and model of your vehicle. 
  • It can also need you to fill out other additional information.
  • Next, you will fill out the seller information. This will include your name, your address, details regarding your contact information, your driver’s license number, etc.
  • You will also provide information about the buyer. Their name, address, contact, and any other info that you will need.  
  • This liability release form should give the proper details of when the vehicle was bought and on what date the vehicle went to the new buyer.
  • This date should be filled out correctly because it will signify when the liability of the seller ends.
  • After this date, the buyer will be free from all liabilities and responsibilities.
  • Your state DMV may ask for an odometer reading. This will state clearly that the mileage you stated at the time of the transfer is indeed true.  
  • As the seller of the vehicle who is filling out the form, it is your responsibility to get the signatures of both parties on the form.

You will also need to make arrangements for notary or other witnesses

Do You Have To Pay A Fee?

Yes, usually, there is a fee payable for the Release of Liability form from the DMV. The amount one pays also varies from one state to another.  

  • Although the release form comes free of cost in many states, you might have to pay additional fees. 
  • The areas that are usually chargeable are vehicle transfers, vehicle registration, sales tax, etc. These are the things for which you might have to pay a fee.
  • Firstly, the release form will ideally cost you $0. The vehicle sale or transfer process might cost you some money.  There is a possibility of a small inspection fee.
  • Although, it is worth mentioning that some sources say that the filing fee can be close to $5. You can post a check or money order for $3.50  to the DMV.  

So, this seems like no trouble at all, right?

Finally, Why Is Release Of Liability Important?

The primary purpose of a DMV’s Release of Liability is to state the transfer of the vehicle and, thereby, the relief of the seller or previous owner. It is important because it gives the seller financial protection and legal protection and also eases the vehicle transfer.

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Debkanya is a lawyer turned writer. With an experience of 3 years, she is your go-to source for all things law. She has a soft corner for the US and international section. When the weekend arrives, you'll find her reading up on politics, Austen, or travel blogs over a cup of coffee.

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