Heavy rains and flooding are part of living in the Southeast and many other parts of the country. Every year throughout the U.S., thousands of vehicles suffer flood damage. Cars that are destroyed may be relinquished to junkyards or turned into scrap metal. However, those that are still operable after some repair work may be resold — too often to unsuspecting consumers.
Even some cars that are determined by the owner’s insurance company to be a total loss and required to get what is called a “salvage title” may end up being resold. These cars may make their way to used car lots hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Therefore, just because your area hasn’t experienced flooding recently, that doesn’t mean that the used car you’re eyeing hasn’t been in the middle of a flood elsewhere. In fact, those seeking to sell flood-damaged cars often transport them out of the region to areas where buyers may not think to ask about or check for this type of damage.
Kentucky’s Department of Vehicle Registration (DVR) warns consumers that while Kentucky hasn’t been directly in the path of devastating hurricanes the past couple of years, it’s “preparing for an influx of title requests for vehicles that have been deemed a total loss due to natural disaster damage…brought to Kentucky to be “rebuilt.” It’s important to look for words like “salvage,” “flood” and “rebuilt” on a car’s title. These might not always be obvious.
As long as vehicles are appropriately labeled, it may be legal to resell them. However, that doesn’t mean that buyers always realize what they’re getting. Even if a car undergoes repairs and seems to be running fine, water can cause long-term damage to mechanical and electrical systems. It can impact vital safety components of a car like air bags.
It’s always wise to have any used car inspected by a mechanic before you buy it. They can spot flood damage and other defects the average consumer may miss. However, if you still end up with a flood-damaged car, even if no one has suffered injuries as a result of the damage, it’s wise to seek the guidance of a Kentucky attorney experienced in handling cases involving defective and dangerous products. They can advise you of your rights and legal options.