Louisiana has recently suffered some of the worst flooding in the Nation's history. At least 60,000 homes have been damaged and it is estimated at least 13 people died as a result of the flooding. These are staggering numbers, and the destruction is anticipated to take months or years to clean up.
It is difficult for us in Oregon to imagine how this flood could possibly affect us. However, car buyer's need to beware because the numerous Louisiana cars that were flooded may be heading to Oregon. These cars usually suffer from numerous electrical issues, power-train issues, and can often be plagued with mildew problems. These issues can create a dangerous situation when the vehicle loses power and this can result in the injury or death to the driver and others on the road.
It is unknown how many flooded cars may be entering the markets, but there could be tens of thousands of vehicles flooding into the used car markets. Dealers can buy these cars at a reduced price, clean them up, and sell them to unknowing consumers. Vehicles without a "branded title" ( Branded Titles are basically titles that note"water damaged vehicle" or a "Salvaged Title") may be sold to an unknowing customer even though it has been in a flood. This occurs when the dealer's attempts to conceal any water damage and sell the vehicle without disclosing the fact the vehicle is a flood car.
If the vehicle's title is "branded" or notes the vehicle is a water-damaged vehicle then the dealer may attempt to "wash" the title. Louisiana Law notes that if a vehicle's electrical system or power train is damaged by flood damage and totaled by an insurance company as a result, then it will receive the "water damaged" brand on the title.
Title washing can occur when a person purchases a vehicle with a salvaged title or a water-damaged title and registers it in a state that does not recognize that particular "brand" on the title. The new state then issues a clear title and the vehicle can be sold anywhere in the United States and passed off as a clean title. Some states make it easy to "wash" a title. For instance some states will not issue a branded title to a vehicle that is more than 7 years old. What that means is that a purchaser can buy an 8 year old vehicle with a water-damaged title in Louisiana and then register in the new state an receive an unbranded title. Once the vehicle has an unbranded title it can be sold anywhere in the US as a "clean title" vehicle.
Title washing can also take place when a person actually physically alters the title in an effort to conceal the "brand" on the title (think photo-shop or white-out). This is more difficult to do, but it does occur. This is big problem if the title is held by the bank, as the bank employee may not scrutinize the title as closely as they should.
What you Can Do To Try And Ensure You Do Not Purchase a Flood Damaged Car: It is important for Oregon Consumers to inspect any vehicle they may buy. That great deal on Craigslist may actually be a terrible deal for a car that is plagued with electrical issues. Oregonians should inspect the vehicle. They should examine underneath the vehicle to ensure there are not any mineral deposits, a "silt line," or significant mud. The headlights may have mud or debris lines inside of them. The interior and trunk should be inspected for any discoloration that indicates flooding. If the vehicle smells funny (either of mold or heavy chemicals) that may be an indication of flooding. The consumer should turn on and off all of the lights and radio, and operate any electrical features (windows, sunroof, rear windshield wiper)to ensure they all function properly.
The consumer should also pull a title history report from Carfax or AutoCheck to determine: 1) if the vehicle has a branded title, and 2) to determine if the vehicle is from Louisiana. However, these reports are not always accurate so they shouldn't solely be relied upon. If the vehicle was bought or sold at a "Copart" auction yard that is a big red flag that the vehicle had a salvaged title. These tips may assist consumer's in protecting themselves from buying a flood car, but it may not completely protect you.
If you or someone you know unknowingly purchased a "flood car" or a car with a branded title in Oregon then please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658. Jeremiah Ross may be able to assist you with your consumer case in Oregon.