Motorcycle still registered in my name after I sold it, am I liable?

by Ted

I sold an untitled, registered motorcycle to someone with a signed bill of sale. He failed to register or insure the bike and resold it to someone else. Six months later, the driver (who was uninsured and possibly without valid driver's license), drove off the highway with a passenger.

The passenger broke her back and face and the driver fled the scene. He never registered the bike. From the accident report it appears the driver was speeding. The hit and run driver was positively identified by witnesses, but State Patrol have yet to catch him.

The bike is still registered to me. What liability do I have, given that I sold the bike and have a signed bill of sale? The guy I sold it to sold it again to the hit and run driver, but I'm still the registered owner of the bike.

Should I try to get a declarative judgment on bike ownership, or is my signed bill of sale enough (MN)? The signed bill of sale included the bike model/description, date of sale, price, and VIN number, but no odometer reading.

The bike had classic plates, which enabled the driver to ride it without having to register it, since the plates don't expire. Any info you can give would be appreciated. Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Motorcycle still registered in my name after I sold it, am I liable?":

Ted (MN):

A declaratory judgment may help resolve the motorcycle ownership issue, but the judgement will still not preclude the injured parties from pursuing a personal injury claim against you.

While you may have engaged in a good faith sale of the motorcycle, it was still your duty to follow up and be sure title was transferred out of your name. You failed to do so, and as a result, you are unfortunately open to a lawsuit form the injured parties.

Immediately contact your insurance company and report the accident. You should be covered by your liability policy. In the event your are not covered and a lawsuit is filed against you, you can file a cross-claim against the party you sold the motorcycle to. If the case goes to trial, it is likely a judge or jury will find the purchasers liable and not you.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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