Miss a court hearing, and lose your livelihood

Here is what happens when you don’t pay attention to letters sent to you by the government, courts, lawyers or other official agencies. You can lose everything.

Texas promotional photo for its "Protect your title, Texas" campaign

Ask Jeff Hayden. The Texas truck driver has gotten himself into one fine mess. He sold his truck in 2007 to a man who promised to finish the paperwork for the vehicle sale. But maybe because the buyer didn’t want to pay the sales tax, he never completed the title transfer.

The next year, the new owner was the bad guy in a hit-and-run accident. He apparently decided to make it look like Hayden was still the owner so he’d take the rap.

It worked.

As readers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Dave Lieber column learned first, Hayden got notice in the mail that he was being sued in justice of the peace court by the hit-and-run victim’s insurance company, State Farm, which wanted him to pay $6,000 to cover the damage.

Hayden was frustrated by the letter because he knew the vehicle wasn’t his and he wasn’t involved in any accident. He’s a truck driver, and he was on the road in Montana when the court date was scheduled.

In what he now admits is one of the biggest mistakes of his life, he ignored the court date and lost a default judgment of $6,000.

Then he learned that his driver’s license had been suspended because he hadn’t paid the $6,000 to State Farm. Now he can’t earn a living because he can’t drive. He says he’s been offered two jobs but had to turn them down until his license is restored.

He sought The Watchdog’s help.

Watchdog Nation isn’t a big fan of helping people who don’t take care of business. The line of folks seeking help with problems (they haven’t learned through Watchdog Nation how easy it is to solve matters themselves) is long. People like Hayden who skip court dates and don’t follow through on the paperwork for a vehicle sale usually don’t get a second look. But Hayden has a family of five, and he is running out of money. His kids can’t help if it their father lost his bearings. So here we go….

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

What annoys Hayden most is that he has had many conversations with the State Farm lawyer, and that the lawyer refuses to help him. Hayden even posted a nasty note about the lawyer on a website. Clearly, he’s frustrated.

The lawyer, Michael McReynolds of Dallas, says as much as he would like to help Hayden, the paperwork shows that Hayden was the vehicle’s owner at the time of the 2008 accident.

Hayden says the title along with two other filed documents are forgeries. The buyer, to cover his tracks, filed an amended certificate of title with the state showing that Hayden had incorrectly filled out the first one. Somebody else signed Hayden’s name on that, he says.

The title does show that the vehicle was sold again by Hayden’s buyer, but that part looks forged, too. The title has names crossed out and Hayden’s name is inserted in between signatures.

Hayden has complained to the Clay County Sheriff’s Department (the first buyer lived there), but he hasn’t heard back. The office didn’t respond to The Watchdog’s request for comment.

The State Farm lawyer says he doesn’t believe Hayden’s story. The paperwork shows otherwise. The solution? McReynolds tells The Watchdog that he needs a police officer to inform him that the title is forged. Then State Farm can work to end the case.

Vehicle title problems are common enough that the state launched a campaign called “Protect your title, Texas” to inform Texans of proper selling procedures. (Watch YouTube videos about the campaign here.)

Hayden says he now knows that he is supposed to go to the tax office at a local courthouse or subcourthouse and work with a government clerk to finalize the sale. He learned this from a title analyst at the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The analyst, William Lauder, helped Hayden figure out about the forged signatures. The official also told him he could be the “poster boy” for the “Protect your title, Texas” campaign.

“I’m the worst-case scenario right here,” Hayden said, not so proudly.

Lauder told me that when someone sells a vehicle, the new owner doesn’t keep the original license plates. That’s supposed to help alleviate ownership problems, too. Hayden let the buyer keep his plates.

Hayden’s restoration of his driver’s license is not going to be easy. Aside from not driving a truck for a living, he says he can’t drive to the store for milk.

McReynolds said that if a judgment based on an accident remains unsatisfied for more than 60 days, he can request that the Texas Department of Public Safety suspend a license. That’s what he did.

McReynolds says he expects that Hayden would have to pay him the $6,000 in installments so he can get his license back.

“I refused to pay,” Hayden said. “I’m not paying for a wreck I was not in with a truck I didn’t own.”

He may not have a choice.

# # #

Selling an automobile

Enter the odometer reading on the back of the vehicle’s title and sign and date it.

For $5, you can transfer the plates to another vehicle you own. Be sure to remove the windshield registration sticker. When you keep the plates, this forces the buyer to re-title the vehicle in his or her name.

In Texas, download a Texas Motor Vehicle Transfer Notification (Form VTR-346) within 30 days of a vehicle’s sale to protect the previous owner from any criminal or civil acts involving the vehicle and the buyer.

Or go to the county tax office with the buyer to fill out the required paperwork and complete the sale.

If you can’t go to the tax office, most states allow you to file a free Vehicle Transfer Notification online within 30 days. This lets the state know that you no longer own the vehicle and keeps you from being held liable for anything the new owner may do with it.

In Texas, that’s called a Texas Certificate of Title (form 130-U) and you use it to apply for a new title. Sign it and fill in the sale price. Provide the vehicle’s registration receipt.

Source: Texas DMV

# # #

Visit Watchdog Nation HeadquartersDave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong

Like Watchdog Nation on Facebook

Watch Watchdog Nation on YouTube

Twitter @DaveLieber

Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is available in hardcover, as a CD audio book, ebook and hey, what else do you need. Visit our store. Now revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.

Be Sociable, Share!