As a result of the flooding associated with Hurricane Sandy, it is estimated that thousands of vehicles sustained severed water damage. Such water damage can make a vehicle’s electrical system, including airbag sensors, prone to failure. Based on past experiences with flood-damaged vehicles associated with Hurricane Katrina, it is very likely that many states will soon begin to see flood-damaged vehicle enter their used vehicle markets for sale, titling or registration.
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is designed to protect prospective purchasers of used vehicles from concealed vehicle histories. While the NMVTIS Junk, Salvage and Insurance Total Loss (JSI) program was not in place during the Katrina experience, the good news is the JSI program is now in place and insurance companies are required, by federal law, to report to NMVTIS any vehicle that they deemed to be a total loss. At this point we have heard that some insurers may determine that some of the affected vehicles may be repairable.
There is some bad news; the requirement to report to NMVTIS is on a 30-day cycle, therefore, it is possible that flood-damaged vehicles may appear for titling or registration, and a NMVTIS check may not show a report by an insurer if they had not yet reported it to NMVTIS. The Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Department of Justice issued a memorandum to all NMVTIS JSI Reporting Entities to ask for their prompt, timely and complete reporting so that all users of NMVTIS information can make informed decisions regarding a vehicle’s history and, in the interest of consumers, the vehicle’s fair market value and safety.
AAMVA is also working with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to gain access to information that they are gathering from their members of vehicles that have been affected by the flood. We are currently working out the logistics of how we can provide access to this information to our members. Stay tuned for more details. Here are some additional links that can provide information that maybe informative: https://www.bja.gov/Programs/FloodDamagedVehicles_NMVTIS.pdf; www.nicb.org; and www.nsvrp.org