This chain of events could have been prevented

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Posted 11/17/15 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Krimm

You know how it is. Your kid has an old beater car and once it’s on its last legs, you just want to get rid of it. When someone comes along and offers to give you $1,200 for it, you don’t even stop long enough to write out a bill of sale or take YOUR license plates off of the car.
I ALWAYS forget that in North Dakota, the license plates stay with the person, not the car.
Through another example of less-than-stellar attention to personal business details, this car had remained registered in my name and the name of daughter No. 1 -- yes, all three kids had their turn behind the wheel of that car -- ever since its purchase in 2009.
Throw in a divorce a year or more after that and the fact the tag renewals went to my ex’es address, there was little to remind me that in fact, I was the legal owner of said vehicle, not him.
So, imagine my surprise when, a few months after I know the car was sold, I start getting notices from some automated speeding ticket outfit in Colorado saying I owe $30 for exceeding the limit.
There’s my name right on the citation -- my old name anyway, along with my old address. It dawned on me that the new owner of the car must have been on a road trip and the ticket came to me because he was still using my license plates.
At that point, finding his phone number wasn’t that difficult. I called, politely asked him to settle the ticket and get the car registered in his name. He promised he would. He didn’t.
Next month, here comes another ticket and by now, he isn’t returning our calls. So, like an idiot -- a really busy idiot -- I decide to just pay the $30 and I figure that will be the end of it. Of course, that was an even dumber thought than leaving the license plates on the car to begin with.
Flash forward to last month. I receive a letter addressed to Cecile Wehrman, from some insurance company. I had the briefest thought it could be some kind of payout, but no. The letter demanded $7,700 for the damage MY car caused in an accident in Williston last January. There was a copy of the citation, a diagram of the accident and the name of a driver I’d never heard of. For sure, he wasn’t the guy who’d bought the kids’ car.
The letter was so rude and so “in your face” I briefly wondered if it could be some sort of scam, but no. After taking it to my insurance agent, I learned it was legit.
Could they really make ME pay for the damage on a car I hadn’t laid eyes on in over a year? For a car that, in reality, I didn’t even realized (except for those tickets) might still be registered in my name? 
They wanted to know what insurance I had on the car, but of course, I had none, since the kids’ father was the one footing that bill until his recent death. Suddenly, it looked like I may be the one who had to pay up.
I was really wigged out for a whole weekend on that one.
As it turns out, we were able to prove money had been received for the car and that it had been sold to a certain party. And not too long ago, I got a call from an adjustor who told me we were off the hook.
All this, just to make the point that sometimes, personal business doesn’t seem as worthy of the detail we give our storefront business, but if you’re smart, you’ll always get a bill of sale on a car and keep your plates. 
Lessons learned.