Often, a person may be confused or unclear about some sort of situation going on in their life. They may find themselves wondering what their own rights, duties, or obligations may be. Luckily, Missouri law allows people seeking clarification of their legal rights to seek public clarification from a judge.
At the Piatchek Law Firm, we can assist clients in dealing with declaratory judgment issues, particularly those that deal with vehicle titles for cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, trailers, motor homes, etc. A plaintiff seeks a “declaratory judgment” when some doubt or controversy exists regarding the plaintiff’s rights, and the plaintiff desires to officially clarify those rights publicly. A declaratory judgment determines the rights of the plaintiff without awarding any sort of damages.
A plaintiff could ask a judge to make a declaratory judgment about almost anything, including interpreting an unclear clause in a contract, determining the rights of the insured under an insurance policy, determining who is a beneficiary under a last will and testament, or even deciding who is the rightful owner of property (such as a motorcycle).
Declaratory Judgment for Car Titles
The most common reason our clients ask a judge for a “declaratory judgment” is that they have a problem with an automobile title and are unable to officially title, register, or license the automobile. Perhaps the person from whom they bought the truck never had a legal title. Perhaps the seller of the motorcycle forgot to sign the title, and now the seller can’t be found. Perhaps the person built a kit-car from scratch, so it never had a VIN or title. Perhaps they bought a vehicle from a government auction or a junkyard, and it did not come with a title.
A judge has the power to sign a declaratory judgment stating that you are the official owner of an automobile (or other vehicle), which will enable you to title and register the vehicle in your name even if you have been previously unable to do so. You should only seek a declaratory judgment if all other methods of obtaining a proper title have failed. If you have any other legal means to get the vehicle titled, you should do it. If you run out of options, you can seek a declaratory judgment with the help of one of our attorneys as a last resort.
Steps in Seeking a Declaratory Judgment
Our attorney will take the following necessary steps to seek a declaratory judgment:
- Review the facts of the case
- Research and obtain additional evidence and title information from the client or the Missouri Department of Revenue
- File a petition asking the appropriate court for a declaratory judgment
- Name the Missouri Department of Revenue as a defendant in this lawsuit
- Potentially name other parties (such as the title owner of the vehicle in question or the lien holder on the automobile) as defendants in this lawsuit
- Pay the filing and service fees
- Schedule a court hearing in which you and your attorney will explain the situation and chain of title to the judge
- Present supporting evidence to the judge, such as a receipt, check, bill of sale, or sales contract, including your testimony
- Prepare the actual declaratory judgment document for the judge’s signature
If you are successful in receiving a declaratory judgment, you will need to take a certified copy of the judgment with you to the licensing department at the Missouri Department of Revenue to get your car titled. This entire process usually takes approximately 35-60 days after we file with the court, depending on when your court hearing is scheduled. Also, please keep in mind that this is a “last resort” – if you can legally title your car without our help, you should do it. This is not something you do out of “convenience,” but out of necessity.
Contact Us Today
If you have questions regarding declaratory judgments on vehicle titles, including judgments on cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, mobile homes, manufactured homes, and trailers, please call the Piatchek Law Firm at 417-882-5858 for help.