The Chairmen of the Senate and House Transportation Committees requested that a committee be formed over the summer to look at the proposed change to Virginia law as it pertains to the definition of a salvage vehicle. For those of you who followed last year’s session, you will recall that there were two identical bills, Senate Bill 1364 and House Bill 1780, that would have changed the definition of a salvage vehicle by removing the requirement that the vehicle be a late model vehicle. A late model vehicle is a vehicle of the current year, or previous five years. Susan Gaston and I have been representing the Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) on the committee. We have been clear in our stance that VCOM opposes these bills as they would have an adverse effect on the ability to rebuild a totaled motorcycle and put it back on the road with a clean title. Many times, older motorcycles are totaled due to cosmetic damage only; this is because of the lower value of many motorcycles as compared to cars. Under the proposed change in law, such motorcycles would become salvage vehicles, where currently that would not necessarily be the case.
By way of example, consider this situation. Mandy has been riding her trusty 1992 Honda Nighthawk that she bought when she first started riding. She has bought newer and larger bikes but can’t part with her Hawk. She loves it. On the way home from the annual VCOM legislative Roundtable (which this year will be held in Richmond, Virginia on October 6th at 1:00 pm – venue to be determined) the driver of an SUV, who was checking updates on Facebook, cuts Mandy off, forcing her to take evasive action which causes the bike to go down. Both Mandy and the bike have some scuffs and scrapes but are otherwise fine. However, because her bike is only worth a couple of grand, the cost to repair the bike exceeds the threshold to declare it a total loss. Under current law, Mandy can simply accept the value of the motorcycle from the insurance company, less the salvage value, and keep the bike. She can then make the necessary repairs, if any, to get her trusty scoot back on the road. Under the proposed change in the law she could not. The motorcycle would have to carry a salvage title, which can affect the ability to insure the vehicle, and the ability to put that bike back on the road.
While it appears that the tide has turned strongly against making a change to the law, the committee has not yet made any formal recommendations. We expect that at the conclusion of our work, there will not be an endorsement to make a change to the law. That does not mean that there will not be similar legislation next year. The company urging a change in the law describes itself as a “provider of recycled original equipment (OE) auto parts for cars and light-duty trucks requiring collision or mechanical repair.” In other words, they have a financial interest in creating more salvage vehicles. As such, it would not be surprising to see this bill again next year regardless of the decision made by the committee. VCOM was created to protect the rider, and we believe that the proposed change to the law would be detrimental to the Virginia rider. For that reason, VCOM will continue to oppose it.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments concerning this matter, or any other matters affecting motorcycling, please do not hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, ride safe and ride free.
Matt Danielson is a partner at the Motorcycle Law Group, a personal injury law firm whose attorneys all ride motorcycles and practice in VA, NC, SC, GA and WV. Matt has successfully represented clients in cases from simple property damage to complex multi-million dollar personal injury claims. He is also a lobbyist, adjunct professor and works with motorcycle rights organizations. To learn more about the Motorcycle Law Group, visit MotorcycleLawGroup.com.