How to Handle Loss or Damage During a Move

Hiring movers is an efficient way to move, but there's always a chance that something will get damaged in transport. If an item is damaged during your move, take these steps.
By: Kara Wahlgren

Even if you've hired movers who are courteous, efficient, and ethical, they still have one potential pitfall: They're human. And that means you may wind up with a lost or damaged item. So what should you do if a box of belongings arrives in pieces -- or just fails to materialize?

  1. Reread the Bill of Lading. It contains the terms of your agreement -- including information on the type of liability you and your mover agreed upon. All companies are required to insure their cargo at a rate of up to 60 cents per pound. Of course, that means your iPod is insured for...60 cents. If you sprung for additional coverage, you'll be more likely to get your item replaced or reimbursed. If your moving company's liability doesn't cover you, you may need to file a claim through your homeowner's or renter's policy instead. 

  2. Address any obvious damages. Check every item on the inventory sheet before you sign off -- if you hurriedly confirm that everything arrived intact, you'll have a hard time backtracking when you notice your bobblehead doll collection is missing. If you notice any damages or missing items before the movers leave, alert them and make a note on the inventory sheet or Bill of Lading. If they offer to settle on the spot, politely decline. You may end up underestimating the damages. 

  3. Remember your rights. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates moving companies, says, "Movers are prohibited from having you sign a receipt which relieves the mover from all liability for loss or damage to the shipment. Do not sign any receipt which does not provide that you are signing for your shipment in apparent good condition except as noted on the shipping documents." If you've made a note on your contract about concealed damages, that last bit will keep you covered. However, even if you have a claim, you are still responsible for paying for the move in a timely fashion. 

  4. File a claim. The moving company must receive claims within nine months of the date of service -- but the sooner you notify them, the stronger your case will be. Send a letter by certified mail, informing them of the damage and requesting a claim form. Keep a copy of your inventory sheet handy, along with any photos or videos that can support your claim. The mover should acknowledge your claim within 30 days and deny or settle it within six months. If they refuse to recoup your loss, you may want to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or even take your case to small claims court.
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