What to Do If Your Belongings Get Damaged

Moving Is Stressful to Begin With

Moving is a stressful time for everyone involved. Fortunately, moving companies like Swamp Rabbit Moving exist to help bear the heavy load and help you get to your destination in one piece—as well as your belongings still being in one piece. With a full house, it can seem overwhelming to make sure everything gets packed and loaded with care.

While we’ll do the heavy lifting, there are some items you should transport yourself, such as small electronics (laptops, tablets, e-readers), important documents (birth certificates, marriage licenses), and precious family heirlooms that can’t be packed easily. Packing them in a big box and having them loaded onto our truck can cause severe damage to such personal items.

For the rest of your items, we offer packing and unpacking services to ensure your items are moved safely and arrive at your destination without damage.

We do our best to ensure your items remain undamaged but should damage ever happen, you do have rights, and you should remember that when dealing with damaged belongings.

Remember Your Rights

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits moving companies from making you sign a receipt that relieves them (the moving company) from all liability for loss or damage to the shipment (your belongings). Never sign a receipt that alleviates responsibility for loss or damage. Additionally, never sign any receipt that doesn’t explicitly state that your items are in good condition upon loading. Make sure there’s a note about concealed damages, which are damages not immediately noticeable at delivery.

All companies are required to provide basic insurance on all items at a rate of 60 cents per pound.

Customers Are Responsible Too

Customers of moving companies still have responsibilities, even if their items are damaged, both before and after the move. Your responsibilities include:

  • Reading all moving documents issued by the mover
  • Being available at the time of pickup and delivery of your shipment. If you can’t be present during these times, designate someone to be there.
  • Promptly notifying the moving company if something has changed, such as move dates or additional items.
  • Making payment in the amount required and in the form agreed to with the mover.
  • Promptly filing claims for loss, damage, or delays with your mover, if necessary.

When signing an agreement with a mover, you should check for the following 14 elements on the order for service (directly from the FMCSA):

  1. Mover’s name, address, and the USDOT number assigned to the mover.
  2. Your name, address, and telephone number.
  3. The name, address, and telephone of the delivering mover’s office or agent at or nearest to the destination of your shipment.
  4. A telephone where you may contact your mover or its designated agent.
  5. One of the following three dates and times:
  6. The agreed-upon pickup date and delivery date of your move.
  7. The agreed-upon period(s) of the entire move.
  8. If your mover is transporting the shipment on a guaranteed service basis, the guaranteed dates or periods of time for pickup, transportation, and delivery. Your mover must enter any penalty or per diem requirements upon the agreement under this item.
  9. The names and addresses of any other motor carriers, when known, that will participate in the transportation of your shipment.
  10. The form of payment your mover will accept at delivery. The payment information must be the same as what was entered on the estimate.
  11. The terms and conditions for payment of the total charges, including notice of any minimum charges.
  12. The maximum amount your mover will demand, based on the mover’s estimate, at delivery to release the shipment when transported on a collect-on-delivery basis.
  13. Complete description of any special or accessorial services ordered and minimum weight or volume charges applicable to the shipment.
  14. Any identification or registration number your mover assigns to the shipment.
  15. For non-binding estimated charges, your mover’s reasonably accurate estimate of the amount of the charges, the method of payment of total charges, and the maximum amount (110% of the non-binding estimate) your mover will demand at the time of the delivery for you to obtain possession of the shipment.
  16. For binding estimated charges, the amount of charges your mover will demand based upon the binding estimate and the terms of payment under the estimate.
  17. An indication of whether you request notification of the charges before delivery. You must provide your mover with contact information.

Steps to Take Should Damage Occur

There are a few steps you should take if you notice damage upon delivery of your belongings.

  • Take time to inspect the delivery.

Be sure to carefully inspect all items and to take your time as you do so. You don’t want to hurriedly glance at all your items and later realize something has incurred damage. If you notice any damage (or even missing items) before the movers leave, alert them to your findings to have them make a note on the inventory sheet or Bill of Lading. Never accept a “settlement” on the spot, as the damages may be underestimated.

  • Reread the Bill of Lading.

This contains the terms of your agreement, and it should include the type of liability you and the mover agreed upon. If the company’s liability doesn’t cover you, it’s possible you’ll have to file a claim through your homeowner’s or renter’s policy instead.

  • Don’t wait too long to file the claim.

Moving companies must receive claims within nine months of the date of service. The sooner you notify them, the stronger your case will be. You can send a letter by certified mail, notifying them of the damages and requesting a claim form. Keep a copy of your inventory sheet handy, and be sure to take plenty of pictures to support your claim. The mover should acknowledge your claim within 30 days. They should also deny or settle the claim within 120 days. If the moving company refuses to reimburse you for the damage or loss, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or even go to small claims court.

Remember: Even if there are damages upon delivery, you still have to pay the moving company the agreed-upon amount for services rendered. But you do have rights, as stated above, when it comes to damaged or lost items. Take your time, take a thorough inventory, and remember to take the proper steps to file a claim.

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