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How to File a Claim for Damages and Lost Items After a Move

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Because you move all of your belongings during the relocation process, it is a real possibility that something can get damaged or lost. No matter what precautions and measures you and your mover take, accidents still happen. That's why it's important to look over your shipment for any damage or loss and to know how to file a claim if necessary.

There are several different circumstances that could result in your possessions never making it your new home. They are:

  • Loss: Often, moving companies will try to handle multiple moves at once, so your belongings may be sharing truck space with items from someone else's move. This can lead to confusion; parts of the shipment can be misplaced or hidden behind boxes from another move. Perhaps your lost boxes were mistakenly delivered to another customer's home. Movers may also leave belongings behind at your old home or lose boxes while transferring your shipment from one truck to another.

  • Theft: Moving companies don't always perform background checks on employees. Some less reputable movers actually hire day-laborers to work during busy seasons, which means these workers are not even trained moving professionals. With untrustworthy, temporary employees moving your belongings, it is not unlikely that they pocket your valuable collectibles or precious jewelry. Since they are not permanently employed by the company and may not even work for them another day after your move, they have very little chance of getting caught and not much to lose if they are.

  • Unguarded belongings: Movers may leave your goods unsupervised in your driveway or in front of your home. This makes it easy for untrustworthy neighbors or passersby to help themselves to your things. Furniture or boxes sitting at the curb may be mistaken for trash. Leaving the moving truck open and unwatched can also lead to stolen goods.

Document any previous damage to your items

Perhaps the best way to prepare yourself for making claims for any potential damage to your goods is to document their condition before the move. Even though the movers will document each item and its condition on the inventory list, you never know how detailed they will get.

Upon receiving your shipment at your new home, carefully unpack each item and inspect its condition. If something doesn't look right, you can quickly pull up your photos or item list and compare its current condition to its pre-move appearance.

After determining that one or more of your goods has indeed been damaged during the move, you will want to start the claims process as soon as possible. While you have nine months to file any claims after the move, the sooner you start the process, the better.

File claims on any lost or damaged items

When filing a claim, you should first make sure you have all the appropriate documents concerning your move. These include:

  • The bill of lading
  • The inventory list
  • The original retail invoice of item
  • A repair invoice or statement from repair technician (if applicable)

TIP: If making a claim for an intrastate move, you'll need to contact your state's regulatory agency or a similar office. For an interstate move, you will have to contact your moving company first.

Arbitration can be a last resort in an unresolved conflict

If the moving company doesn't offer you enough compensation for your claim, then you might have to resort to arbitration. For example, if your dining room table cost you $1,500, and the moving company insists it's worth only $200, this conflict can be settled by arbitration. When you request arbitration, have the following information ready:

  • Name and address of the moving company
  • Pickup and delivery dates of your shipment
  • Addresses of old home and new home
  • Name of the person in charge of the move
  • Bill of lading number or claim number
  • Total cost of the claim

Rejected claims are a possibility 

As disappointing as it might be, sometimes claims are rejected, leaving you to replace damaged items yourself. There are a number of reasons why your claim of damages during the moving process may get rejected:

  • You fail to provide proof that item was indeed damaged during the move
  • If you packed the item yourself, and the moving company isn't liable for it
  • The item was already damaged, according to the mover's description on the inventory list
  • The item was damaged due to weather conditions
  • You ask for more compensation than the item is worth

Inspecting your goods for damage once they arrive at your new home is an important part of the moving process. Instead of assuming that your belongings have arrived in good condition, it is well worth the effort to look everything over. This way, you can start the claims process as soon as possible and get compensated for any damages.

Do your part to prevent items from getting lost

While there is no way to be certain your items won't become lost or stolen during a move, there are certainly ways to prevent it from happening ans measures to take if it does happen.

  • Don't sign for your items before verifying their delivery. Check carefully for the presence of all of your belongings before signing the inventory sheet and confirm that everything has arrived at your destination. Don't allow the delivery driver to rush you through this process. If you sign the sheet claiming that nothing is missing, it will make the claim-filing procedure very difficult for you when you realize later that something has been misplaced.

  • Move valuables yourself. If you have anything of extraordinary value that cannot be easily replaced, move it yourself. Fine china, expensive jewelry, collectibles and anything of considerable worth should be transported in your own vehicle to ensure it is not lost or stolen.

  • Get insurance. This is perhaps the most imperative preventative step to take when moving anything of considerable value. The standard compensation offered by movers for lost or damaged goods is known as Released Value Protection, and it covers a mere $.60 cents per pound per article. For an additional charge, movers offer Full Value Protection that will compensate you for the full value or replace the item with something similar and of equal value. You can also purchase insurance from a third-party carrier and file a claim through that insurance company if an item becomes lost.

  • Research movers. Another important preemptive measure is to thoroughly research any moving company before hiring them. Check their record on the BBB website, verify their US DOT number (what's this?) on the FMCSA website, read customer reviews, and ask for references to ensure that you are hiring quality, professional and trustworthy movers.

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on December 17, 2018

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