When you hire a moving company, you are entrusting them with the care of your valuables. Unfortunately, mistakes sometimes happen—resulting in serious property damage or loss. If you have suffered property damage, you may have the right to sue the moving company.
Depending on your type of move, different laws will apply.
- If you are moving between states (interstate), federal laws and regulations apply in your claim.
- If you are moving within a state (intrastate), state laws and regulations are used.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate moving companies. Most states have a similar in-state agency. It is important to understand your rights before filing a claim or lawsuit against a moving company.
What If the Moving Company Damages or Loses My Belongings?
Moving companies have a duty to deliver your property in good condition. It is a good idea to take photographs of your property before and after a move. These photographs may become valuable evidence in a dispute.
If your possessions are damaged or lost, you have the right to file a claim. Typically, you must file a claim with the moving company before filing a lawsuit.
What If the Moving Company Adds Additional Costs or Charges to my Bill?
There are two kinds of moving company estimates:
- Binding estimates: the moving company agrees to a set charge, regardless of weight or other factors, and
- Non-binding estimates: the company sets a price based on your property’s weight (which may be higher or lower than the initial estimate).
- A binding estimate will typically detail exactly what items are included in the price. If you add additional property to your load, the cost may increase.
Make sure you understand which type of estimate you have agreed to. If the moving company’s final bill is consistent with the term of its estimate, you must pay the bill. However, if there is a valid dispute, you may have a claim for damages.
When Can I Sue a Moving Company for Damages?
The Carmack Amendment covers disputes between consumers and interstate moving companies. Before you file a lawsuit against your interstate movers, federal law requires that you file a claim with the company.
You have a claim under the Carmack Amendment if:
- The moving company received your property in good condition,
- Upon arrival, the property was damaged, and
- You can measure the damage.
You can also file a claim for overcharges. Your claim must be filed in writing within nine months of your property’s delivery.
Your property damage claim should:
- Document how your property was damaged (or what was lost), and
- The value of the property.
Depending on its insurance coverage, the moving company may pay you for the property’s declared value, assessed value, or full value.
However, the moving company can defend itself by proving that it was not negligent or that the damage occurred from an unexpected cause. The Carmack Amendment also limits what you can receive in damages. Under the Amendment, you can only receive compensation for:
- The actual value of your lost or damaged property,
- Attorney fees, and
- Prejudgment interest.
- You cannot receive compensation for your emotional distress, pain, or suffering.
Once the insurance company receives your claim, it has 30 days to acknowledge receipt. Then, it has 120 days to make a decision on your claim. If you are dissatisfied with the moving company’s decision, you have the right to request an arbitration hearing or file a lawsuit.
If you move was in-state, your claim is covered by state law. You should contact your local state agency or a lawyer for assistance. You may have multiple claims against the in-state moving company under motor carrier and consumer protection laws.
Are There Other Breaches or Causes of Action?
In-state moving companies may be liable under consumer protection laws. These consumer protection cases do not seek compensation for damaged or lost property—instead they focus on illegal or unethical business practices.
If the moving company engaged in fraud or other offenses, you may be able to file state and federal criminal charges against it.
Should I Consult with a Lawyer?
If you cannot resolve your dispute with the moving company, it may be in your best interest to hire a contract lawyer. A lawyer can evaluate your claim, negotiate with the company, and maximize your compensation.
Additionally, there may be strict filing deadlines in your moving contract claim. If you do not file a lawsuit within these time limits, you cannot receive compensation. A lawyer can ensure that you follow the correct procedures.
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