How to File a Damage Claim After a Move
“How do I file a damage claim with a moving company?” is one of the last questions you want to ask. Moving is time-consuming and stressful enough without adding damaged belongings to the mix.
To file a damage claim, you’ll need to document any missing or damaged items and contact the moving company to get the paperwork you need to file the claim.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the steps for filing a damage claim and preventative measures you can take before your moving date.
What should you do before a move?
Before we look into filing claims, we have a few tips on good habits you should practice before moving. While you can’t predict everything, you can stay prepared and adapt accordingly!
Tip #1: Always take photos of your inventory
It’s challenging to get a proper damage claim without evidence. Gathering photos of your inventory is a solid habit to develop when moving to a new place.
Make sure wherever you store your photos has enough space so you don’t have to delete anything important. Use clear lighting to take crisp pictures of your furniture, antiques, food, exercise equipment, and clothing.
If the object is particularly complex, take photos from multiple angles. If you claim a chair leg was damaged but didn’t take a picture beforehand, you could run into problems.
Remember that your inventory list should line up perfectly with the Bill of Lading. If you have a photo of an item in your inventory that wasn’t recorded on the document, you won’t have much luck with a claim.
Tip #2: Pay close attention to your insurance
Moving insurance is complex enough without skimming the fine print. Before you commit to a moving service, read their insurance policy closely. This step is usually the most significant difference between a successfully filed claim and an unsuccessful one!
Tools like a moving cost calculator can help you budget your move so you can choose the best moving service and insurance option for your needs.
Did you choose released-value protection or full-value protection? The former is usually free and has more limited coverage. The latter is often more expensive but tends to give you complete control over what’s replaced. If you choose released-value protection, you may get a small payout that lines up with the weight of your items.
For example, a moving company may provide up to $0.60 per pound for a damaged item. This means you may only get a handful of dollars for a lightweight item broken during transit. This insurance plan doesn’t provide full coverage and will not replace an item outright.
Full-value protection will completely cover your entire inventory at a higher cost. You also get the option to choose between a repair job or a replacement. However, think twice if you want to use this insurance for antiques or one-of-a-kind art. Full-value protection usually doesn’t extend to extremely rare items.
Tip #3: Don’t tamper with your items when they’re ready
You could look shady if you constantly tamper with your items while movers are packing your belongings. Let them do their job and only intervene if you have a good reason.
How to file a damage claim with a moving company
Moving companies are full of carefully vetted professionals who have moved thousands of homes before you. Nonetheless, movers are still flesh-and-blood humans who make mistakes.
If you’ve been on the receiving end of a costly mistake, you may be able to get your money back.
Step #1: Keep your rights in mind
Remembering your rights is your first step in successfully filing a damage claim with a moving company. No moving company worth their salt wants their customers dissatisfied and telling their friends to skip their services.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (or FMCSA for short) states movers are not allowed to make you sign any receipt that legally absolves them from liability. You should avoid any mover who attempts to get you to sign a contract or receipt of this fashion! Likewise, no moving quote should be rushed (even same-day moves need some time to review contracts).
Step #2: Review the moving company’s viability
You’re responsible for ensuring your local or interstate moving company is viable. If you’re working with a shady business that operates outside the law, you won’t have much luck with legal recourse.
Moving companies in the United States require verification from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation (shortened to DOT). Depending on the state you’re moving to, the business may require additional certificates. You can view your moving company’s viability on the official FMCSA and DOT websites.
Look for official U.S. DOT numbers and be wary of just taking a company’s ‘word for it.’ You can also view the Better Business Bureau, a non-profit organization that vets businesses with verified reviews.
Step #3: Double-check your contract and Bill of Lading
While movers cannot legally absolve themselves of all responsibility, your agreement could still have a few holes. Double-check the paper or .pdf you signed for any information that could impede your claim.
Your contract should have information such as the following:
- Your name and address
- Payment amount
- Payment type
- Payment date
- Terms and conditions
Your Bill of Lading is not technically a contract but an elaborate transport document. The information found in this document should include the following:
- The name of the carrier
- The name of the receiver
- Transportation type
- Shipment date
Step #4: Look over damages or missing items carefully
Don’t rush this step! You need to have a clear picture of all the damages done to your items to get properly compensated.
Take photos of anything damaged and jot down notes of missing items. Cross-reference your list with the Bill of Lading to ensure no stone is left unturned.
Typical forms of damage you should consider are:
- Broken table legs
- Cracked glass
- Improperly disassembled items
Step #5: Resist the urge to settle immediately
Moving companies are well aware of the power of word-of-mouth. The last thing a reputable business wants is negative press impacting their ability to attract future clients, but resist the urge to settle on the spot.
Trying to settle the issue immediately puts you at risk of underestimating damage. Unless your items’ damage is minimal, we recommend leaving this part to insurance professionals.
Step #6: Reach out to your mover when ready
Remember to stay professional when you’re ready to reach out to your mover. While malicious acts of theft and negligence happen, your damaged goods often result from a mistake.
The official claims process will only start once you submit a notification of damaged or missing items. This notification can be done on paper or by email (and you should always save a copy). Follow their instructions closely so your claim process isn’t delayed. Every moving company is different, and they’re all too happy to help you resolve the problem.
Step #7: Always get detailed
You don’t want to keep any vital information from the company when filing a claim. For all you know, that tiny detail could mean the difference between compensation and no compensation!
Keep your contract on hand, any email communications, and photos of your inventory. Other documents that will help you include:
- Paid invoices
- Billing statements
Step #8: Prepare for an in-person visit
This part is almost as frustrating as talking to customer service. Most moving companies will send their claims adjuster to look at the damage themselves.
Claims for missing household goods may be resolved by phone, but damaged items usually require a critical eye. Be concise and consistent during this meeting to reach a conclusion faster. The claims adjuster is responsible for giving you the best legal and financial recourse. They will suggest replacements, repairs, or reimbursements as needed.
Step #9: Play the waiting game
Once you’ve gathered your information, filed your claim, and met with the claims adjuster, it’s time for the waiting game. While getting an immediate check in the bank sounds nice, the process takes several weeks.
Between 30 and 120 days, to be exact. Yes, waiting months doesn’t sound great, but it’s better than losing your money outright. Don’t be afraid to check in after a few weeks if you haven’t heard from them.
What do you do when a moving company loses your stuff?
Damaged items and lost items need different approaches. A damaged item may still be salvageable depending on the damage left, but a lost item needs outright replacement.
Depending on the insurance, you may be able to get a small monetary compensation for your item or have it replaced with a similar equivalent. Double-check the moving insurance you signed up for before filing your claim.
What if a mover scams you?
While most damages or losses during a move are by accidents, sometimes you get saddled with a bad mover. If you feel you’ve been scammed, you might be unable to ask the company for reimbursement.
If a mover has poorly treated you, you may be able to find legal recourse with the company. There are bad employees in every business, so the people in charge may be grateful for your honesty. You’ll need to take another route if you feel the scam is because of the business model itself.
Your first order of business, if you feel a moving company has scammed you, is to contact the FMCSA. They take violations of safe moving protocol very seriously and may follow up with you for additional detail. Make sure to keep every single last document, photo, and receipt so they can get to the bottom of the issue.
What happens if a mover damages your wall?
Sometimes your furniture and accessories are the least of your concerns. If your mover damages your apartment or house wall in the move, snap a photo!
You can add the wall damage to your damage claim at the end of the move. Let the moving coordinator know as soon as possible, and keep your documents close at hand. The same logic applies if the mover damages your wooden porch fence, staircase, or door handle.
Should you replace an item while you wait for a claim?
You may wonder if it’s worth filing a claim if you plan on replacing the item. The answer to this question is to approach things on a case-by-case basis.
Depending on the item, you may need to replace it while waiting on your claim. Knick-knacks or clothing may be able to wait, but furniture can be more difficult. Even if you replace an item, filing a claim will still give you money that’s rightfully yours.
Why you should file a damage claim
You may wonder if filing a damage claim is worth all the trouble. You have already spent time and money moving all your belongings to a new place. Should you even bother?
We highly recommend giving it a try. While filing a damage claim means a lot of calling and gathering documents, you deserve compensation. While a minor spot of damage isn’t usually worth the fuss, several hundreds of dollars need reimbursement. This is money you can put toward your savings, rainy day fund, or another move.
When you go through the proper channels and keep your information close, you’ll have a high chance of completing a successful moving claim.
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