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Your Mover’s Liability and Your Claims
In general, your mover is legally liable for loss or damage that occurs during the transportation of your shipment and all related services identified on the bill of lading.
The extent of your mover’s liability is governed by the Surface Transportation Board’s Released Rates Order. You may obtain a copy of the current Released Rates Order by visiting the Surface Transportation Board’s website. In addition, your mover may, but is not required to, offer to sell you separate third-party liability insurance.
All moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the household goods they transport. However, there are two different levels of liability that apply to interstate moves Full (Replacement) Value Protection and Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection – Released Value. It is important you understand the charges that apply and the amount of protection provided by each level.
Full (Replacement) Value Protection
This is the most comprehensive option available to protect your household goods, but it will increase the cost of your move. The initial cost estimate of charges that you receive from your mover must include this level of protection. Your shipment will be transported at this level of liability unless you waive Full Value Protection. Under your mover’s Full Value Protection level of liability, subject to the allowable exceptions in your mover’s tariff, if any article is lost, destroyed or damaged while in your mover’s custody, your mover will, at its option, either 1) repair the article to the extent necessary to restore it to the same condition as when it was received by your mover, or pay you for the cost of such repairs; or 2) replace the article with an article of like, kind and quality, or pay you for the cost of such a replacement.
The exact cost for your shipment, including Full Value Protection, may vary by mover and may be further subject to various deductible levels that may reduce your cost. The minimum level for determining the Full Value Protection of your shipment is $6.00 per pound times the weight of your shipment. Your mover may have a higher minimum value or you may declare a higher value for your shipment (at an additional cost). The charges that apply for providing Full Value Protection must be shown in your mover’s tariff. Ask your mover for the details under its specific program. Under this option, movers are permitted to limit their liability for loss or damage to articles of extraordinary value, unless you specifically list these articles on the shipping documents. An article of extraordinary value is any item whose value exceeds $100 per pound (for example, jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques, oriental rugs and computer software). Ask your mover for a complete explanation of this limitation before your move. It is your responsibility to study this provision carefully and to make the necessary declaration.
Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection (Released Value of 60 cents per pound per article)
Released Value is minimal protection; however, it is the most economical protection available as there is no charge to you. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. For example, if a 10 pound stereo component valued at $1,000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x $.60). Obviously, you should think carefully before agreeing to such an arrangement.
Third Party Insurance
If you purchase separate third party cargo liability insurance from, or through your mover, the mover is required to issue a policy or other written record of the purchase and to provide you with a copy of the policy or other document at the time of purchase. If the mover fails to comply with this requirement, the mover is liable for any claim for loss or damage attributed to its negligence.
Shipments transported under a mover’s bill of lading are subject to arbitration in the event of a dispute over loss or damage claims. However, disputes with third party insurance companies might not be subject to arbitration in the event of disputed loss and damage claims as those companies are not within the jurisdiction of the FMCSA. Third party insurance companies are subject to the regulations of the States in which they are licensed.
Reducing your Mover’s Normal Liability
The following are some actions that may limit or reduce your mover’s liability for loss or damage to your household goods:
- Your acts or omissions cause the loss or damage to occur. For example, improper packing of containers you pack yourself do not provide sufficient protection or you include perishable, dangerous, or hazardous materials in your shipment without your mover’s knowledge. Federal law forbids you to ship hazardous materials in your household goods boxes or luggage without informing your mover.
- You chose the Waiver of Full Value Protection – Released Value level of liability (60 cents per pound per article) but ship household goods valued at more than
60 cents per pound per article.
- You declare a value for your shipment which is less than the actual value of the articles in your shipment.
- You fail to notify your mover in writing of articles valued at more than $100 per pound. (If you do notify your mover, you will be entitled to full recovery up to the declared value of the article or articles, not to exceed the declared value of the entire shipment.)
Loss and Damage Claims
Movers customarily take every precaution to make sure that while your shipment is in their possession, no items are lost, damaged or destroyed. However, despite the precautions taken, articles are sometimes lost or destroyed during the move. You have the right to file a claim with your mover to be compensated for loss or damage. You have 9 months from the date of delivery (or in the event of loss for the entire shipment, from the date your shipment should have been delivered) to file your claim.
The claim must be submitted in writing to your mover or to your mover’s third party company for claim processing. After you submit your claim, your mover has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of it. The mover then has 120 days to provide you with a disposition. The mover might be entitled to 60-day extensions if the claim cannot be processed or disposed of within 120 days.
Delay claims are processed when you have contracted with your mover for guaranteed service for pickup and delivery. Your mover will outline on the bill of lading any penalty or per diem entitlements when there is a pickup delay and/or delivery delay.
Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – Consumer Rights and Responsibilities Handbook