Suing a Moving Company Lawyers

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Most Common Business Law Issues:

I'm Being Extorted for More Money by My Moving Company, Can I Sue?

Federal law provides many legal protection to moving companies that ordinary companies don't have.  Some unscrupulous moving companies use these special laws to exploit average consumers.  This is why the golden rule of hiring a moving company is to research their background thoroughly before hiring them.

If you find yourself being scammed by a moving company, you can sue, but you are severely limited in your ability to do so.  All moving companies are protected by a 1906 law called the Carmack Amendment, which limits your lawsuit recovery to actual damages only.  This means if your moving company holds your possessions hostage and refuses to deliver them unless you come up with some exorbitant extra fees, the only thing you can do is pay them, and then sue later for that exact amount.  You can not sue them for fraud, negligence, deception, emotional distress, or the like.  Since your legal fees are likely going to be much more than what you can recover in a lawsuit, people often decide not to sue because it doesn't make financial sense. 

This also means that even if the company is grossly negligent and drives your possessions off a cliff on purpose, you won't be able to sue them for anything more then the value of the items.  That is why it is extremely important to make sure your items are fully insured before shipping them.

Isn't There an Agency I Can Report To?

The Federal agencies responsible for overseeing moving companies are notoriously slow, ineffective, and toothless.  They rarely fine any company for malicious actions, and even when they do (only 9 times in the past 10 years), the government keeps the money itself!  You get nothing.

So There is No Hope?

Because the Carmack amendment is grossly unpopular among most people, there is currently some legislation in the works to override it, so the law in this field may change soon.  But in the mean time, there are some things you can do to ensure that you are not hiring a fraudulent company:

  1. RESEARCH!  Do not by any means find a moving company off the Internet (this is where most of the scammers advertise).  Get an actual yellow-pages, look up an office, and call for information.
  2. A reputable company will measure cost by pound, not be cubic foot (if it's by cubic foot, rest assured they will pack it on the truck in the most inefficient way possible, and then demand extra fees)
  3. Make sure the company you hired comes to your house itself, and does not subcontract the job.  No reputable company will subcontract a job without informing you well in advance.
  4. Do not use any service that does not have its own trucks.  If the company you are using shows up with unmarked trucks (instead of having their own logo on it), do not hire them.
  5. Make sure they have a physical place of business (an office) that you can go to. 
  6. Buy Insurance.  Federal law will only insure your possessions for a piddly amount.  Make sure you understand exactly how much coverage you have.
  7. DO NOT SIGN BLANK FORMS.  Make sure you read EVERYTHING they give you, even if you have to make them wait a while.  Signing away rights is the fastest way to make sure you'll never get your money back if they damage something

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you are having problems with a moving company, you should consult an attorney immediately to see what rights and protections you have.  While the law does make moving companies difficult to sue, they are still liable for the cost of all your things.  Many moving companies may try to extort people they think are vulnerable, but will not want to go to the trouble of a lawsuit, so having an attorney on your side will greatly increase your chances of the company delivery your possessions promptly and unharmed. 

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Last Modified: 12-21-2010 11:12 AM PST

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