Federal law provides many legal protections to moving companies that ordinary companies do not have. Some unscrupulous moving companies use these special laws to exploit unwary consumers. This is why the golden rule of hiring a moving company is to research their background thoroughly before hiring them.
If someone believes they are being scammed by a moving company, they can sue, but are severely limited. All moving companies are protected by a law called the Carmack Amendment, which limits recovery in a lawsuit to:
- Actual damages
- Prejudgment interest
- Attorney's fees
While this may seem hopeful, what it means is if a moving company holds possessions hostage and refuses to deliver them unless a person comes up with some exorbitant extra fees, the only thing to do is pay them and then sue later for that exact amount. Individual's can not sue them for fraud, negligence, deception, emotional distress, or any other similar legal action.
This also means that even if the company is grossly negligent and drives a person's possessions off a cliff on purpose, that person won't be able to sue for anything more then the value of the items. This is one reason why it is extremely important to make sure items are fully insured before shipping them.
What Else Can I Do?
- A reputable company will measure cost by pound, not be cubic foot. If a company is using cubic feet, it's likely they will inefficiently pack the truck, and then demand extra fees.
- Make sure the company itself comes to house and does not subcontract the job.
- Do not use any service that does not have its own trucks.
- Make sure they have a physical place of business.
- Buy Insurance. Federal law will only insure your possessions for a tiny amount.
- DO NOT SIGN BLANK FORMS. Read over everything, even if it takes awhile. It is not worth the risk of signing away rights.
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you are having problems with a moving company, you should consult a business 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.