Lawsuit Against a Moving Company

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 Can I Sue a Moving Company for Damages or if The Moving Company Refuses to Deliver My Property?

You may be able to sue the moving company after filing a claim with the company itself. The claim will be for breach of contract because they failed to live up to the terms of your agreement.

You will need to prove that the moving company initially received your property in good condition, the goods were damaged upon delivery or not delivered at all, and the damages are measurable. Be ready to provide a copy of the contract because it shows that they agreed to move your belongings with reasonable care. Should you need to go to court, this will support your claim and help prove that the moving company is responsible.

You may want tips and information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA works with different agencies to reduce motor carrier-related accidents. If you and the moving company cannot agree, you may seek an arbitration hearing before the FMCSA. Your contract with the mover may provide that you must try arbitration before you can initiate legal action in court against the mover.

Part of the moving company’s responsibility to you as their customer is to provide you with an FMCSA pamphlet that details:

  • How you may reach an agreement about pick up and delivery
  • How the mover must collect charges
  • How the mover must handle complaints and inquiries
  • How you can resolve disputes with your mover

There is unfortunately a moving company scam that sometimes occurs. It starts when the moving company estimates a below-market rate for handling the move. Once the customer has agreed to the rate, the moving company inflates the costs and refuses to deliver your belongings until you pay the higher price.

Similarly, the mover may tell you that you had more belongings than anticipated or that your items weighed more than quoted. They tell you that you must pay an additional charge to unload your belongings from the moving truck. This is illegal and may justify a claim for extortion in most states.

On the other hand, a moving company may add charges if the customer is not honest upfront. For example, the movers may arrive, and the customer owns a grand piano that needs moving but did not disclose that when confirming a price. The movers may move the piano but charge the customer for it. In that scenario, the contract will likely determine who is wrong.

Are There Other Remedies You Can Have Against a Moving Company?

Normally, arbitration claims and lawsuits against a moving company are for simple breach of contract, and damages (the monetary remedy) are limited to the actual cost of the damage.

However, if a court finds the moving company responsible for the damage or loss of your belongings, there is an additional remedy the court may award. The court may require the moving company to cover loss of wages or income if you were moving to another state to take a new job, but the moving company was so late or delayed that it caused you to miss the start of your new job.

If your damages are relatively low, you may bypass the regular courts by filing a complaint in small claims court. Small claims court fees are less expensive than regular court, and a decision is reached more quickly.

Further, if your move was across state lines, you may file a claim for violation of federal law, such as the Carmack Amendment. Unfortunately, even this law limits the liability of the moving company to actual damages and may also prevent state law claims such as those concerning negligence, breach of contract, fraud, and misrepresentation.

How Do I Choose the Right Moving Company?

Moving homes can often be a stressful experience. Some people contract a professional moving company to make the process easier. A few reasons why some people hire a moving company include:

  • They trust the movers know how to handle their belongings and keep them safe
  • Relying on friends and family can be hit or miss, but they assume professionals will be dependable
  • Most moving companies pride themselves on providing prompt and professional services, so the homeowners believe that their belongings will arrive by a certain time or date
  • Professional movers can handle heavy or bulky items better than nonprofessionals can

Doing your research before hiring a moving company is important to ensure your belongings are protected. Some steps you should take include:

  • Get referrals: You can do this by searching the internet or asking friends and family members if they have utilized any professional moving services they would recommend. Additionally, if you are working with a real estate agent, they may know of some reputable professional moving companies you can contact;
  • Gather multiple cost estimates: It is not likely that moving companies will be able to provide you with a full, complete price for their work without first seeing your belongings and estimating how much work will go into the job. However, experienced companies can provide you with their best estimate;
    • It is best to gather at least three estimates before deciding the estimates will likely be close in range and it might be best to stay away from any companies that are promising to charge considerably less than what is standard for your area;
  • Look for companies that have their own trucks: Those companies’ costs are likely to be lower than companies that must rent trucks;
  • Document your property: Take pictures of your valuable items so that if damaged, you can show that they were in fine condition before the movers worked with them. Once there has been damage, take pictures of that;
    • Be prepared to provide this documentation to the company when you contact them directly to resolve the dispute;
    • You must provide specific facts that the property was damaged, lost, or destroyed through no fault of your own;
  • Carefully review the moving contract: At the very least, the contract should cover your responsibilities as a client, whether the company will subcontract the work, and what the moving company’s responsibilities are if they damage or misplace your property;
    • It is important to ensure that you fully understand the terms and conditions of the contract to minimize the possibility of contract disputes in the future;
    • A reputable moving company will readily answer any questions about the contract before signing it; and
  • Insurance: Federal law requires all moving companies to provide liability insurance. However, their insurance usually covers only a small portion of what you might have lost;
    • Coverage usually costs between $1,200 and $9,000 worth of protection. Recovery may be limited by the type of insurance the company carries;
    • You may want to purchase additional insurance for your move if you have particularly expensive or meaningful belongings;
    • If you still own your previous home, your possessions may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance which is far more protective than what the moving company will likely provide;
    • Be aware that some states do not hold moving companies liable for anything they did not pack themselves.

Should I Consult with a Lawyer for an Issue with a Moving Company?

As you can see, it can be complicated when a moving company damages, loses or fails to deliver your belongings. If you cannot resolve your dispute with the moving company, you will want to consult a skilled and knowledgeable business attorney.

They will be able to review all contracts, invoices, and documentation to build your case. Additionally, they will represent you in front of a court of law if necessary.

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