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

  • Peace of mind that the movers know how to best handle your belongings and keep them safe;
  • Assurance and dependability that the movers will be reliable, whereas relying on friends and family to help during a move can be troublesome;
  • Assurance of a specific date and time in which your belongings will arrive to their destination, as most moving companies pride themselves on providing prompt and professional services; or
  • An efficient solution for handling heavy or bulky items.

These are just a few of the reasons why someone who is moving might decide to hire a professional moving company as opposed to doing it themselves, or relying on friends and family. However, it is important to do your research before hiring a company in order to ensure you and your belongings are protected. Some qualities you should look for include:

  • Get Referrals: You can do this by searching the internet, or by asking friends and family members if they have utilized any professional moving services that they would recommend to you. 

    • Additionally, if you are working with a real estate agent, they may know of some reputable professional moving companies you can contact. It is important to work with people who have a good reputation in order to protect your belongings and have them delivered in a safe and timely manner;
  • Gather Cost Estimates: It is not likely that moving companies will be able to provide you with a full, comprehensive cost estimate without first seeing your belongings and estimating how much work will go into the job. 

    • However, experienced companies will be able to provide you with their best estimate. It’s best to gather at least three estimates before making a decision as 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. 
    • Another cost effective measure is hiring companies that have their own trucks, as those companies’ costs are likely to be lower than companies who must rent trucks;
  • Carefully Review the Moving Contract: A reputable moving company will readily answer any questions you may have about the contract before signing it. 

    • At the very least, the contract should cover what your responsibilities are as a client, as well as 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, and to ensure that there are minimal contract disputes in the future; and
  • Moving Company Insurance Policy: Moving companies maintain limited liability, and recovery may further 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.

What Do I Do If My Property Has Been Lost, Damaged, or Destroyed By a Moving Company?

The moving company is liable for damaging your possessions, but only up to a certain amount. Federal law requires all moving companies to provide liability insurance. However, their liability covers cents on the dollar. 

Coverage usually works out to between $1,200 and $9,000 worth of protection. Some states do not hold moving companies liable for anything they do not pack themselves. 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.

You will want to immediately document the evidence of the destruction, after first documenting your belongings before they are placed in the care of the moving company. Take pictures and record any damage as well as any proof you may be able to provide that the damage was indeed the fault of the moving company. 

Be prepared to provide this documentation to the company when you contact them directly in order to resolve the dispute. You will need to provide specific facts that the property was damaged, lost, or destroyed through no fault of your own.

It will be very important to provide a copy of the contract signed, that shows that they agreed to move your belongings with reasonable care. Should you need to go to court, this will support your claim and prove that the company is responsible.

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

Moving companies are not regulated by state or local government. Therefore, local law will not apply, and any common law contract or state statutory contract rights will be considered secondary. 

Because of the complicated nature of this issue, you may want to get additional 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 come to an agreement on your own, you may seek an arbitration hearing or initiate legal action against your mover. 

You may be able to sue the moving company after filing a claim with the company itself. 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 amount of damages are measurable. 

One particular moving problem that may occur is that the moving company will offer a lower than standard rate. Once the customer has agreed to the rate, the moving company may inflate the costs and refuse to deliver the belongings until the customer pays the higher price. 

Conversely, the mover explains to the customer that they had more belongings than had been anticipated, or that their items weigh more than had been quoted. They may tell the customer that they must pay an additional charge in order to have their belongings unloaded from the moving truck. This is illegal, and may justify a claim for extortion in most states.

A moving company may add charges if the customer was not honest. 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 item but charge the customer for it. In that scenario, the contract will likely determine who is in the wrong. Part of the moving company’s responsibility to you as their customer is to provide you with a 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; and
  • How you can resolve disputes with your mover.

Are There Other Breaches or Causes of Action You Can Have Against a Moving Company?

If a court finds the moving company responsible for the damage or loss of your belongings, there are a few courses of action they may take. The court may require the moving company to cover loss of wages or income, if you were moving to another state in order 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. 

It will be important to prove that the moving company breached your contract. Thus, it is imperative to thoroughly review the contract before signing it, in order to identify any dispute resolution options that may be available to you.

Although moving companies are regulated by federal law, you may consider filing a complaint in small claims court. Further, you may file a claim for violation of state or federal law, such as the Carmack Amendment if your move was across state lines. 

Unfortunately, even this amendment 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.

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

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

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