Insurance & Liability

No matter how well you plan for your move or how carefully you pack, there is always the possibility that your goods may suffer damage during shipment. Before you move, be sure to speak with your moving company about the different levels of coverage they offer. Liability coverage for interstate (state-to-state) moving is different than insurance policies, which are regulated by state insurance laws. You may decide to purchase additional coverage than what is offered by your mover.

What level of insurance you go with all depends on the value of your belongings, your budget, and what you're comfortable with. Before purchasing coverage from the moving company, you may want to check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if it will cover your goods during a move. Call your insurance company to find out how much they would charge to insure your goods during a move, and compare the options and prices they offer to the moving company's.

Most moving companies offer four different levels of liability.

1. Limited Liability
This minimal coverage is required by law and does not cost anything to the consumer. Under limited liability (also referred to as "released value"), the moving company is liable for sixty cents ($.60) per pound, per item for your interstate move.

2. Declared Value
Valuation is based on a total weight of your shipment, multiplied by about $1.25 per pound. The mover generally charges you approximately $7 per $1,000 of liability coverage. Claims are settles based on the depreciated value of the lost or damaged items, up to the maximum for the entire shipment.

3. Added Valuation or Lump-sum value
This type allows you to collect the amount based on the current replacement value of the item, minus depreciation. The amount you pay for this coverage depends on how much you declare your goods are worth. This option also costs you around $7 per $1,000 of liability coverage.

4. Full Value Protection
This is the most expensive option available, but covers the repair or replacement of the items with like items at current market value, unlike other options which cover you based on the depreciated value. The cost for this option varies. You may decide to reduce its cost by paying a deductible.

TIP: When moving valuable items, also referred to as "articles of extraordinary value," you might want to consider additional coverage. You must list and value these items separately in your contract or your mover's liability for damages will be limited. For more information on moving these items, please see our guide on Packing Special & High Value Items.

Filing a Claim
If you do experience damage, you should file your claim as soon as possible. You do not need to wait for a claim form if the mover has not sent one to you. Under the federal liability program, you have nine months from the date of delivery to file a claim. If you file your claim beyond the nine-month cutoff date, it will be considered untimely by the courts.

The moving company must acknowledge receipt of your claim within 30 days of its being reported. Within 120 days of receiving your claim, the mover must either deny it or make an offer to pay.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has no authority to adjudicate claims. If you are not satisfied with the settlement offered by your mover, you must seek recourse through the courts or through arbitration. If a claimant chooses to bring a lawsuit against the moving company, the suit must be brought within two years of the date that the mover gave first written notice of the disallowance of any part of the claim.

Since January 1996, all common carrier household goods movers have been required to belong to a neutral dispute settlement program that arbitrates loss and damage claim matters on shipments. If the dispute involved a claim for $1,000 or less and the shipper requested arbitration, such arbitration shall be binding on the parties only if the carrier agreed to arbitration (Section 14708, (b)(6) Title 49, U.S. Code). The limit for mandatory arbitration was increased from $1,000 to $5,000 for shipment transported after January 1, 2000 (Section 209 (b) Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999). Ask the mover which independent arbitration program they belong to. Remember that depending on the arbitration program, you should file your loss and damage claim quickly, anywhere from 60 to 120 days from time of delivery. The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) (http://www.moving.org/), as well as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) (http://www.bbb.org/), also handle household goods loss and damage arbitration programs.