Moving can be an exciting time, with a lot at stake. There’s the cost of moving, the valuable possessions you want to see arrive just as they left (safe and secure), and there’s the memories associated with those treasured belongings. Everyone knows that when you move, your possessions (including valuables) are loaded onto a truck and driven to your new home. For most, it’s a smooth, simple journey. For an unfortunate few, who experience damaged or missing items, the exciting experience can turn into a nightmare of anguish and loss. Hence, insurance.
When there is damage or loss to your possessions, you want to make sure that you are adequately prepared via your insurance coverage-or are willing to sustain the damage or loss in lieu of foregoing adequate insurance (but lowering your overall moving costs). It’s a risk that some are willing to take, and given the statistics, it’s not necessarily a bad bet either. Still, anyone moving should know exactly what to expect from the insurance offered by your moving company, the types of policies available, and your options to use third party vendors.
What Your Mover Provides
Any moving company is liable for the value of the goods you ask them to haul. However, there are levels of liability. The amount of reimbursement you receive if an item is damaged or lost, however, is determined by the level you choose. The first step to choosing the best insurance plan for your possessions is understanding the types of protection that are available to you and selecting the one that works best.
Every interstate mover is required by law to provide you with a federally mandated booklet entitled, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Read this information carefully. It explains the two levels of liability.
Level 1: Full Value Protection
Under this option, the moving company is liable for the replacement value of any lost or damaged item in your entire shipment. This is the most comprehensive type of liability offered by the mover. (Although supplemental insurance may also be purchased from a third party.)
Under this plan, any possession that is damaged, destroyed, or lost while in the custody of your moving company, must be addressed in one of the following three ways (at the discretion of the mover):
* item will be repaired
* item will be replaced with a similar item
* a cash settlement for the cost of repair or the current market replacement value will be made
The caveat with this plan is that the moving company is permitted to limit their liability for damage or loss to articles of extraordinary value, unless you specifically note these possessions on the correct shipping documents.
What determines an item of extraordinary value? Basically any possession you own whose value exceeds $100 per pound qualifies. This might include things like jewelry, china, silver, furs, antiques, electronics, or other similar items. Be sure to ask your mover for the company’s written explanation of just what they consider “extraordinary items” to be and what steps to follow to insure you are properly covered.
Level 2: Released Value
This is the most economical level of protection offered. Under this choice, there is no additional charge for insurance for your move. However, you must sign a specific statement to this effect in writing on your moving contract or bill of lading. Your moving company will automatically provide you with Level 1 (Full Value Protection) unless you specify that you want this option.
Under this level, protection of your possessions and the money you will receive for a damaged or missing item is minimal. Here, the moving company is liable for no more than 60 cents per pound per articlenot the item’s actual value. So, for example, if your mover lost a 10 pound stereo component of yours, valued at $1,000, the company would only be liable to pay you $6 (60 cents x 10 pounds).
Third Party Insurance
If you select the Released Value option, some moving companies might offer to sell you an additional, separate liability insurance. This cost is in addition to your moving charges. Regulated by state law, if purchased from the mover, the moving company is still responsible for the Released Value (60 cents per pound), but the rest of the cost for damaged or missing items would be covered by a separate insurance company, up to the amount designated by the policy.
The mover must issue you a policy at the time of purchase, providing you with a written copy.
Perhaps a better option is to seek out your own third party insurance company. Also check your home owner’s insurance policy to see if you might already be covered.
Some Items That May Limit Your Claims
It’s always good to be informed well ahead of time what actions might hurt your own case is seeking compensation, should you need to file a claim. A moving company’s liability may be negated by any of the following actions:
* items that are perishable, dangerous, or hazardous are included without the mover’s knowledge
* it may be harder to establish a claim if you packed your own boxes
* you are unaware of the terms or are not sufficiently covered by Released Value coverage
* you fail to notify the moving company in writing of items of extraordinary value
At the end of your move, if you have lost or damaged goods, be sure to report them promptly. However, never sign any delivery receipt that releases or discharges your mover from liability upon arrival. You have 9 months to file a claim, and there is no way to know the damage that may have occurred until you unpack completely.
While your mover may not offer information about dispute resolution or arbitration, interstate moving companies are required by law to use these services when a dispute between you and the company arises. You don’t have to settle for what the company offers.