It depends on whether the estimate provided is a non-binding or a binding estimate. A mover is not required to provide an estimate to a shipper. However, if a shipper requests an estimate over the telephone or Internet, and the mover calls it an "estimate", it must be in writing. The mover may provide a non-binding or binding estimate and the estimate itself must clearly state whether it is non-binding or binding.
A non-binding estimate is only an approximate cost, it is NOT binding. It is based on the weight of the goods to be transported and the distance they will be moved. Since a non-binding estimate should be reasonably accurate and provide the shipper with a general idea of the cost of packing and moving the goods, a mover should physically review the household goods (by scheduling an onsite estimate) to be transported. Non-binding estimates should cover the goods and services listed on the estimate. If you add items or request additional services, the mover may void the estimate or revise it. The non-binding estimate must be in writing and state that it is non-binding.
If the final charges exceed the non-binding estimated amount, the mover must deliver the household goods upon payment of the estimated amount plus 10% of that amount. The mover must then defer the balance due on the charges for 30 days. However, the mover may collect payment for unexpected charges or services upon delivery.
Binding estimates must be in writing and are usually based on constructive weight. Movers may use other terms to designate a binding estimate or set price, but all such estimates shall have clearly indicated on their faces that the estimate is binding on the mover.
Moving companies are required to prepare an order for service on every shipment transported from an individual shipper. You are entitled to a copy of the order for service when it is prepared. The order for service is NOT a contract. It will note the estimated charge of the move and any special services you require such as packing and storage as well as pick-up and delivery dates or spread dates.
The bill of lading is the CONTRACT between you and the mover. The mover is required by law to prepare a bill of lading for every shipment it transports. The information on the bill of lading is required to be the same information shown on the order for service. The driver who loads your shipment must give you a copy of the bill of lading BEFORE loading your household goods. You must also sign the bill of lading. It is your responsibility to read the bill of lading BEFORE you sign it. If you do not agree with something, do not sign it until you are satisfied that it shows the service you want. The bill of lading requires the mover to provide the service you have requested, and you must pay the mover the charges for the service. The bill of lading is an important document so be careful not to lose or misplace your copy. Have it available until your shipment is delivered, all charges are paid and all claims, if any, are settled.
Movers are required to meet "reasonable dispatch" requirements. Reasonable dispatch means the performance of transportation on the dates or during the period of time agreed upon by the mover and the shipper and shown on the order for service/bill of lading.
If the dates are not met, a shipper may file an inconvenience or delay claim with the mover along with receipts, listing lodging and food expenses for all the days past the last day of the pick-up and/or delivery spread dates. This claim must be filed within nine months of the date of delivery. If the mover disallows any part of the claim, the shipper must pursue a civil action within two years from the date the disallowance of the claim was made.
Movers generally provide three types of protection for your goods in case they are lost or damaged: limited liability, added valuation and full value.
This is the basic coverage required by law, and it does not cost the consumer anything. Under limited liability, the mover is responsible for sixty cents ($.60) per pound per item for an interstate move.
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 insurance costs the most and covers the actual cost of an item's replacement or repair, without any deduction for depreciation. 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.
Although a claim should be filed as soon as possible, you have nine months from the date of delivery to file a claim. This means the claim should be in the mover's possession by nine months from the date of delivery, not postmarked by midnight on the last day of the nine months' deadline. You do not have to wait for a claim form if the mover has not sent one to you. If you wait to file beyond the nine months' time period, the claim is considered untimely by the courts.
U.S. DOT has no authority to adjudicate claims. If a claimant is not satisfied with the settlement offered by a mover, the claimant must seek recourse through the courts or through arbitration. A household goods mover must offer arbitration as a means of settling disputes on loss and damage claims. If a claimant chooses instead to bring a lawsuit against the mover, the suit must be brought within two years of the date the mover gave first written notice of the disallowance of any part of the claim.
Since January 1, 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 transported after December 31, 1995. 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 recently 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 following organizations handle household goods loss and damage arbitration programs:
Yes. The mover usually has a tariff provision that allows it to repack carton(s) if they feel they have been improperly packed, or if the carton(s) will cause harm to the rest of the shipment(s). The mover is also liable for any loss or damage caused during transit unless the sole cause for the loss or damage was due to any of these common law defenses:
Improper packing falls under "an act or omission of the shipper". Since the sole cause for the damage must be the act of the shipper, any contributory damage by the mover would void the common law defense, and the mover would be responsible.
Make sure the mover gives you a date or spread of dates on your order for service and bill of lading. Do NOT allow the information regarding these dates or spread dates to remain blank as this may delay your shipment. Make sure your order for service dates are transferred to your bill of lading unless you have made arrangements for another date or spread of days. If you see language showing a period of time, such as "in a few weeks after pick-up", or "as soon as possible", have it translated into specific calendar dates. Make sure these dates are on your bill of lading.
Make certain that you are present to oversee the loading of your furniture. DO NOT LEAVE!
It is NOT unusual at destination for the driver to ask for, or expect payment of transportation charges before the truck is unloaded, or before the van doors are opened. Payment is usually required to be made by certified check, cash or money order unless prior credit card arrangements were made and approved by the mover. Whenever a shipment is delivered on more than one truck, it is the mover's option as to whether the driver will collect charges for each portion of the shipment delivered, or wait until all portions have been delivered.
At origin, it is the DRIVER'S responsibility to list the condition of your shipment on the inventory sheet. This is the time to agree or disagree with the mover's description of the condition of your items. At destination, it is YOUR responsibility to list the condition of your shipment. If there are items missing or damaged, you must try to make an indication on the driver's copy and your copy of the inventory sheet. Just put an "X" on the boxes (at origin) that contain breakables so that at destination you can note the condition of the boxes.