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How To File a Damage Claim

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One of the awkward realities of moving is that you place your items in the hands of other people and they can let you down. Nobody wants to be confrontational, but damaged property is a serious problem and you should get some financial restitution if a moving company is responsible for your damage. Filing a damage claim allows you to do just that, but you need to do it correctly.

Inspect your belongings right  before you move

The first step necessary in filing a damage claim is knowing that your belongings were not damaged before the move occurred. Document the more delicate, expensive, valuable, or irreplaceable items that you plan on moving with detailed descriptions or photographs. The moving company will do this themselves before the move, but it may be a good idea to not give them control of all the information in case your relationship with them becomes adversarial after something is allegedly damaged. This may take some time, so you should only document the items that you fear would cost you the most if broken.

Inspect your items right after you move

When the shipment containing your belongings arrives, it is time to check for any damage. Have your documentation of your valuable items on hand and compare their current condition with the documented condition. If you find damage sufficiently upsetting to you, it is time to file a damage claim against the moving company. You should once again photograph and document the damage on the item(s) as it appears right out of the shipment.


You have nine months to formally file a damage claim, so take a little time to gather the necessary paperwork for filing the claim. You should call the moving company first, but be prepared for them to come inspect the item(s) in question as soon as they hear about it. Don't take too long though, because even though you technically have nine months to file, it gets harder to prove that the damage was done during the move as it gets further in the past relative to the claim.

When you do file your damage claim here are some things you will need to submit:
  • The bill of lading
  • a list of the inventory for the move
  • some form of receipt or invoice that indicates the original purchase and value of the damaged item
  • a statement or bill from a repair service if the item's repairs have been appraised
Hopefully the moving company agrees to pay you the price you are asking for your damaged goods and the claim process is over. Unfortunately on some occasions they will not offer you a sufficient payout for the damage. At this point you may have to go to arbitration.

Things you need to present for arbitration

  • The name and address of the moving company
  • the bill of lading
  • the addresses of both your old and new homes
  • the name of the person who was managing the move
  • the dates of both pickup and delivery of the shipment
  • the total dollar amount of the claim

After providing all the dates, documentation, and evidence to the arbitrator, you can only hope that they pass judgment in your favor. If you were on top of your inventory list and documentation of the move, then you should win the arbitration. You will only lose if your information does not check out.

Your damage claim could be rejected for a number of reasons. 

  • Did you pack the item yourself? The moving company is not liable for damages in that case
  • The evidence does not show that the damage occurred during the move
  • You are asking for an inflated payout for the damage i.e. the arbitrator values the damage as costing less than what you are asking for

Of course, none of these things should be an issue if you documented your move thoroughly and aren't trying to scam the moving company.

Filing a damage claim against a moving company can be a stressful and uncomfortable thing to deal with. Luckily, moving laws and most moving companies' policies are set up to protect you and your belongings. If you are knowledgeable, thorough, and honest, you will likely succeed in getting some financial compensation for your loss of property.

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on June 24, 2014 - Moving Expert
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