Each year, about 40 millions Americans move. While most of the moves end with no whatsoever complications, there are cases when moving companies avail of the special rights given them by law. Only from 2005 to 2011, about 50% of the consumers’ complaints were submitted in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration due to overcharging and holding consumer property hostage, about 10 000 complaints. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is engaged to cope with hostage situations and to put rogue movers out of business, it has no authority to enforce a court judgment, or act as your advocate against the moving company. If you have been misled by your moving company and want to file a lawsuit against the company, here is what you should consider first. We’ll review the implications of the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act which was passed in 1906 as part of the Hepburn Act. Its terms are now found at 49 U.S.C. § 14706.
The Ambiguity of Carmack Amendment
See, the Carmack Amenment allows moving companies to limit their liability to a certain level. Suing your mover may take more time, efforts and money than you expect. This Amendment applies in cases of interstate transportation. For an interstate move is assumed each move that during its course of action cross state borders regardless of the fact that the origin and the destination of the move might be locations at the same state.
Preemption of State Law Claims
The Carmack Amendment preempts all state and common law claims, and gives the sole and exclusive remedy to misled customers of moving companies for only loss or damage in interstate transportation. This means that you cannot sue your moving company for negligence, breach of contract, breach of insurance contract, breach of contract of carriage, conversion, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, outrage, fraud, interference with economic advantage, and various state consumer protection laws. However, mind the law varies by jurisdiction regarding what types of claims are considered preempted. And, furthermore, in order to file a lawsuit against your moving company if the company has your belongings and insist on paying more money, you have to pay the company first, and then you can possibly sue for actual damages.
Period for Filing Claims
A household carrier may, by contract, require that a claim can be made to it by a shipper within a period of nine months of the shipment and that a civil action can be initiated within two years after the denial of such a claim. The period for initiating a civil action is determined from the date the carrier gives you a written notice that the he has declined any part of the claim designated in the notice.
Limitation of Liability
The Carmack Amendment allows moving companies to limit their liability to a certain level if they:
- Maintain a tariff following the Interstate Commerce Commission requirements;
- Give the shipper the opportunity to choose from two or more levels of liability;
- Obtain the shipper’s agreement to his choice of liability;
- Issue a bill of lading prior the transportation of goods.
How to protect yourself when moving
So this why you should pay special attention to the Valuation Addendum and the Inventory List your mover gives you to sign on the moving day. Movers limit their liability for items of extraordinary value, value exceeds $100 per pound. So, unless a written agreement stating the value of the shipment is signed, do not expect whatsoever real compensation. The basic liability movers assume is $0.60 per pound per item. Thus, you should either ask for a Full Value Protection or procure a Third -party Insurance. Under the FVP, carrier is obliged to repair, replace the damaged item, or to make cash settlement for the cost of repair according to the current market value of the item/s. You should though made the difference between Full Value Protection & Released Value, and Insurance. The valuation coverage options are not insurance policies governed by State insurance laws, they are Federal authorized tariff levels of liability under the Released Rates Orders of the Surface Transportation Board of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Check whether the Inventory List notes the condition of your stuff properly, otherwise you won’t be able to file a lawsuit and prove actual damages.
As we already made it clear that the maximum reimbursement you can ask for under the Carmack Amendment is the actual loss of injury to the transport of the property, hence attorney’s fees are generally not recoverable. But in case your moving company is in a clear violation of 49 U.S.C. § 13901–13904 or 13906 (concerning registration and licensing, and security of the carriers), you may initiate a civil action to enforce any such section. And, in a civil action then, the court may determine the amount of and award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party. If you are dealing with an illegal moving company (operating without a license), the consequences for the rogue movers will be severe.
Never sign blank pages.
Read reviews. You will save a lot of money, time and nerves if you research your moving company. If you take the time to read some reviews and testimonials, to verify if the potential movers are legitimate businesses, you should not be in the situation of filing claims. Suing movers costs money and results may be quite unsatisfying. Always check whether the moving company is licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Posted on Dec 12, 2012; Last updated: Apr 14, 2014
Topics: Paperwork & Regulation