Written By: Dave Hauenstein, Vice President, Compliance Services & Government Affairs, AMSA
The regulations governing a mover’s contractual liability for the value of your goods vary among the states, so if you are moving locally within your state, please be sure to learn about the options available for your move.
If you are moving from one state to another, the mover’s liability that will apply is governed by Federal regulations. All interstate moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the goods that they transport. However, there are two different levels of liability that apply and you should be aware of the charges that apply and the amount of protection provided by each level. The two different levels of liability that movers are required to provide are explained below and in the Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move brochure that your mover will provide to you. Be sure to read this information carefully and follow the instructions provided to declare a value on your shipment.
FULL (REPLACEMENT) VALUE PROTECTION. This is the most comprehensive plan available for the protection of your goods. Unless you select the Alternative Level of Liability described below, your shipment will be transported under your mover’s FULL (REPLACEMENT) VALUE level of liability. If any article is lost, destroyed or damaged while in your mover’s custody, your mover will, at its option, either 1) repair the article to the extent necessary to restore it to the same condition as when it was received by your mover, or pay you for the cost of such repairs; or 2) replace the article with an article of like kind and quality, or pay you for the cost of such a replacement. An additional charge applies for this service; if you do not wish to pay this additional charge, you must select the alternative level of liability described below.
The exact cost for full value protection will vary by mover and may be further subject to various deductible levels of liability that may reduce your cost. Ask your mover for the details of their specific plan.
Under this option, movers are permitted to limit their liability for loss or damage to articles of extraordinary value, unless you specifically list these articles on the shipping documents. An article of extraordinary value is any item whose value exceeds $100 per pound (for example, jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques, oriental rugs and computer software). Ask your mover for a complete explanation of this limitation before your move. It is your responsibility to study this provision carefully and to make the necessary declaration.
ALTERNATIVE LEVEL OF LIABILITY – Released Value of 60 Cents Per Pound Per Article. This is the most economical protection available; however, this no-cost option provides only minimal protection. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. Loss or damage claims are settled based on the pound weight of the article multiplied by 60 cents. For example, if a 10-pound stereo component, valued at $1000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x 60¢). Obviously, you should think carefully before agreeing to such an arrangement. There is no extra charge for this minimal protection, but you must sign a specific statement on the bill of lading agreeing to it.
These two levels of liability are not insurance agreements that are governed by state insurance laws, but instead are contractual tariff levels of liability authorized under Released Rates Orders of the Surface Transportation Board of the US Department of Transportation.
Some movers may also offer to sell, or procure for you, separate added liability insurance if you release your shipment for transportation at a value of 60 cents per pound per article (the Alternative Level of Liability). This is not valuation coverage governed by Federal law, but optional insurance that is regulated under state law. If you purchase this separate coverage, in the event of loss or damage which is the responsibility of the mover, the mover is liable only for an amount not exceeding 60 cents per pound per article, and the balance of the loss is recoverable from the insurance company up to the amount of insurance purchased. The mover’s representative can advise you of the availability of such liability insurance and the cost. If you purchase this separate liability insurance from or through your mover, be sure to get a copy of the policy or other document at the time of purchase.