How to document a claim for loss or damage when you move

Christopher Noblit
Documenting movers loss or damage claims

Overview - The Household Goods Descriptive Inventory
If any of your household goods are lost or damaged while in permanent storage, storage-in-transit, or during transportation, it is the customer's responsibility to correctly document that such loss or damage occurred while the shipment was in the mover's care and custody. This is accomplished with the "Household Goods Descriptive Inventory,” a document that is prepared by the driver who loads the shipment at the origin residence.

The Household Goods Descriptive Inventory establishes what is being moved and each item's condition when the mover takes the shipment into its possession. By signing the Household Goods Descriptive Inventory at origin, the customer acknowledges the articles which were loaded onto the mover’s truck, and the condition of each item when the mover took possession of the shipment. Upon final delivery of your goods at destination, you will be asked to sign the Household Goods Descriptive Inventory again. Any loss or damage which occurred while your shipment was in the mover's care and custody must be noted on the inventory at this time. If you fail to do so, your claim may be denied.

When your goods arrive at destination you need to look your goods over thoroughly after they've been unloaded. If any are missing or damaged, you must note it on the mover's copy of the Household Goods Descriptive Inventory (and retain a copy for your records).

How The Household Goods Descriptive Inventory Works
The driver places a sticker with a number on each article that is loaded onto the truck at origin. The article number is entered on the Household Goods Descriptive Inventory and the item is described on in the “Item Description” column on the inventory (Example: Dining room chair”). Next to the article description the condition of the article is entered in code (example: “CH, 2, 5, 6”). The codes are listed at the top of each inventory page. In the proceeding example the code (“CH, 2, 5, 6”) means chipped on the bottom left leg. In this manner all of the articles that comprise the shipment are described.

A Procedure For Documenting Loss or Damage
When the driver arrives to make delivery, ask for a “Bingo Sheet” (also known as a “Customer Check Off Sheet”). This is a form with inventory numbers zero (0) to five hundred (500) listed on it. Set yourself up at a central location by which all of your goods will pass. As the crew unloads and passes this central point have them call out the inventory number of each piece they carry by you. As they call out each number put a slash through that number on the Bingo Sheet. This will be your record that each item has been received. In addition, do your best to look each piece over as it goes by but do not impede the progress of the delivery crew. If you notice any damage make a note at the bottom of the Bingo Sheet (example: “34 – box crushed” or “123 – top scratched”). At the end of delivery day you may note that several articles do not have slashes through them and you will take exceptions on these article numbers as “not delivered” (unless the driver can find them inside the destination residence. In addition, you should make a list of articles that you are especially concerned with and – after delivery has been completed but before the driver leaves – you should thoroughly inspect the articles on this list to uncover any damage that has occurred.

Completing The Paperwork At Destination
Both you and the driver will sign the Bingo Sheet and each page of inventory after delivery has been completed. Remember that when you sign these documents you are acknowledging that each article was received and that each was received in the same condition that your tendered to the mover (subject to any “exceptions that you took on the Bingo Sheet or Household Goods Descriptive Inventory pages. Also remember that any loss or damage which occurred while your shipment was in the mover's care must be noted on the inventory at this time. If you fail to do so, your claim may be denied. Most van line mover give you nine (9) months to file a loss or damage claim…however…you should file your claim without delay.

If the mover lost or damaged something, we want to handle your claim promptly and fairly, but please remember:

  1. Our claim procedure is governed by rules which may be frustrating, but they're the same for all moving companies.
  2. Please do read this leaflet, follow its suggestions, and avoid delays by providing all the information requested in the attached statement of claim.

When To File A Claim?
As soon as possible! The longer you wait the harder it is to remember accurately or find key supporting papers. If you've moved from out of state, your written claim must be submitted within nine months of delivery. If you moved within your state it may be much less; check your copy of the moving bill of lading.

What Kind of Proof Is Needed?
Naturally, there's got to be some proof that the loss or damaged happened while the mover the inventory receipt and bill of lading checklist, or other delivery report. If you've moved from out of state these notations were made by the driver, as you were both (we hope) checking things at delivery. When you signed those papers it was like saying, "Okay, everything's here in good shape, except the items noted (if any)". Its like counting your change at the news stand; if you don't and later you find that your short, it's difficult to get an adjustment the next day, practically impossible a week later. Right?

If Something Is Lost
We'll promptly trace items noted as lost on the delivery receipt, but this may take 30 days or longer after you've fully described the article. If you've received - and signed for - all the containers, you surely won't claim loss of an individual packed item.

What If Your Appliance Doesn't Work
The washer or dryer, refrigerator, freezer, TV set, hi-fi set, radio, etc. , isn't working? If there is no visible external damage, the failure may be caused by normal vibration during the move, or even by something unconnected by the move. In either case its not their responsibility. If it was damaged and noted on the delivery papers, fill out the statement of claim, but, don't call a service untill you hear from us. Even if the mover is not responsible we can help you locate an appropriate repairman. If you don't know one please call us.

Wait For The Mover's OK Before Calling A Repairman
Two good reasons for this:

  1. We may want to inspect the item to decide how the damage can be fixed, and
  2. We work with many skilled, and reliable repair and service people and they may be the only ones we authorize.

Few Things Get Better With Age
Most things - and people, too - go downhill a bit with age or changes in temperature or humidity. Some items fade, crack, warp, shrink, or rust; others mildew, become infested, or lose flavor and all of these are beyond the control of man. The legal term for this kind of damage is "inherent vice", which is recognized to be not the fault of the moving and storage company and they are, therefore, not held responsible.

But It Was Part of A Set
It's most distressing when the loss or damaged item is part of a pair or a set. Nevertheless, in most cases, only the value of the item, not the pair or the set, can be compensated. Hopefully you've bought enough protection so we can repair or replace the damaged piece.

What Price For Inconvenience?
For a while you'll be without use of a lost or damaged item and that's inconvenient, we know. But we cannot compensate you for such inconvenience because its not part of the coverage provided by the moving industry, nor is there any practical way to put a value on such inconvenience.

A van line claim settlement can be a simple and relatively pleasant experience if you have documented your claim correctly. I encourage you to study this article to learn to do so and -- if you have any questions – ask your van line agent for information and guidance.

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