Moving is kind of the worst, whether your new place is down the street or states away. This is why we pay movers to do the literal heavy lifting for us. The one thing that scares a lot of people about hiring a moving company, though? The thought of potential damage.

No moving company has a 100% success rate, but the truth is, most of them will try as hard as possible to get your belongings to their final destination safely. But, as we all know, accidents happen. If you hired movers and they broke something valuable of yours, you’re more than likely thinking, “Well, now what?”

Here’s what you can do under these circumstances:

Know What They’re Responsible For

First of all, it’s important to know what types of damage your movers may be responsible for. Or, perhaps more useful, what they aren’t responsible for. If you packed all of your own boxes, and items within them shifted and broke during transit, that type of damage isn’t typically covered.

What might be covered under your moving contract or insurance are items that movers scratched, broke, or otherwise damaged as they were carrying them. They may also be responsible for any damage to the apartment itself (i.e., doorways, walls, floors, etc.).

Write It Down

If you notice the damage on moving day, whether it’s a broken vase or a scratched dresser, the first thing you should do is make note of it on your inventory sheet or Bill of Lading. Your movers should provide both of these documents – the Bill of Lading is basically a receipt that both you and the movers sign.

This written documentation of damage – again, signed by both you and the movers – is good to have when filing a claim.

Some movers may try to offer money upfront to settle with you – don’t take it. The amount they offer could very well be less than what you should receive.

Act Quickly

That said, you might not always notice damage while the movers are still in your apartment. If you don’t see it until a few days later, it’s still possible to file a successful claim. Just remember that the more quickly you act, the better able you’ll be to prove the movers’ liability.

Quick note: In most cases, you’ll have a nine-month time frame after the move to report damage. If you wait longer than that, your claim will likely be dismissed.

Check Your Coverage

When considering filing a claim, it’s important to understand exactly how most moving companies offer coverage for damage. Usually, they include what’s called “valuation” protection in your moving contract. This means your items are covered up to a set amount.

Typically, movers are only liable to pay a certain percentage per pound of what they damaged. So, if they broke a $50 dresser, and the valuation protection covered 30 cents a pound, you’d only get $15 of reimbursement.

Your moving agent should be able to walk you through the type of coverage included in your contract, but if you have a renters insurance policy, you should check with your insurance company as well. Your policy may provide some additional coverage for damages while moving.

Take Pictures

Whether you were able to note the damage on the day of the move or not, you should always take pictures of it to use in your claim. Capture time-stamped photos so you can prove the date you took pictures is clearly after the move.

File a Claim

Once you’ve taken pictures and figured out your coverage options, it’s time to file a claim with the movers. Get in touch with the company, and have someone send you the appropriate paperwork you need to file the claim.

After you’ve completed the paperwork and mailed it back in, the moving company should get in touch with you within the next several days to assign a claims adjuster to your case. He or she may need to visit you to assess the damage in person before your claim can be processed.

Hold Onto the Damaged Item

Even if an adjuster has already visited you, hold onto the damaged item until your claim process is completely finished – in other words, until you see money in your hands.

How to Prepare for Next Time

The next time you move, you should take a few steps to protect your belongings a little better. Take “before” pictures of your most valuable belongings and furniture in case you need to prove damage happened during a move, and keep your most beloved items with you rather than moving them in the truck.

You can also invest in extra coverage when signing your moving contract if you’d like more of a safety net for covering your larger items and furniture. Hopefully, with these steps, you won’t have the “Oh no, now what?” moment again.

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