Do your homework up front!
No matter where you are moving, your best protection is to choose a licensed, professional mover.
This article describes your options for moves within Illinois. Other states have different regulations, and moves across the state line (interstate moves) do, too. You can find more information about other state moving associations here and information about interstate moves here.
Under Illinois law, anyone offering to perform moving and storage service for hire must be licensed by the Illinois Commerce Commission. No exceptions! This licensing assures you that the mover is adequately protected by liability and cargo insurance and workers’ compensation insurance and that you have somewhere to turn if things go wrong. Using a “cheap” mover from the grocery store or truck rental place bulletin board does not offer any assurance that your goods will show up at your destination or that loss and damage will be remedied. Furthermore, it's illegal for an unlicensed person to offer moving service, regardless what that person tells you. Trust us, you want your mover to have more than just a driver's license and auto insurance! Ask to see their credentials! A legitimate mover is happy to share them with you.
BEFORE YOU CHOOSE:
Your move is not automatically fully insured to the full value of your property for potential loss and damage. This summary is designed to assist you in choosing the option that is best for you.
Before you choose an option for loss and damage protection, give some serious thought to the value of your possessions. The amount of your homeowners (or renters) insurance contents coverage is a useful guide.
The time to consider the value of your goods is BEFORE THE MOVE. “You can’t change horses in mid-stream!“ The bill of lading is your contract. Your signature with the option you chose on the bill of lading will determine the final settlement if something unforeseen happens.
Why don’t movers just provide insurance automatically?
Loss and Damage Protection options are available because customers have different needs based on the nature of their possessions and how much they want to pay for the move. Some customers need $500,000 of coverage, while others might need only $500 or even no extra coverage. If movers included in their rates the costs for providing coverage based on the customer who needs $500,000, everyone they move would be subsidizing someone else’s coverage. That’s why the mover’s tariff rates are based on the minimum carrier liability (See Option 1) and more extensive liability options will cost extra.
Your option can be either “valuation” of the shipment (which is like self-insurance by the mover), or “insurance,” in which case you should receive a certificate of insurance issued by a third party insurance company. Unless you choose full replacement INSURANCE, your contract will determine the depreciated value of the entire shipment according to what you sign on the bill of lading.
Remember that the mover’s first obligation, under whatever option is chosen, is to make repairs to the damaged item. If it becomes necessary to “cash out” a claim for the actual cash (depreciated) value , the mover is entitled to take possession of the damaged goods. (This does not apply at the “30 cents” option.)
What are my choices?
Under Illinois law you choose one of the following options for your intrastate (within Illinois) move. Options for interstate (between states) moves are similar in many ways, but the amounts differ. Ask your mover for a thorough explanation if you have questions, or feel free to contact our Association for help.
Option 1: Minimum carrier liability 30 cents per pound per article.
This is minimum liability, for which you pay no extra transportation cost. You are agreeing in writing to share with the mover the liability for loss or damage of your property being moved. If your goods are damaged or lost, the mover’s maximum liability to you under this option is 30 cents per pound per article. For example, 10 lb. lamp x 30 cents = $3.00. You would be given $3.00 for that particular lamp. To choose this option (and avoid any extra transportation charges), you must specifically write on the bill of lading (in your own handwriting), “30 cents per pound per article” and sign the bill of lading. In the unlikely event of a total loss, your maximum settlement with the mover will be based on 30 cents per pound per each article in the shipment.
Option 2: Declared Value
You determine the total amount your shipment is worth and declare that amount in writing on the bill of lading. (Your homeowners’ insurance or renter’s insurance contents coverage is a good guide to determining the value, or multiply $2.00 times the weight of the shipment.) This declared amount becomes the mover’s maximum liability to you under the terms of the contract (bill of lading). There is a tariff charge (normally 50 cents per $100 of value) and this is for depreciated value of the shipment . THIS IS NOT INSURANCE. You and the mover are agreeing to share the liability at a higher amount than the “30 cents” option.
Be careful about undervaluing your shipment, since in the unlikely event of a total loss, the maximum amount you will receive as settlement from the mover is the amount of value you declared on the bill of lading (contract). If all you declare is $5,000 because you "only really care about a couple of items," then $5,000 is the maximum amount you would receive even if there is a total loss.
Example of the extra transportation (tariff) charge for this option: $20,000 shipment value x 50 cents per $100 of value = $100 additional transportation charge.
If there is a claim, the mover is not obligated to write out a check to you for the declared value of the entire shipment unless the entire shipment is completely destroyed. Each damaged item will be repaired or replaced according to its depreciated value, not to exceed the shipment’s declared value (in this example the total declared value is $20,000).
Option 3: Insurance
Your mover may be able to help you arrange for “trip transit” insurance through his insurance carrier in the amount you specify. This is "all risk" insurance coverage from a third-party insurance company and can be either depreciated or full replacement insurance. You should receive a certificate or policy of insurance.
Movers are not allowed to sell insurance unless they are licensed insurance brokers, so this coverage must always be through a bonafide insurance company that is licensed to write insurance in Illinois. Be sure to ask if there is a deductible (you’ll save money that way, just like car insurance). Unless the mover’s tariff specifies otherwise, there will be a charge for this coverage. You may also want to check your homeowner’s policy to see if it provides coverage during your move (most do not).
What if I don’t choose anything?
If you don’t make any notation on the bill of lading indicating a choice for loss and damage protection, the mover’s maximum liability to you under the law is $2.00 times the weight of the total shipment. Example: Your shipment weighs 10,000 lbs. x $2.00 = $20,000 value. It works the same way as declared value (See Option 2). This is depreciated value, not replacement coverage or insurance. Unless the mover’s tariff provides otherwise, there will be a charge for this.
Limit of Liability on “engineered wood” furniture:
“Ready to assemble” furniture is defined as articles constructed of press board, particle board, and/or engineered wood, which are shipped from place of manufacture in a knocked down “KD” or knocked down flat “KDF” condition, to be assembled post-factory by a store, reseller, or end user.
“Ready to assemble” furniture is not built to withstand the normal stresses of a move as an assembled unit. Most is not designed with the extra wood structural pieces to adequately brace the unit for movement out of or into a residence, nor the normal truck vibration, even in air-ride trailers. Usually chips or dents are not repairable. Surface impressions can be made on the furniture when writing on a single piece of paper. The pieces will not withstand typical stacking and placement among other items on the moving truck without sustaining damage.
Because of the inherent nature of this type of furniture and its susceptibility to damage, your mover may not accept liability for damage if you ship such pieces fully assembled. You should disassemble such furniture yourself or hire a third party to disassemble it for you before moving.
After your move:
Your mover will do the best job possible and try to avoid any loss or damage. Accidents do happen, however, so remember:
Be sure to keep a copy of the bill of lading and (if applicable) inventory. Be sure any damage is noted on the bill of lading on the day of delivery.
Notations made at the time of delivery are not the same as filing a claim. If there is loss or damage, you must file a written claim with the mover within ninety (90) days of the move. Be realistic — the longer you wait to file your claim, the more difficulty you will have in substantiating your claim.
The mover has a right to inspect any damage, so keep the damaged article and packing material for inspection. It will help substantiate your claim. It may be possible to replace pieces, such as glassware or china, even if they are part of a set. Do not hire a repair firm without consulting first with the mover.
Be aware of the coverage option you chose at the time of the move, and do not expect the mover to change the coverage “after the fact.” Your signature on the bill of lading will determine the mover's liability.
Your mover is required to acknowledge your claim within 30 days and to pay, decline to pay, or make a firm compromise settlement within 120 days of receipt of the claim. If some situation beyond a mover’s control delays action on your claim for a longer time, the mover is required to notify you of the status of the claim at that time and each 30 days thereafter until final action is taken.
The options described apply only to cargo claims. Damage to the residence or other property is separately insured by the moving company.