What Insurance Coverage Will Protect You During a Move?

Dani Milton November 4, 2020

This summer, thousands of Americans will pull up their roots and make a fresh start in a new home in another city. Although many people try to ensure that their valuables arrive safely, accidents and incidents often happen. Some residents may damage things during do-it-yourself moves. Others may hire professional movers that accidentally break an expensive item. Are you moving soon? It’s essential to have the right insurance coverage to protect yourself so you can replace your broken valuables when the unexpected occurs. We’ll tell you which insurance coverage you’ll need to protect yourself during your upcoming move.

Homeowners or Renters Insurance May Cover Damages during Personal Moves

Some people decide to move their belongings, so they don’t have to pay the cost of hiring a professional moving company. They ask their friends or neighbors to handle the heavy lifting of boxes, furniture, and other personal belongings. Unfortunately, people who manage their own move can’t get the basic liability protection that moving companies can guarantee.

Contact your local insurance company before you transport your things to your new residence, and ask them if your homeowners or renters insurance covers damages to your belongings during a move. According to the Insurance Information Institute, these policies generally cover your personal belongings while they are at your residence. They also provide some coverage for your valuables while they’re in transit or being housed within a storage facility. Unfortunately, homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover any damages caused by professional movers, including the packing and transporting of your belongings. But they may cover you if you’re doing the heavy lifting.

Additionally, if you’re renting a truck for your move, you may want to purchase optional collision damage waiver coverage from the rental company. Your auto policy’s comprehensive and collision coverages generally don’t transfer to commercial trucks.

What to Look for When Getting Insurance Coverage for Your Move

If you're relocating to a new area, you’ll want to make sure you have the right coverages to protect yourself and your household goods. Here are some coverages recommended by the Insurance Information Institute.

Trip transit insurance – This coverage pays for valuables that are lost, damaged, or stolen during transit. It will also cover household goods placed in storage. Homeowners and renters policies generally provide this coverage for do-it-yourself moves. Policies provided by professional movers may not. You can request trip transit insurance to cover the full value of your property. It can also serve as excess coverage above the one offered by the moving company. It doesn't pay for items damaged during natural disasters (such as floods) at storage facilities.

Special perils contents coverage – This coverage pays for broken items, except fragile ones.

Floaters – These policies protect high-value items, such as fine art, collectibles, jewelry, and china.

Car insurance verification – Are you shipping a vehicle to your new home? Ask the company that's managing the auto shipment for their insurance certificate. The law requires shipping companies to provide this documentation. Next, call your insurer to find out if your policy will cover your car when it's transported. Also, find out if you must provide them with any paperwork verifying this shipment?

Customers’ Bill of Rights during the Moving Process

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates moving companies. Their statutes define consumers' rights and movers' responsibilities. This organization requires professional movers to list valuations in their estimates and Bills of Lading (contracts). As a customer, you have several responsibilities to yourself and your moving company. These include: Read all moving documents provided by the movers or brokers.

Be available at the time of the pickup and delivery of your load. If you can’t be there, someone should be there to represent you and act on your behalf.

Notify the mover quickly if something has changed about your shipment (such as the move dates or additional items).

Make the payment amount your professional mover requires and the form agreed to by the movers.

Immediately file claims for any delayed, lost, damaged or stolen valuables.

Which Insurance Covers Damages Caused by Professional Movers?

Moving insurance can only be purchased through professional relocation companies. These businesses generally don’t offer these policies directly because they aren't licensed to sell them. Most movers provide valuation coverage to their clients. It is a basic limited liability that their companies are responsible for should they damage, lose, or mishandle your goods.

Moving insurance policies generally last 90 days (three months) if you keep your belongings in storage at a mover’s warehouse. Movers allow customers to buy extensions if they must store their goods for a longer time. These plans won’t cover your things if you place them in self-storage but your renter or homeowner policy may.

There are several areas you should consider when reviewing your estimate and final moving contract. The first section is your estimate type selection. This part determines how the professional moving company calculates charges for your shipment. Next, examine the liability coverages they offer. There should be two:

Option 1 – Full replacement value protection

Option 2 – Waiver of full value protection

Option 3 – Third-party carrier insurance

When approving an estimate, never sign an incomplete or empty one.

1. Option One: Full Replacement Value Protection

The federal government requires movers to provide full replacement value protection as a default coverage to customers. According to the FMCSA, this coverage is the most comprehensive one available. By law, your movers must include this level of protection in their initial estimate of charges. Your shipment will receive this level of liability unless you decide to waive Full Value Protection. This default coverage costs about one percent of the worth of your belongings. It will pay for any belongings that are lost, destroyed or damaged by movers. For example, if you have household goods worth $50,000, you would purchase full value protection coverage worth $500. By law, the moving company determines how they’ll make amends under this policy, not the customers.

2. Option Two: Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection

The second valuation option available to customers is a Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection. The federal government has mandated this protection, also called Released Value Protection, or Basic Liability Coverage. Released Value provides customers with minimal coverage, however, it is the most economical protection available at no charge. Under the second option, movers assume liability for your furniture, household goods, and things at 60 cents per pound. Unfortunately, Released Value doesn’t provide much coverage to customers. For instance, if your mover damages your 400-pound living room sofa worth $2,000, you may only receive $240 ($0.60 x 400 pounds) in compensation. You should consider this option carefully before signing an agreement.

3. Option Three: Separate Liability Insurance

This coverage is a third-party cargo liability insurance that you can purchase through your moving company. The professional movers must issue a written record of the purchase. Additionally, they must provide you with a copy of the policy (or documentation) once you buy it. If your moving company doesn’t comply with this provision, they are liable for all claims for losses and damages attributed to their negligence. According to the FMCSA, shipments transported under the mover’s bill of lading are subject to an arbitration process when there is a dispute over damaged items or losses. This situation doesn’t apply to third-party insurance companies. Since the FMCSA doesn't regulate these insurers, they don't abide by the arbitration process. Third-party insurance companies must follow the regulations of local states where they operate.

Get Storage Unit Insurance if You Need to Keep Your Valuables at a Facility

Sometimes, people can't move into their new home, because the previous owners haven't left, or their place isn’t available yet. When this happens, they may need to place their valuables into temporary storage. Unfortunately, no storage facility is 100 percent safe. Thieves can break into units and steal personal items. Events, such as floods or fires, can damage your things. Standard homeowners and renters policies will cover a percentage of the value of your possessions in storage units. The amount they cover varies, but it’s usually 10 percent of your property liability limits. For instance, what if your personal property amounts to $90,000 on your Homeowners or Renters insurance policy? Your insurer will only cover up to $9,000 of your valuables. If this amount isn’t enough to cover the value of your household goods in your locker, then consider getting additional coverage from the storage company at $20 a month for $10,000 of coverage.

Acts that May Reduce Your Mover’s Liability

Several scenarios can limit or reduce your mover’s liability for losses for damages to your household valuables. They include the following situations:

Your intentional acts or omissions cause damage or losses of your items. For instance, you could self-pack your things and forget to neglect to provide enough protection. In another scenario, you may include hazardous materials in a shipment and fail to alert the movers. Federal law prohibits the transportation of dangerous, boxed materials without mentioning it to the moving company.

You chose the Waiver of Full Value Protection option. The Released Value Liability Level offers only 60 cents of coverage per pound per article, yet, instead, you ship household goods that cost more than the stated amount.

You declare a shipment value that is less than the actual one of your shipped articles.

You didn't provide written notification to your movers about things that cost more than $100 per pound. Note: if told by the relocation company about these goods, you’re entitled to recover the full amount up to the declared value of the articles.

Taking Steps to Protect Yourself before You Move

Although most companies are diligent about getting valuables safely in their final location, unexpected events can and usually happen when moving valuables. A worker can accidentally drop an expensive item. Other employees can forget to pack something or leave it behind. Thieves can also target some items when movers place loads into trucks. You have the right to file a claim to be compensated for any loss or damaged items. Customers have nine months from the date of delivery (or in the event of loss for the entire shipment) to file their claim. The date should be included on your receipt. You must submit your claims in writing to the moving company or their third-party insurance company for processing. Once you apply, the mover has 30 days to acknowledge that they received it. According to the FMCSA, the mover has 120 days to provide you with a disposition. They can ask for a 60-day extension if they can’t process (or dispose of) your claim in time. Some insurance companies may dispute your claims of damage. Before you move, you should take every step to protect yourself before moving day occurs.

1. Document Your Valuables with Time-stamped Photos

Taking pictures is a great way to document the condition of your goods before you move. It only takes a couple of hours to do this, and it is well worth the investment. Before you move, go through each room in your house and snap clear, high-quality pictures of all of your valuables. You don’t need fancy equipment: you can use your cellphone or a camera, but make sure the photo’s pixel depth is 300 dpi or higher. Each one should also have timestamps indicating when you photographed it. You can save these photos to a portable drive, but it may be better to save the pictures on the internet. You can upload these photos to a Cloud service provided by your cellphone carrier. Other free options include online pinboards, like Pinterest, or an internet storage area like Google’s Drive. After the move, you should take another set of time stamped pictures of any items. Once you finish uploading your photos, you can organize them. Make separate folders for different rooms, then place the corresponding pictures sets into each one. Rename the files using simple, descriptive labels to identify them. You can even add a text file containing the names of every item and their condition. If possible, also take pictures of corresponding receipts for every item as proof of purchase.

Although it will take time to document your valuables, your hard work will pay off enormous benefits. If your belongings suffer any damage, you’ll have evidence. It will streamline the claims process. You’ll only need to present these pictures and supporting documents when you file your claim.

2. Check Your Belongings for Any Damage After You Move In

Once you settle into your new home, carefully inspect your valuables for any damage to ensure they didn't suffer damage during the moving process. For example, find out if your fragile objects, such as vases, mirrors, and dishes, are safe. Also, check your digital items for any sign of damages. Plugin your computers and tablets to see if they still work. Additionally, search your home for any issues after the move, such as scratches and chips on door frames, trimmings, and furniture. Complete this process as soon as possible. Most insurance policies have a limited time frame when people can submit claims. If you wait too long, you could lose your opportunity to file.

3. Search Through Your Boxes for Missing Items Before Submitting an Insurance Claim

While unpacking, some you may discover a few items aren’t where you expected. You may believe that your items are missing, and may want to file an insurance claim to replace the item. Before submitting a claim, make sure you thoroughly search every box to ensure that your item is not already there. It could be in the wrong room or within a mislabeled box. If your belongings are still not there, you can call your landlord, former neighbors, or local real estate agent to check whether the missing item is at your old place. You can also ask the mover to track your missing items. This process can take a day or two. If they still can’t locate it, file a claim.

4. Submit a Claim as Soon as Possible After You Move

If your items are lost, broken, or damaged during a move, you should file a claim with the movers or third-party insurer. Most companies have a limited timeframe for customers to submit their paperwork, so don't delay. If you need more information about the moving process, read the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s pamphlet, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Are you handling a do-it-yourself move soon? Do you need a terrific homeowners or renters insurance policy that will protect your valuables if they are damaged? You can trust SmartFinancial to help. Our company provides customers with an intelligent and easy way to shop for insurance. We help shoppers save time and money using our insurance technology that allows customers to compare coverage. All you’ll need to do is fill out a simple application, and we’ll provide you with multiple quotes from local insurance companies within your area. If you prefer, you can speak with our team of trained Insurance Concierges to help you. You have the option to purchase a policy online, over the phone, or in person. You won’t have to spend hours searching for the right insurance. SmartFinancial does it all for you.

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