Reputable moving companies do their best to exercise caution when handling your belongings. And while their goal is to transport your items to your new home without any damage or problems, sometimes accidents happen. Your first step should be to try and settle your dispute with your moving company, but if you cannot come to mutual agreement, you may wish to take legal action to get your claims settled. While the courts are an option, they can be expensive to both you and the moving company. In an effort to help consumers American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) has developed the Household Goods Dispute Settlement Program for their members. All members of AMSA are required to participate in the program, which helps resolves disputes over interstate shipments through arbitration.
While the rules for the program were developed by AMSA, the settlement program requires both the consumer and their mover to enter into a neutral arbitration process through the National Arbitration Forum. While you will notify AMSA so they can try to help facilitate a resolution without needing arbitration, AMSA is not compelled to make a member company pay nor can it act as the arbitrator. The Forum allows a neutral third party to hear all disputes and cannot be biased towards the consumer or motor carrier. Movers who participate in the program should notify you of the availability of this arbitration, including a summary of procedures and fees involved.
As part of the guidelines, some interstate move claims are obligated to enter into binding arbitration. Claims that are filed for loss or damage that occurred while items were in transit or claims over disputed charges billed after the delivery of the shipment are subject to arbitration if the amount in dispute is $10,000 or less. If the amount in question is greater than $10,000, or the claim does not meet all the obligatory requirements, it can only by put to the Forum if the consumer and mover mutually agree to arbitrate.
It is important to remember that if you have a claim, you must file it with your moving company within 90 days of delivery in order to recover any damages. It is suggested that you notify your mover as soon as possible. You should also keep in mind the level of liability you agreed to with your mover when you signed the bill of lading. Arbitration will not be entered into until after you have attempted to resolve your claim with your mover directly. Most moving companies will acknowledge your claim and try to make amends without needing to involve AMSA or the Forum. If the dispute cannot be resolved or if you cannot agree on a settlement amount, then you may submit your request to arbitrate. Most disputes are settled without needing to enter into arbitration.