What do I need to know before, during, and after my move?
Before selecting a mover, it is advisable to obtain three written estimates from licensed movers. Licensed, professional movers in Illinois are required to comply with the Illinois Commerce Commission's standards for insurance coverage, handling, loading, moving, and unloading your property. State requirements may vary. According to the ICC they also must perform these services at reasonable rates and within a reasonable amount of time. ICC regulations state that it is against the law to hire an unlicensed mover. Outside of Illinois, please check with your own state agencies.
Once you obtain at least three written estimates from licensed movers, remember that the estimate will usually be an educated guess as to what the final cost of the move will be. For that reason, make sure that the estimator sees everything that you want moved and is notified of any delicate or problematic items. If you have any items that need extra protection, such as paintings, collectibles, or family heirlooms, it is strongly recommended that you pack and take those possessions separately instead of leaving them with the movers.
During the move, the two most valuable documents will be an inventory and the bill of lading. Before your possessions are loaded onto the moving truck, you should ask the carrier to make an inventory of everything that is being moved, and you should accompany the mover while this list is prepared. This will ensure that all your items are accounted for, especially if something is missing and you'll need to file a claim. The bill of lading is the contract with the mover, which lists the mover's services, responsibilities, when and how they charge, and what the company's liability is. According to the ICC, the mover is required to provide you with a bill of lading, and you should make sure to understand all its provisions before signing it.
In terms of insurance and protection, keep in mind that a mover's liability is likely to be less than the value of your goods. Rates are generally based on 30 cents per-pound, per article for local moves, and 60 cents per-pound, per-article for out-of-town moves. Additional insurance and protection are usually available, however you will have to pay more. You also should not confuse a "carrier's liability" with "insurance", so you can consult your insurance agent to determine if any extra coverage is recommended.
Upon delivery of your goods, check the condition of your property before signing a delivery receipt. It's crucial that you check for damage while the mover is present, and if something is found to be lost or broken, document it clearly on the inventory or bill of lading. An even safer bet would be to take pictures or Polaroids of your property, both before and after the move. A couple of rolls of film could save you a potential dispute and a lot of aggravation. These documents will help solidify your case when you file a written claim. Do not have damage repaired or replace a missing item before consulting with the mover, as that might jeopardize a potential settlement.