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I hired a moving company to move my furniture from one apartment to another.

While unloading a coffee table, one of the movers stacked a stone sculpture on top of the coffee table. This caused the coffee table glass to crack and shatter. I have pictures of this.

I immediately (the next business day) got an estimate to replace the glass and filed a claim with the moving company's insurance. The estimate for the glass replacement is $490.

The moving company's insurance responded with an offer of $45. They claim that this is standard policy, and claims against them are governed by Federal law (US). I have 21 days to accept their offer or I get nothing.

The coffee table was purchased new for $800, 4 years ago. I understand there may be depreciation, so I'm not expecting full replacement value. I'm wondering if I can get a claim against the movers in small claims court to make up the difference?

If it matters: This is in Colorado.

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  • Did you sign a contract and do you have a copy of it?
    – Unfair-Ban
    Jul 11 at 15:33
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You can read about (federal) damages from the Surface Transportation, but they are at least liable for 60 cent per lb. for damages. The company has to inform you that you have the option for full-value, which you can waive. In addition, they are allowed to limit their liability for damages for items of high value such as furs and jewelry, things worth more that $100/lb (sounds like the coffee table might be such a thing). You are also required to give notice of high-value items. If you waived full coverage in exchange for a lower rate, then it would be non-productive to take them to small claims court. Also, under state law, there may be an arbitration clause which would prevent you from suing them (so, check the contract).

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    Note that $45/(60¢/lb) = 75 lb, which is not an unreasonable weight for a fancy coffee table. So it's entirely plausible that the company is offering exactly what the law says they have to offer in damages. On the other hand, I doubt that the coffee table weighed less than 8 lb, which is what it would have to weigh to be worth more than $100/lb. Jul 11 at 21:21
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The line about claims being governed by federal law is a lie. While there are federal agencies you can complain to, they do not cap the amount of compensation a company can give. They just don't want to.

Small claims court is an option here. The movers were negligent when they had a duty not to break your stuff and caused you damages (the $490 to have the glass replaced). However, you may have signed a waiver for damages caused- check your contract first.

Do not accept any offer from them. Agreeing to the offer will make it difficult or impossible to later justify that you deserve more.

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    Also, if the signed contract included the standard "60 cents per pound" insurance coverage, the OP may be out of luck. Jul 10 at 13:17
  • What federal law does do is regulate minimum insurance options that must be offered, see fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/valuation-insurance. Therefore it's almost certain that the contract specified what insurance is offered and waived all damages beyond what that insurance covered. Of course they could offer more, but have neither any obligation nor any good reason to do so. If their offer is indeed exactly what the contract promises, then I don't see anything to be gained by refusing it. Jul 11 at 23:27
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Depending on jurisdiction and other facts, one may be entitled to loss of money value of time damages or opportunity cost as damages, too. In this case, the time one spends negotiating and obtaining estimates, and one may be entitled to the loss of the benefit of one’s bargain or loss of enjoyment of property (these two may perfectly overlap and may only be entitled to one or the other too).

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