Dear ABC News Fixer: In June, my job relocated me from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. The moving company picked everything up on June 21. The movers spent the night in Las Vegas and were going to deliver my goods the next morning.
During the night, the moving truck was stolen. I'm not a young guy -- I'm 51 -- and everything I have ever owned in my life was gone. Three weeks later, the moving truck was found abandoned in the desert somewhere, completely cleaned out.
I had purchased a declared value insurance policy worth $100,000 from the movers. This should be a cut-and-dried claim. But it's now 10 weeks later and I'm still getting the runaround from the insurance company.
I paid for coverage and now they don't want to pay the claim. Meanwhile, I'm living in an empty apartment waiting for this to get settled.
- Wes Lutovsky, Las Vegas, Nev.
Dear Wes: We sympathize. This is every moving consumer's worst nightmare. Hiring a mover is truly an act of faith – you are giving all your possessions to strangers and trusting them to bring them safely across the country.
And you're not alone. We were surprised to learn of a number of thefts of moving trucks, in various states, in recent years. In Seattle, thieves pulled off four moving truck heists until the local police put an end to it in May.
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The weird thing about your case is that you did the smart thing and purchased extra insurance -- $100,000 worth, according to your receipt. (Moving companies typically offer free coverage, but at only 60 cents per pound, unless you pay extra. A chill goes up the ABC News Fixer's spine thinking about what little money you'd get for your stolen household at that low price.)
When that truck disappeared, you lost all your furniture, clothing, household goods, photography equipment, business files, tax records, sentimental items and family heirlooms – everything. You estimated your total losses at $250,000. Your homeowner's insurance immediately paid $15,000. Then you moved on to the moving insurance claim.
You told us the moving company initially was helpful. Soon you were in touch with a representative of York Risk Services Group, the third-party claims processor for the mover's insurance company, Granite State Insurance. But then the problems began, such as you being asked multiple times to resend the same document, or going over everything with the adjuster only to be asked to provide documentation that you really were you in all your Facebook photos.
Weeks stretched into months. The ABC News Fixer got involved about three months after the truck disappeared. After York Risk Services wouldn't talk with us, we contacted AIG, the parent company of Granite State. Another week went by, and then the claims adjuster from York offered you $25,000, which they said was the limit of the mover's cargo insurance.
Our reaction: Whaaat?
That hardly seemed fair, given that you were told you had purchased $100,000 in insurance and could prove losses far greater than that. The adjuster who came to your home had confirmed that he needed to establish your losses under a $100,000 policy, not a $25,000 policy.
We pressed AIG on this point, and after some more consultations, they told us there had been a misunderstanding and that the claim would be fully paid. They sent you the $100,000 check last week.
For anyone else considering a move, here's some advice:
Check out www.ProtectYourMove.gov. We can't stress this enough. This helpful site explains what's in a moving contract, how to avoid fraud and how to check out a mover's record.
Understand whether you're hiring a mover or a broker. A broker bids out the job – meaning you won't know who's handling your stuff.
Get a thorough, written estimate from a person who actually comes to your house. Never rely on a phone estimate. And remember: on delivery day, the mover must release your goods if you pay 100 percent of a binding estimate or 110 percent of a non-binding estimate. Any unforeseen increases in price can be dealt with later, after your stuff is released.
Insurance coverage is typically 60 cents per pound, which means a 10-pound stereo that's worth $1,000 and is lost or broken would fetch only $6 in insurance money. Consider buying additional insurance.
As you pack, keep a detailed inventory of your items. If anything goes wrong, you'll have your list already made.
- The ABC News Fixer
Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.