As the owner or manager of a moving company, – you have a lot on your plate. A lot of things can happen during a move that your employees and company can be found liable for, specifically when it comes to property damage relating to customers. However, while your Bill of Lading and tariff will normally dictate how you’re responsible if property is damaged during transportation, what happens if customer property is damaged during an internal shift? Will your movers insurance cover it?
Moving property within rooms or floors in a building is different from “transporting.” When you move an object within a building, it’s called an “internal shift” whereas transporting or shipping involves moving property within two separate locations. For example, an internal shift could include relocating equipment within a business or moving a piano from one room to another in a house. Also, moving property outside but within buildings that are part of the same complex is also considered an internal shift.
In most cases, including in Massachusetts, the Bill of Lading and tariff will have stipulations about what the movers are responsible for in the event of damages. Consider the following stipulations included in a Bill of Lading that would not reflect an internal shift:
• Shipper: When performing an internal shift, there is no shipment. Therefore, there is no shipper.
• Carrier: No trucking means no carrier services are being provided.
• Transportation facilities and services: No transportation of property of motor vehicle means the Bill of Lading does not apply.
• Tariff: The tariff only applies to transportation and ancillary services (pack & load).
• Delivery: Customer has never relinquished possession…thus there can be no delivery.
A common moving carrier, such as one that works in moving household goods, is considered to be a virtual insurer of bailed property. However, when doing an internal shift, the mover is not a carrier. Instead, the mover is a bailee. The customer receives the service requested, the mover secures compensation for the services provided, and both parties benefit.
In Massachusetts, a bailee has to provide ordinary care to bailed property. Failure to provide ordinary care is referred to as negligence. However, not every occurrence producing loss or damage to the bailor’s goods results from the bailiee’s negligence. In the absence of negligence, there is no liability.
At Wolpert Insurance & Risk Management we want moving companies to have the information they need in regards to what their moving insurance does and does not cover. For more questions about your coverage or internal shifts, feel free to contact us today.