Signing Paperwork

It's time to start signing stuff. The most important document you'll sign is the bill of lading. It says who will do what, when, and for how much. It includes an inventory of your stuff. And the fine print tells what you or the mover can do if things don't happen as written.

Remember, although the contract is supposed to be balanced between both parties, the mover's attorneys wrote it. So it's moderately biased. But aren't we all?

Let's back up to loading time. The mover's driver usually inventories your shipment as it is loaded, listing any damage or unusual wear. This serves as a record of the condition of each item. The driver usually places a small numbered tag on each item as the inventory is prepared. The number should correspond to that on the inventory form.

Once done loading, the driver will probably sign each page and ask you to do likewise. Before you sign, make sure that every item in your shipment is listed and that the entries of condition are correct.

Don't let anyone rush you through this task; you have the right to note any disagreement. If an item is missing or damaged when your shipment is delivered, your ability to receive compensation from the mover for any loss or damage may depend on the notations made on the inventory. The driver will give you a copy of the full inventory. Attach it to your copy of the bill of lading as your receipt for the goods.

When your stuff is delivered, you'll need to sign the mover's receipt for your shipment. This usually means signing each page of the mover's copy of the inventory.

When your shipment is delivered, it's up to you to check the items delivered against the items on your inventory. Check each item for new damage. If you discover damage, make a record of it on the inventory form. And be sure to show the damage to the driver and request that it be noted on the driver's copy of the inventory.

If you don't understand something on the inventory, such as codes, don't hesitate to ask. Your right to make a damage claim later depends on this inventory, so check it thoroughly.

After everything is unloaded, the driver will ask you to sign the driver's copy of the inventory. Don't sign it until you're satisfied that it is accurate. Make sure it notes any missing or damaged items. When you sign the inventory at the time of unloading, you are giving the driver a receipt for your goods and an assurance that they were all delivered in acceptable condition.

Remember, movers are not allowed to have you sign a receipt relieving them from all liability for loss or damage to the shipment. Just make sure you're signing for your shipment "in apparent good condition except as noted." These notations on your receipt will be vital if you need to make a damage claim against the mover.

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