If an interstate household goods moving company receives a Notice of Claim from the FMCSA, the company should hire an attorney immediately. The Notice of Claim will set forth the alleged list of violations as well as specify a proposed monetary fine and possibly other actions. The household goods moving company has the legal right to respond to the Notice of Claim and request a reduction in the amount of the civil penalty and/or a payment plan.
What is an FMCSA Notice of Claim? Per 49 CFR 386.11, a Notice of Claim is the commencement of a civil penalty proceeding for a violation of applicable rules and regulations. The notice of claim will contain the following:
- A statement setting forth the facts alleged
- A statement of the provisions of law allegedly violated by the moving company
- The proposed civil penalty (i.e. monetary fine) and notice of the maximum amount authorized to be claimed under the law
- The time, form, and manner whereby the moving company may pay, contest, or otherwise seek resolution of the notice of claim
- The Notice of Claim may also contain other information
49 CFR 386.14 outlines how a moving company can reply to a notice of claim. Within the time period allowed, the moving company may:
- Pay the full amount as stated in the Notice of Claim
- Contest (fight) the Notice of Claim by requesting administrative adjudication
- Seek binding arbitration disputing the amount of the proposed penalty, but at the same time admitting the liability of the violations
There are pros and cons to each of the above reply options and legal counsel should be consulted prior to making a determination on how to best respond to the Notice of Claim.
Failing to properly respond to a Notice of Claim can result in severe penalties.
If a moving company receives notice of an upcoming audit, the household goods moving company should diligently prepare for it. A negative audit may result in fines or suspension/revocation of the carrier’s operating authority.
The Law Office of David Piotrowski performs “mock”audits to inform the moving company of their various strengths and weaknesses to help them better prepare for the audit.