freight claims

Freight Claims: What You Need to Know

Safe. And on time. That’s how your freight should deliver. But we all know damage can happen and we need to know how to handle it. Let’s talk about the things you can do to help ensure your freight arrives safe, as well as the need-to-know information if indeed you find yourself staring at a freight claim.

Prepare for the Pickup

When a carrier signs your bill of lading (BOL) at pickup, they are confirming the freight loaded on their truck in good condition and matches the BOL details. The BOL is a binding, legal document that is never more critical than during a freight claim. Take the time to make sure it’s accurate up front and avoid some painful lessons-learned if you do have to file a freight damage claim later. Here are a few other things to think about during pickup:

  • Stacking: Load your heavier freight on bottom while your more fragile cargo is safely on top.
  • Protection: Block and brace your freight to lower risk of movement during transit.
  • Distribution: You will want even weight across your pallets, and a weight distribution board is needed between every third layer of freight.
  • Uniformity: Stack pallets in a consistent manner and keep a lookout for product overhang.
  • Photograph: Snap a quick pic just in case you would need to prove the condition of the freight at time of pickup.

Be Detailed at Delivery

This is important: Do not let the driver leave until you have inspected the freight. On the exterior, you’ll be looking for things like fork punctures or crushed packaging. Don’t stop there though, go ahead and open it up. If you do find damage, take pictures and note “DAMAGE” on the delivery receipt. Then both you and the driver will need to sign that document.

Once Damage is Found

The freight can be refused if there is damage. However, this may not be in your best interest. It could hold up the payment of a freight claim if neither the consignee nor the shipper are in possession of the freight and it is left with the carrier. If both the shipper and consignee refuse the freight, the carrier can claim ownership of the property. It is typically best to note all of the damage and accept the shipment.

The Claims Process

If a claim must be filed, despite all your efforts and planning, there are some documents you will need to gather and rules you must abide by. First thing you need to remember: Don’t put it off. The claim must be filed within nine months of the date on the BOL. Here are a few checklist items to help you prepare:

  • File the claim with written communication — the claim date must be traceable
  • Clearly identify and define the product damaged
  • Specify the dollar amount of the claim based on its commercial invoice and explain how you reached the number — you may include storage fees or other expenses
  • Keep a copy of the BOL to provide with the claim
  • Gather and send any supporting documents, those may include things like the following
    • Commercial invoice
    • Photographs
    • Temperature reports
    • Loading diagrams
    • Weight receipts
    • Witness statements

Once the claim is filed, you’ll be asked to prove three things:

  1. The carrier received the freight in good condition.
  2. The consignee received the freight short of original contents, there was damage, or it delivered unreasonably late.
  3. The dollar amount of your claim is valid.

The carrier has the burden to establish two items:

  1. To no extent were they negligent.
  2. The damage was due to a recognized carrier defense.
    • Act of God
    • Act of the public enemy
    • Act of the shipper
    • Act of the public authority
    • The inherent nature or vice of the goods themselves

Only when the carrier fails to meet their burden are you entitled to recover the loss. Remember, it is based on actual loss, if an item can be repaired or a part replaced, that may influence the compensation amount. Involve your insurance company, they may be able to assist you in further recuperation of loss.

Summary

Freight claims can be a large pain, and if you do not know the subtle nuances that go into the process, they are nothing short of overwhelming. Be diligent in your shipment preparation, thorough with your paperwork and mindful of inspection at delivery. Hopefully your freight always arrives safe and on time. However, if an accident does happen, you will be prepared to face it head on.

Don’t forget to lean on your freight service. Agforce can help you understand the claim process and serve as a go-between with the freight carrier. Together, we can better navigate the freight industry. Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.