You’ve done your due diligence in making sure everything was above-board in the proper shipment and importation of your merchandise, only to find that there’s been a problem and now your shipment is damaged… or worse… lost. It’s time for the dreaded Freight Claim. So I wanted to prepare a checklist, in case you find yourself in this situation.
Here are the important things you need to know:
1. Read and understand the explicit liability verbiage stated on the bill of lading. If there are no terms and conditions stated, then this would fall under the Carmack Amendment wherein “the bill of lading and any applicable tariffs will be “incorporated by reference.””
2. Get a claim form from your carrier, if they have one. If they don’t have one (they should), or won’t provide one, we can help you submit something generic. Also get the contact information for the person in charge of claims. We wouldn’t want to submit a claim to someone who “forgets” to pass it along. Once you submit, definitely get a confirmation of receipt.
3. Be aware that there may be a time limit for submitting claims. Understand what the carrier’s statute of limitations is, so you can be sure you’re ahead of it.
4. There are five criteria that negate a carrier’s responsibility for lost, damaged, or stolen freight: (1) an act of God, (2) an act of the public enemy, (3) an act of a public authority, (4) an act of the shipper, or (5) an inherent vice of the product. We want to be sure none of these apply to your shipment.
- The responsibility is on you (the cargo owner) to provide enough evidence to support your claim. Here’s a list of what you’ll be expected to provide:(a) The original bill of lading
(b) The paid freight bill
(c) Proof of the value of the commodities lost or damaged (an invoice)
(d) Inspection or survey reports, if made
(e) Copies of request for inspection
(f) Notification of loss
(g) Waiver of inspection by carrier
(h) Other supporting documents when appropriate, such as photographs, temperature reports, shock or impact records, condemnation certificates, dumping certificates, laboratory analysis, quality control reports, loading diagrams, weight certificates, written statements or affidavits, loading and unloading tallies, etc.
You’ll also need to provide a detailed, itemized description of the goods that you’re making the claim against.
Many people often wonder: should I just consider it a loss and move on? Depending on the value of your cargo, perhaps. Do you have cargo insurance? If not, you can probably file the claim, and see where it goes. After that, you can continue to fight. It’s in the truckers’ best interest to drag their feet, so that’s what I would expect them to do. If the dollar value is worth it, I say keep at it. If you’ve reach a time value of money threshold, you might want to consider chalking up the loss.
As reference, here is an excellent article on how to file a freight claim.
And if you find yourself in need of more advice or assistance, please reach out! I’m happy to work with you to sort this together so you don’t feel like David fighting Goliath.