Stephanie Wilson

By: Stephanie Wilson on February 16th, 2024

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Mastering Freight Claims: The Essential Guide to Handling and Recouping Losses

Business Advice | Logistics | Cargo Claims | Hostage Load | Transportation | Best Practices | Freight Management | Shippers

In the vast network of global trade, a staggering 90% of goods are transported by sea, before also traveling by road, air, or rail. Within this immense flow of products, losses and unexpected occurrences are not just possibilities—they are statistical certainties. Whether it's a box vanishing in transit or a container arriving with its contents in a compromised state, the impact on your business can be significant.

As leaders in the freight industry, we understand the challenges businesses face when dealing with freight claims. This guide is designed to arm you with the knowledge and tactics to effectively address these challenges, ensuring that you're prepared to manage and resolve the situation confidently when loss or damage occurs.

Understanding Freight Claims

Freight Truck Accident - 2.16.24Ever found yourself in a situation where your shipment is either lost in the void or arrives looking like it's been through a war zone? That's when freight claims are initiated. A freight claim is a formal request for monetary compensation made by a shipper or receiver to a carrier when a shipment is either irretrievably lost or arrives with its contents damaged. Claims for loss are submitted in scenarios where the goods cannot be located, whereas claims for damage address scenarios where the items are received but are not in their expected condition. This discrepancy can occur for various reasons, such as mishandling during transit, inadequate packaging, environmental factors, or even accidents.

Understanding the carrier's liability and the specific terms of the shipping contract is essential, as these often limit the potential compensation for loss or damage. It's imperative to establish the carrier's accountability when filing a freight claim. Additionally, the timing for such claims is regulated: claims for loss or damage must be filed within nine months from the date of delivery or the scheduled delivery date for non-delivered items. For concealed damage, where the harm isn't immediately evident, you must report it to the carrier within five days of delivery. These critical timelines underscore the importance of prompt inspection and documentation upon receipt of your shipment.

From nearly two decades of experience, we've learned that understanding the intricacies of freight claims can significantly impact a company's bottom line.

The Importance of Accepting Damaged Shipments

When a shipment arrives with visible damage, the instinctive reaction might be to reject it. However, this is often not the best course of action. Accepting a damaged shipment is critical in filing a successful freight claim.

Rejecting a shipment can complicate the claims process. When you refuse a delivery, you lose control over the cargo, making it difficult to prove the extent of the damage and who was responsible. In contrast, by accepting the shipment, you retain the ability to inspect and document the condition of the goods thoroughly. This documentation is invaluable when filing a claim, as it provides concrete evidence of the damage.

Best Practices for Documenting Damage

Documenting damage effectively is a pivotal step in the freight claims process. Here are some effective strategies to ensure you have a strong case:

  1. Cargo Inspection - 2.16.24Immediate Inspection: As soon as the shipment arrives, inspect it thoroughly for any signs of damage. This includes checking the packaging and the contents.
  2. Detailed Photographs: Take clear, high-resolution photos of the damage from multiple angles. Include pictures showing the shipment's overall context and close-ups of the specific damage.
  3. Notation on Delivery Receipt: It's important to note any damages or shortages on the delivery receipt or bill of lading at the time of delivery. Be as specific as possible, describing the nature and extent of the loss.
  4. Witness Statements: If possible, get statements from those who witnessed the delivery or discovered the damage.
  5. Report to Carrier: Notify the carrier in writing about the damage as soon as possible, attaching the photographic evidence and detailed description.
  6. Preserve the Damaged Goods: Store the damaged goods safely until the claim is resolved. Except for perishable items like food and ice cream, altering or discarding the cargo can jeopardize your claim.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you have thoroughly documented any damage, significantly increasing the likelihood of a successful freight claim.

Handling Damaged Cargo

Once the damaged cargo is in your possession, it's important to handle it strategically:

  1. Assess Salvageability: Determine if the damaged goods can be repaired, repurposed, or sold at a discounted rate.
  2. Separate Damaged Goods: Keep the damaged items separate from the rest of your inventory to avoid further damage or confusion.
  3. Consult Experts if Needed: In cases of complex or high-value items, consider consulting with repair experts or appraisers.
  4. Consider Donating or Recycling: For items that cannot be salvaged for regular use, explore options like donation or recycling.
  5. Update Inventory Records: Adjust your inventory records to reflect the status of the damaged goods accurately.

Properly handling damaged cargo can minimize losses and inform better practices for future shipments.

Filing a Freight Claim

If the shipment is entirely unsalvageable and cannot be repurposed, initiating a claim is appropriate to recover your losses. The process of filing a claim is meticulous and necessitates strict attention to detail and adherence to the carrier's specified procedures.

  1. Gather Necessary Documentation: Compile all relevant documents, including the bill of lading, invoice, detailed photographs of the damage, and any correspondence with the carrier.
  2. Insurance Claim Form - 2.16.24Complete the Claim Form: Fill out the carrier's freight claim form thoroughly. Ensure all required information is accurately provided, including shipment details, the nature of the damage, and the claim amount.
  3. Submit Claim Promptly: Submit the claim to the carrier within the time frame specified in the contract. Late submissions may be denied.
  4. Follow Up Regularly: After submitting the claim, follow up regularly with the carrier. Keep a record of all communications.
  5. Negotiate the Settlement: Be prepared to negotiate with the carrier or their insurance company. The initial offer may not always be the final amount you can recover.
  6. Understand the Carrier's Liability: Familiarize yourself with the carrier's liability limits as outlined in the shipping contract or law.

By following these steps, you can file a freight claim effectively, maximizing the chances of recouping your losses.

Secure Your Shipment with Armstrong

As we wrap up this guide, remember that you're not alone. A partnership with Armstrong assures that the complexities of claims, from scrutinizing carrier reliability to untangling insurance policies, are managed on your behalf. Encounter a claim? Simply reach out to us. We'll handle everything from damage documentation to the final details of the process, allowing you to concentrate on your business's core activities.

Allow us to streamline your shipping experience. For further peace of mind and to learn more about our services, visit our website. Let's move forward, together.


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About Stephanie Wilson

With over 20 years of experience, Stephanie handles the intake and administration of cargo claims while also resolving emergencies such as hostage loads. As Armstrong's Claims Manager, Stephanie is also responsible for streamlining the department and fostering transparency in the claims process.