Making a claim. Know your rights
Making a claim on a shipment is stressful and sometimes emotional. When you contract with a freight agent the last thing on your mind is having to make a claim. Luckily the percentage of shipments ending in claims is very low, but if you are one of the unlucky ones it may be a shock to learn you are not automatically covered for the full value of the goods.
Freight agents, Airlines, Shipping lines, Courier companies and Delivery companies will all have standard trading conditions that set out their legal liability in case of loss, damage or delay. The compensation amount is often governed by the National Freight Associations and in the case of Airlines and Shipping Lines is part of International Law.
What can make it even more confusing is the liability is often stated in SDRs or Special Drawing Rights per Kilo which is calculated by the IMF – International Monetary Fund.
You may also not be able to claim for delay unless the freight company agreed in writing to deliver by a certain date or time. They will also be protected against delays that were out of their control.
So how do you get what you are legally entitled to?
Make sure you retain all correspondence with the freight company
Before you sign for goods check the packaging
If there are signs of damage to the packaging take photographs. Try to take them on the delivery vehicle or with the vehicle or driver next to the package. If you notice the damage after the driver has left take photographs as soon as you notice the damage.
Try to sign the delivery note as Damaged or Unchecked. Some companies will not accept claused signatures, but this can leave you in a weak position.
Notify the freight company as soon as you can and detail any damage to the goods and send the photographs.
This is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Stay calm and do not make threats to the freight agent. In most cases the problem was not their fault and it helps to have them on your side.
If you have taken out cargo insurance contact the insurance company immediately and send the claim to them. Read: Cargo Insurance (Why it is worth it’s weight in Gold)
If the freight company refuses to pay your claim find out if they are a member of a national body or a freight association and ask them for assistance.
In the most extreme cases legal action may be required, but as mentioned above you may not be entitled to the compensation you think you are due so think carefully before taking on this expense.