The truck just pulled onto the yard. You start unloading the pallets and notice that the edge of the granite slab is broken. Your heart skips a few beats because you know how expensive this slab was when you purchased it and wonder who is going to be responsible for the damage. What in the world do you do now?
This is a reality that many of you will encounter if you have loads picked and delivered on a routine basis. If you have been in business for any number of years and have never experienced damaged freight, count yourselves lucky as it is inevitable that you will experience damaged freight at some point in your life. Let’s talk about the day that this does occur and how to handle the situation. What follows is a step by step guide that will make the claims process as painless as possible for the day when you need to file a claim.
1. Inspect the Load
The first thing you want to do is to inspect the damage. You should do this with every load that arrives from a trucking company. Visually inspecting the loads is the most important aspect of a delivery. If you notice damage on any of the pallets, machinery, crates, or whatever was on the truck; you must notate any damage on the Bill of Laden (BOL) or the Proof of Delivery receipt (POD) before signing anything. If you fail to do this, you will more than likely NOT have a claim against the carrier. Case in point, if your guy on the yard unloads the truck that just arrived and signs off on the BOL/POD because he was in a hurry and doesn’t note any issues, he is in essence saying that the shipment arrived in “good order and condition.” Later on when you or someone else looks at the delivery and notices some damage, it is going to be TOO LATE to say anything at that point. Your claim will be DENIED outright if this mistake is made.
2. Unload the Truck or Refuse the Shipment
After inspecting the load and finding damage, you have to make a decision on either unloading the truck, or refusing the shipment. If the damage is negligible and not worth pursuing, then unload the truck, but NOTE the damage on the BOL/POD. If you feel that your freight has sustained a lot of damage, then you may want to REFUSE the load. The carrier will return the load back to the origin or make other arrangements.
3. Complete the Claims Process
- Start the claims process immediately. DO NOT procrastinate.
- Make a note of all damage and be specific when you are describing what is damaged, the number of pallets if any, etc. Use as much detail as possible.
- Take plenty of pictures. Most everyone carries a smartphone now, so utilize it. Have the driver to also take pictures so that he can forward them to his company. I can’t emphasize it enough in how important the pictures are in this process. A picture is definitely worth a 1,000 words.
- Salvage what is still usable. Whatever you deem as damaged, MUST be retained and made available to an insurance company. More than likely, they will send someone out (surveyor) to inspect the damage. DO NOT throw away anything that you feel was damaged until the insurance company tells you it is suitable to discard.
- Notify all parties that are involved with this shipment. Immediately contact everyone involved in the supply chain that your shipment has arrived with damage.
- After you have taken pictures and made note of the damages, go ahead and total up damages. This total should include the value of goods upon receipt to include the taxes and freight costs.
4. File the Freight Claim Immediately
- Submit the claim to the insurance company. Each party involved will do its own investigation and will settle if it is determined to be liable or will deny the claim. Claims are denied for a wide variety of reasons: insufficient packaging, lack of protection from the elements, no tarp if required, straps too tight, etc.
- Please keep in mind that this process can take months, and under some circumstances can take years. I always suggest to continue to follow up on your claim so that your claims don’t get pushed to the bottom of the stack.
Dillon Transport, Inc. strives to deliver all of our shipments damage free. Over a 20-year period, we have only had 3 claims for damaged freight out of thousands of Flatbed loads picked up and delivered — Not a bad track record. We realize that no matter how careful the trucks are loaded, and no matter how much you try to prevent damages from occurring, accidents can happen and sometimes it is just plain negligence. When it does occur, it is how you respond that will determine if you recoup your losses. In an upcoming blog post, I will cover how you can lessen your chances of ever having to file a damage claim.