A vital component of claims procedures is substantiating of the claim. The consignee must prove the claim was caused as a result of transit and occurred during the period of insurance coverage. Generally, follow the steps below to substantiate a claim.
1. EXAMINE EXTERNAL CONDITION OF PACKAGES: Upon delivery, examine the external condition of all packages before signing the delivery receipt. This may seem impossible with today’s business pace as it can delay trucks and cargo elevators. The trucking companies may charge you a minimal fee for the delay. However, when you thoroughly examine packages and note damage on delivery receipts, you protect your rights of recovery and minimize your losses.
2. NOTE EXCEPTIONS ON DELIVERY RECEIPT: All steamship companies, airlines, railways, trucking companies and harbor authorities must obtain a signature on a delivery receipt from the person or company taking delivery of cargo. All delivery receipts contain a clause stating the cargo was delivered in apparent good condition unless noted to the contrary. If your receiving department or cartage company signs a delivery receipt without noting damage, your coverage is at risk. By signing the delivery receipt without noting damage, you have legally acknowledged receiving the goods in “apparent good condition”. This destroys your chance to prove the goods were damaged before arriving at your premises and also destroys the chance that your insurance company will successfully recover the loss from the carrier. By signing the delivery receipt without noting damage, you are providing the carrier with a clean receipt.
It is important to note some tactics trucking companies may use to obtain clean receipts from you. They may try to convince you to sign for a visibly damaged package by saying it had been “opened by Customs”. Also, they may attempt to convince you a damaged package was signed for from the wharf or last carrier in damaged condition. You should not accept these claims until you have determined the goods are in proper condition. Remember, the consignee is sole judge in deciding how the packages appear and how they should be signed for. If delivery carriers attempt to prevent you from noting their delivery receipt, you should advise the trucker to hold the merchandise.
On future shipments, you should request your insurance company to send a surveyor to inspect the shipment on the trucker’s vehicle. Also, you should refuse a carrier if he/she suggests you sign for damaged packages “subject to inspection”. This notation does not imply that the package is damaged, and it becomes the responsibility of the consignee to prove when it occurred.
Finally, there is another reason not to sign for damaged packages. In the event your loss is not insured, signing for the damaged goods in “apparent good condition” jeopardizes your own rights to recover your loss from the carrier.
3. RECORD NUMBERS OF PACKAGES: When noting delivery receipts, record all case numbers that appear damaged. It is not enough to indicate “Five Cases Damaged” on the receipt.
You must record the numbers appearing on each case. For example: “Case #5, #6, #7 and #12 are in damaged condition”.
(B) DOCUMENTING THE CLAIM PLACES ALL CARRIERS ON NOTICE
Along with noting delivery receipts, it is vital to place all carriers “on notice” in the event of a claim.