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Freight Claims: What to do, When to do it

How to protect yourself if your shipment is damaged

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Inspecting a shipment for damage

You placed your order and the freight truck just drove up to the dock. As you watch, workers unload the new equipment while the truck driver waits, clipboard in hand, for you to sign off on the delivery.

Stop. Don’t sign the bill of lading just yet.

If you sign your name on the received line without inspecting the shipment, you have just stipulated that you accept the shipment in the condition it arrived in. Are you sure the shipment is in good condition?

Protect your interests: inspect shipments thoroughly

Take a few minutes to check out the condition of the shipment before you sign on the bottom line. Make note of any dents, dings, scratches, broken parts, or loose pieces. If you’re not pleased with the condition the shipment arrives in, now is the time to act – not later. Sign “DAMAGED” on the received line, then ask the driver what their policies are for damaged freight.

Don’t wait to take action

Anytime you find a shipment damaged, take the time right then to collect important information that will substantiate your claim:

  • Pictures of the damages – easy to do in this age of ubiquitous camera phones
  • Bill of Lading signed “DAMAGED”
  • Detailed description of parts damaged – carry a notepad and note everything you see that looks wrong
  • List of what needs to be replaced

Gather your documentation, then contact your supplier immediately (if it’s a shipment from Cisco-Eagle, contact us) to get the claims process started. The longer you wait to initiate your claim, the more suspect your claim becomes and the more inclined the supplier is to decline the claim or reduce their responsibility. It’s always best to start early in these situations.

Follow instructions precisely

After speaking to the claims contact at the supplier, be sure to complete each step of the claims process they instructed you to take. Any missed elements will only delay the processing of the claim. If you have to request an RMA label, do so and then be sure you place the label exactly where the directions tell you to. Various vendors require different types of documentation.

In some cases, you will have to send pictures of damages, copy of bill of lading, detailed description and list of repairs needed to the supplier. Sometimes only a few of those items will be needed to complete the claim. Regardless, keep copies of all documentation on file at least until claim has been completed to your agreement and satisfaction.

Limit the pain

It’s never pleasant to find a shipment damaged, but your pain will be much less if you catch the damages right at the time of delivery than finding it later and having to harangue the supplier into letting you file a claim. The claims process will go much more pleasantly as well, because you’ve made the supplier aware of the damages sooner rather than later.

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Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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