Delays in shipping can ruin perishable goods, motor vehicle accidents can damage all manner of items and thefts can occur. There are often implied terms in the shipping contract and legal rules which effect the liability of the shipping company or broker. Your rights and obligations may not be obvious when this happens.
For example, most people who have sent cargo with a shipping company or a broker have been given paper work to fill out before the shipment is accepted. On that paper work, which might include what is called a “waybill” or a “bill of lading”, there should be a place to declare the value of the shipment. Many people do not give this value a second thought and leave it blank. In the case of using a shipping company to ship something by truck, unless you declare a higher value for your cargo, the shipping company may only be liable for $2/lb ($4.40/kg). This is less than it might seem it should be.
- Shipping a car south for winter? The damages might be limited to only $8,000, even if it is completely destroyed or lost.
- Receiving new farm equipment by truck? Damages to a 30,000-pound combine might be limited to $60,000.
- Moving building materials like lumber, windows or even worse, insulation? $2/lb isn’t much at all.
For large volume shippers or those shipping especially valuable goods, the potential loss can be even higher. Simply declaring the full value of the shipment could be the difference between only being partially reimbursed and being fully reimbursed for damage to your cargo.
Another issue is that there may be only a limited amount of time to make a claim. There could be as little as 60 days to provide notice to the shipping company that damage occurred.
A further issue which could arise is when dealing with a broker instead of directly with the shipping company. If damage occurs to the cargo, often times it is not clear between the broker and the shipping company who is ultimately responsible. This will depend on a number of factors including:
- whether the broker charged an all-inclusive rate;
- whether the contract was between the customer and the broker or the customer and the shipping company;
- whether the customer knew who would actually be transporting the goods;
- how the parties dealt with each other in the past; and
- how the broker describes its own role.
The lawyers at Arnot Heffernan Slobodian Law Office are able to help when disputes arise over shipments of cargo. If you are involved in a situation where cargo was damaged during shipping, please contact us for more information, we are happy to make sure your situation is resolved quickly and in a cost-effective manner.