con·cealed damage (kənˈsēld/) [dam-ij]: Loss or damage to a shipment that was not noticeable at the time of delivery and not noted on the delivery receipt
1. I started unpacking my shipment and noticed there was concealed damage – cue a slow motion “nooooo!”
2. Concealed damage claims are the hardest type of freight claims in which to obtain a positive resolution.
Concealed damage claims can be tricky to prove, strict guidelines must be followed and all documentation to prove your case must be provided to the carrier. To help give your concealed damage claim the best chance for success, brush up on the following tips:
Tip #1: Embrace the need for speed
The NMFTA has stated that concealed damage must be reported within 5 days of delivery. Failure to notify within this window will result in denial of any freight claim from a carrier. It is a good idea to officially file your claim within this 5 day period as well, if possible, though it is not required (you have 15 days to file the concealed damage claim). To ensure that you don’t miss this window of opportunity, we recommend inspecting the freight and breaking the shipment down immediately after delivery. Note anything that looks suspicious (different shrink wrap than usual, dented boxes, broken pallet) on the POD.
Tip #2: Document absolutely EVERYTHING
The burden of proof is on the claimant (that’s you!) to demonstrate that not only was the freight delivered damaged, but also that the damage did not occur before pickup or after delivery. So it’s very important that both the shipper and the receiver document all aspects of the shipment. This includes documents indicating exactly what was shipped originally (including the number of boxes, items, etc.), delivery receipts, invoices and photos. It is a great practice for both the shipper and receiver to take photographs of the freight when it is picked up and delivered. An inspection may also be required by the carrier to see if it looks like the items were already damaged before being picked up, or if they could have possibly been damaged during transit.
Documenting the packaging is also important (including the non-visible packing materials inside the shipment), because the carrier can claim that there was insufficient packaging to protect the freight in transit.
Tip #3: Be a hoarder
Because an inspection may be required, DO NOT dispose of the freight until the claim has been fully resolved. If the freight is disposed of and the carrier needs to have access to it for any reason and isn’t able to, it is likely that the claim will be denied.
Tip #4: Know your rights
Know that you do have the right to pay for your own private inspection of the goods, which can also be used as supporting evidence of your claim; however, the carrier also has the right to demand an inspection of their own. Therefore, the damaged shipment must be available for them to inspect for the entire time the claim is open.
Tip #5: Understand the terms
Keep in mind that the carrier needs to be satisfied that the evidence proves that the damage was caused by them, and them alone; that none of the damage occurred before pickup or after delivery and that the packaging was also sufficient to protect the freight. If these facts are not proven, they could deny the claim. They could also choose to pay 1/3 of the claim. Some carriers choose to do this when the cause of damage or loss is unclear. Since there are three possible parties who could have caused the damage, they take responsibility for their third of the possibility. However, carriers are not required to do this and some carriers choose not to. The claimant is also not obligated to accept the 1/3 offer; however, they then must prove the carrier was the one who caused the damage or shortage.
Tip #6: Read every word
If your concealed damage claim is denied, pay careful attention to the wording in the denial letter. Often, the carrier will tell you what additional information they require to continue reviewing the claim. If you have more evidence that was not submitted in the original claim, you can write a formal request to reconsider the claim and submit the new evidence along with it. As mentioned above, this could include any shipping documents, invoices, photographs, etc. that prove your claim is valid.
Did you learn something new today about the claim process? Check back next week for more tips and info surrounding the claim process – and be sure to check out the first article in our Claims Series on Carrier Limits of Liability.