Pointing Fingers: Cargo Loss and Damage Claims Responsibility

December 14th, 2016 by

Cargo loss. Damage claims. Those are two phrases that no shipper, carrier, receiver, or freight broker ever wants to hear. Unfortunately, most companies will experience an issue like this at one point or another. It’s best to take preventative measures, but everyone should also be prepared for a worst-case scenario.

When Loss and Damage Are the Shipper’s Fault

Some people think that the carrier is always in charge of the welfare of the freight. It can be true, but the safety of each item is primarily the shipper’s responsibility. These companies have to properly package the item (if applicable) and prepare it for loading. Once the truck arrives, it’s sent to the dock and the shipper takes care of loading the freight. The driver will leave only after the trailer is finished and sealed, and the compartment generally won’t be opened until it arrives at the receiver.



Any problems that happen during loading are a direct responsibility of the shipper. Even accidents like fork lift wrecks or torn packaging fall to the shipper in these cases. What some people don’t know, however, is that any damage during transit that’s attributed to poor loading or preparation will also be charged to the shipper.

When the Carrier Is Responsible

If there’s an incident during transit and it’s not related to packaging or loading, it becomes the carrier’s issue. The exception to this rule is if the damage is incurred by an “act of God.” Flooding, earthquakes, snowstorms, and forest fires are such events.



The carrier is also not liable if the loss pertains to war, government, or losses attributed to the nature of the goods. Cases like this are a lot less common than those that fall on the shipper’s shoulders. They do happen, however, and many carriers have insurance policies and protocols in place to address such occurrences.

Loss and Damage Due to the Receiver

Just like the shipper, the receiver is responsible for any accidents that occur when the shipment is under its care. A failed unloading or improper storage could cause losses for which the company must compensate. Receivers are blamed less often since the item usually remains in their care for a short amount of time.

The Freight Broker’s Responsibility

Cargo loss and damage claims are never actually the freight broker’s fault. The agent doesn’t actually handle the item or items, so it’s generally protected from claims. However, that doesn’t mean this party isn’t important during this time. In fact, agents are vital to successful business in most cases.


Freight brokers liaise between shippers and receivers—thus dealing with all parties involved. They must gather all the necessary information and guarantee that both ends are completely informed. It’s better for many people to work with a middle man when dealing with claims like this, since tempers can run high.


There’s no simple answer for who should be responsible for a cargo loss or damage claim, because each circumstance is different. An experienced and fair freight broker can help determine the best way to deal with the issue and get everyone back to normal as soon as possible.

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