ASK AUGELLO

By William J. Augello, Esquire

Question: Is there anything that parcel shippers and receivers can do to improve their recovery of claims for damage that occurs while in the possession of parcel express carriers?

Answer: Yes. Parcel shippers and receivers now have additional hi-tech devices to control and reduce the loss of and damage to their parcels and freight shipments. The most practical devices are digital cameras, which are now relatively inexpensive and readily available.

Whenever a parcel arrives in a damaged condition, take digital photos in the presence of the delivering driver so that he can confirm the damage by a notation on the delivery receipt along with the consignee?s notation. Then e-mail the photos to the shipper and the carrier?s claims department with a request for disposition instructions from the shipper. The immediate notice of the extent of damage will mitigate losses if the shipper, consignee and carrier have valid information on the damage and can make informed decisions on liability and salvage.

A consignee?s statement of the damage on the delivery receipt, or in a separate damage report, is extremely important if the claimant wants to collect a claim for the full value of the damaged goods. There is no new technology available for this stage of the claim filing and collecting procedures. Just follow the proper procedure for filing and supporting a claim. Remember to take clear pictures of all sides of the damaged parcel, and report the facts, not the conclusions! ?One carton crushed on corner;? or ?One box wet;? or ?Carton torn open ? some contents missing? are facts. Adding ?caused by shipper,? ?due to improper handling? or ?due to insuf-ficient packaging,? is improper as those statements are conclusory and are beyond the direct knowledge of the consignee. It is the carrier?s burden to prove the cause of the damage and that its negligence did not contribute to the damage!

That burden of proof will be a surprise to most carriers? claims personnel, as they continually ignore in-transit handling in their claim declination letters. Has any parcel express carrier ever voluntarily reported that your package was caught in a jam-up of its high-speed conveyor system? In my experience, the declination is generally based on the shipper?s ?insufficient packaging? ? even if the packaging was sufficient to protect the product in the normal package environment but not to survive mishandling or a system breakdown and whether or not the shipper paid for insurance!

Another hi-tech device that will curtail ?imposter pickups? is a photographic device that will simul-taneously take a photo of the driver, driver?s license and pick-up order. A digital image of that photo can then be e-mailed to the carrier to confirm an authorized pick-up. At least one LTL carrier (Jevic Transportation) is reported to have provided its drivers with an ID badge with the driver?s picture and a barcode. The shipper either scans the barcode or types the ID number into Jevic?s Web site. The driver?s picture then appears on the screen for comparison with the driver and the picture on the ID badge.

In light of the government?s increased concern for security, particularly in the potential use of the transportation system to deliver terrorists? messages, parcel shippers and receivers must revisit their cur-rent practices to ensure against access to their goods and facilities. Increased attention to security will also result in better product handling, claims practices and recoveries in your parcel shipping and distribution facility.

William J. Augello is an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona. If you have questions for him relating to your parcel operation, please contact him by e-mail at williamaugello@att.net or by phone at 520-531-0203.