Shipping household goods overseas is not a perfect science. Most shipments arrive without hassle, especially when you engage a certified IMA (International Movers Association) member to coordinate the movement. But one of the biggest contributors to customer dissatisfaction is having their goods arrive in damaged condition or just plain missing. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. So how do you go about obtaining compensation in such instances?
Here are 5 tips that can make your life easier should you have to file a claim for your personal effects.
- Inventory – Create a detailed list of all items being shipped including furniture, clothing, art and other valuables. Assign a replacement value to each. Note – if you undervalue an item in order to save on the insurance premium, your claim will be reduced accordingly.
- Prevention – Professionally packed household goods run a much lower risk of damage than a do-it-yourself packed shipment. In fact, most cargo insurance companies will not offer all-risk coverage unless evidence is provided to show that it was packed by a pro. Small valuable items such as cash, jewelry, etc. should be hand-carried when you depart for your new destination.
- Back-up Plan – In this age of camera-equipped smart phones, you can easily photograph the items prior to packing to document the condition of the goods before they are shipped. Make sure your camera has a time-date stamp to prove that the photos are taken immediately before shipping. You may want to consider having high-value pieces appraised by a recognized expert in order to avoid any disputes in the foreign country.
- Proof of Delivery (POD) – Every shipment must have a ‘piece count’ on the bill of lading along with dimensions and weight. Upon delivery at final destination, it’s up to the consignee to verify that all pieces are accounted for. The delivery company will ask you to sign a proof of delivery that attests to the piece count and to the condition of the goods. If any damage is visible or there are pieces missing, you must note this on the POD and request that the delivery driver also verify this with their signature. This is a good time to use that camera again, and in most countries the delivery company will also take pictures. Even suspected damage, such as crushed boxes, crates with forklift holes or visible moisture should be noted. In most cases, the contents are intact, but if not you’ll be covered for a possible claim. Chances are that your unpacking will take a considerable amount of time so internal damage or loss will not be discovered until long after the delivery company is gone.
- Claim Deadlines – Ideally, any claims will be filed by you immediately after unpacking the entire shipment. Most insurers demand that an ‘intent to claim’ be issued within 30-45 days after arrival. Once that ‘intent’ is acknowledged, you will then have a period of time to file a ‘formal claim’.
Types of Household Goods Insurance Coverage
Underwriters offer two options:
- All Risk – This covers all risks with limited exceptions and provides for full replacement value or repair of any damaged goods.
- Total Loss – Coverage only extends to the entire value of the shipment in the case of total loss or damage. For instance, in the case of a rough voyage due to a tropical storm, the steamship line may jettison certain containers overboard in order to ensure the safety of the vessel.
The All Risk option is more expensive than the Total Loss option. But an all risk premium can be purchased for around 2.5 per cent of the value, which is quite reasonable and provides peace of mind.
Most household goods forwarders can provide insurance coverage through a third-party underwriter. And most of these underwriters have representation in practically every country in the world. So if you find that you have to file a claim, there will be a representative close by so you’re not dealing solely with the issuing underwriter in the country of origin.