Freight damage claims FAQs

This is basic information intended to help transportation officers manage freight damage claims as prescribed in FMR Part 102-117. Keep in mind this information may not apply to your circumstances, and follow your agency’s guidance — ask your agency’s legal counsel for assistance in filing freight damage claims.

  1. What is a freight transportation damage claim?
    A freight transportation damage claim is a lawful demand by a shipper or receiver to a TSP for financial reimbursement due to the loss, shortage, or damage of a shipment.
  2. Why file a damage claim?
    Filing a damage claim with the TSP holds it accountable for meeting the contractual shipping requirements and protecting taxpayer dollars. The purpose is to make the claimant whole or restore them to the same position as they would be if the cargo had not been lost or damaged.
  3. What types of damage claims are there?
    • Visible damage — The damage is readily apparent.
    • Shortage — Only part of the shipment is received.
    • Concealed damage — This is damage or shortage discovered after the delivery driver has left and the shipment is un-palletized and/or shipping containers or boxes are opened.
    • Loss — Delivery did not occur.
  4. Do I send copies of damage claims to GSA?
    No. GSA does not file or manage transportation damage claims for agencies. File damage claims in accordance with your agency policy.
  5. How do I file a freight transportation damage claim?
    File a freight transportation damage claim with the TSP in accordance with your agency policy and 49 CFR 370.3(a). The tender of service, tariff, or contract may also provide additional information on filing transportation damage claims.
  6. Am I required to use a form to file a freight transportation damage claim?
    Federal law does not establish a standard or require a form for use in filing a freight transportation damage claim. The TSP may require that you use its claim form. You may want to consult your agency’s legal counsel before using the TSP’s form since that form may contain terms and conditions limiting the agency’s rights or may be contrary to the underlying agreement or contract.
  7. What must I provide to a TSP when filing a freight transportation damage claim?
    You must file a written claim with the TSP containing enough facts relating to the damage claim so that the TSP can investigate the claim and make a decision whether to pay it, decline it, or offer a compromise amount in settlement. Your claim must:
    • Contain facts sufficient to identify the baggage or shipment (or shipments) of property.
    • Assert liability for alleged loss, damage, injury, or delay.
    • Demand payment of a specified or defined amount of money (See 49 CFR 370.3(b) for additional information).
  8. What do I do if the TSP denied my freight transportation damage claim?
    When a freight transportation damage claim is denied by the TSP it is important that the claimant understands why the TSP denied the damage claim. For example, a claim may be denied because the paperwork submitted was not sufficient to properly process the claim. If this is the case, resubmit the claim and include the proper documentation. If the request for additional documentation seems unreasonable, the TSP continues to deny the claim, or the TSP denies the claim for some other reason, discuss the issue with your agency’s legal counsel.
  9. How long do I have to file a freight damage claim?
    It depends on the mode. The agreement between the TSP and agency, including a tariff, tender of service, or transportation contract may establish filing requirements. When not addressed in these agreements, a legal authority generally applies. These authorities include:
  10. Can I dispose of the damaged cargo once I have filed the claim?
    Preserve the damaged cargo and all packaging until the TSP tells you that you can dispose of it or destroy it. Failure to retain damaged cargo and packaging may result in a denial of the claim by the TSP. You should:
    1. Not discard any of the packaging materials or move/ship the damaged cargo until the claim has been settled and the claimant has been directed to do so by the TSP.
    2. Protect damaged cargo from additional damage or loss.
    3. Obtain witness statements if possible.
    Additionally, it is a good practice to take photographs of the damaged cargo and its contents. Providing as much direct evidence of shipping damage as possible increases the probability of a favorable claim outcome.
  11. Do I have to let the TSP see the damaged cargo after I file a freight transportation damage claim?
    TSPs have the right to investigate a damage claim and must be provided access to examine the damaged cargo. The investigation allows the TSP to collect the facts related to the claim. Refusal of a TSP's request to perform the investigation may result in a denial of the freight transportation damage claim (See 49 CFR 370.7).
    A best practice is for the claimant to request a TSP inspection. The TSP may choose to waive inspection. Remember to obtain written confirmation if the TSP waives the inspection.
  12. Can I recover the cost of the shipment?
    You should request that the TSP reimburse the agency for the paid freight costs when a shipment is delivered damaged. The agency can generally recover the prorated cost of the damaged portion of the shipment.
    Claims may also include reasonable costs sustained in mitigating damages such as appraisal, repair, and/or reconditioning costs incurred to restore the cargo’s market value.
  13. What is released cargo value?
    Released value commonly, however may not always, represents the TSP's maximum financial liability for the cargo it is transporting. The released value is usually established in the tariff, contract, or tender of service agreement.
  14. What is declared cargo value?
    Declared value is the shipper's stated value of the cargo. The declared value may differ from the actual value of the cargo. For example, the shipper's cargo may have an actual value of $150,000; however, the shipper may tell the TSP that the declared value is $100,000 in order to receive a lower shipping rate.
Last Reviewed: 2023-02-24