Are Carriers Ever Exempt From Loss or Damage Liability?

Written by Neal Willis

In order to minimize the risk of monetary loss stemming from damaged and lost freight, it is important for shippers to understand that there are circumstances where freight carriers are relieved from the liability of product theft, loss, and/or damage, usually due to circumstances beyond their control. Some of the most common instances where carriers are relived of liability while freight is in their possession includes: an act of God, an act of the public enemy, an act of a public authority / authority of law, an act of the shipper, and a defect or vice in the product.

A few examples include but aren’t limited to the following:

An act of GodJune23rd_Medium_Tornado-Lightning
  • Hurricane  
  • Snow Storm  
  • Earthquake  
  • Tornado  
  • Flooding
An act of the public enemy
  • Terrorist attacks – 9/11/01
  • Organized Crime – Lufthansa Heist
An act of a public authority / authority of law
  • Martial Law
  • Government Shutdown
  • Highway Trust FundJune23rd_Medium_Govt_Shutdown
  • Homeland Security
  • National Security
An act of the shipper
  • Improper Packaging
  • Inaccurate Information
A defect or vice in the property
  • Explosives
  • Hazmat
  • Expired / Outdated Products

The above circumstances are typically beyond any one party’s control and, in these types of situations, the shipper is responsible for shouldering the costs and liability of any damage or loss, even if it happens while in the carrier’s possession.

Knowing the general environment and geographical regions where your product is going to or coming from can be just as important as the proper packaging. For example, if you send freight to or near the Gulf Coast of Florida, as a shipper, it would be ideal to keep track of the weather during hurricane season in order to help avoid a high valued shipment getting stuck in a hurricane.

It is up to the shipper to make sure the cargo is covered for reimbursement in the event of damage and/or loss caused by an act of God, a natural disaster, or any other circumstance beyond a shipper and carrier’s control. There are insurance policies available to shippers for protecting against these types of situations and, as a shipper, it’s wise to check with your current insurance provider to determine if you are already covered through your current policy. If you aren’t, you may want to consider purchasing some form of cargo insurance that would protect you from any unforeseeable losses that may be caused as a result of any of these types of circumstances.  

Need help? Contact ReTrans Freight today for more information. Fill out the form and someone will contact you shortly. For immediate assistance please call us directly at 1-800-426-8896 Ext. 329 or send us an email at

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