March 20, 2019

Best practices for determining and commencing a claim

As the saying goes, “Timing is everything” and that continues to ring true within your ability to quickly identify and pursue a claim against your buyer. The timing to commence a potential claim is not debatable; it should be when you first become aware of a problem with a shipment. It could be either a potential truck claim or dispute with a customer, whichever the case, the situation needs to be addressed immediately and memorialized through documentation. This may be accomplished by merely documenting a telephone conversation by sending a timely email to confirm your position. It is never acceptable to put a problematic load on the back burner, but rather keeping it front and center at all times. They can start out as a small dispute and morph into a complex issue, becoming more complicated and possibly compromised if and the matter is not acted upon in real time (immediately). There’s another coined phrase that tends to be true, “the one that has the most documentation wins the dispute”. It is necessary as a Best Practice to document your telephone calls and any verbal agreements you make with your customers with a short email of what was discussed and agreed upon. Remember, if it is not documented, it never happened.

I have linked an Arrival Inspection Check List of questions to aid you with asking the right questions in determining if there has been a breach of contract. 

What if your invoice is paid short, do you immediately pursue a claim against your customer? Unfortunately, there are times where your buyer will unilaterally remit less than the original invoice amount by taking an unauthorized deduction from your invoice. 

If there is no dispute, follow these steps:

  1. Immediately contact your buyer seeking the full balance due.
  2. Explain to your buyer that no deduction was ever granted and that you expect immediate payment of the balance due.
  3. Confirm all conversations by email. Very important!
  4. Also issue a balance due invoice. 

It is also stressed to be diligent in having an internal process in place that keeps an ongoing record of buyers who consistently short pay your invoices. Asking yourself, “Are these the type of customers I want as partners?”  This internal discipline can go a long way in avoiding these types of buyers that typically cost your company more money when averaged out over the course of the relationship.

If after exhausting every attempt to settle directly with your customer regarding a dispute or a straight no-pay situation, please remember that if you wish to file a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) complaint, you have a 9-month statutory window from the ship date.
                                For example:      Ship date of June 20, 2018.
                                                           Today, March 20, 2019 is your last day to file a PACA complaint.

As an additional Best Practice recommendation, if you have not resolved the dispute within 60 days of date of shipment, it’s the opportune time to contact me to further assist you in reaching out to the buyer on the disputed transaction and, if warranted, pursue payment through the power and jurisdiction of PACA. If you have a claim or dispute that you are not exactly sure what your next step should be, please give me a call directly at (949) 885-2392 or by email at [email protected]. The timing is NOW as I stand ready and poised to assist our regular member companies in recouping monies that are owed.