Americans ship an average of 165 billion packages every year. On top of that, almost 200 million letters and documents pass through the United States Postal Service and private couriers.
With so much mail changing hands, accidents are guaranteed to happen. Regardless of carriers’ best efforts, some packages and documents are lost or damaged in transit each year.
Shipping insurance is often consumers’ only protection against these unavoidable losses. Keep reading to learn how to insure shipping on your essential items.
What Are Courier Services?
Courier services are private companies that deliver goods, packages, and documents. They typically handle and insure shipping of everything from furniture to letters.
Some couriers specialize in specific fields, such as medical products and supplies. Many also offer related services, such as warehousing.
Many customers are most familiar with UPS and FedEx. These two carriers offer wide-scale delivery services that have made them household names. However, there are many local and regional courier services, as well.
Smaller services often offer services larger couriers do not. Examples include:
- Rush and on-demand services
- Pre-scheduled routed delivery options
- Warehousing and related services
- Specialized delivery vehicles, such as those enabling refrigeration
All of these features enable private couriers to provide vital solutions for common personal and business needs.
What Can Be Shipped Through A Courier?
Generally speaking, couriers accept any item that can be legally shipped in the United States. This includes:
- Letters and documents
- Packages and parcels of all sizes
- Medical or chemical supplies and equipment
- Perishable items
- Large home or business goods and equipment
In some cases, shippers use couriers simply because they cannot send their desired items through the USPS. In others, they specifically choose couriers because they feel they provide a safer, more reliable delivery option. Alternatively, shippers may work with couriers primarily for the speed and convenience they offer.
No matter what a shipper’s reasons, they may understandably have concerns about what happens in the event that their items are lost or damaged in transit.
Are Items Shipped With Couriers Insured?
What is shipping insurance? Does it come standard whenever you ship things via courier? The answers to these questions may be more complex than most consumers expect.
Put simply, shipping insurance is a form of security carriers offer their customers. It is a promise or additional service guaranteeing that items will arrive at their destination in the same condition in which they were shipped. If they do not, the carrier will reimburse the consumer for the amount of money required to restore or replace the item.
Is Parcel Insurance Standard?
Some items handled by couriers qualify for automatic coverage. For example, both UPS and FedEx automatically apply coverage of up to $100 on all items they handle. Most local and regional couriers offer similar coverage.
Customers using advanced courier services may also qualify for some parcel insurance as part of their service packages.
However, not all packages qualify for coverage. Numerous limits apply.
In most cases, covered items are insured up to their declared value or $100, whichever comes first. This may be different from the actual amount required to replace or repair them. Shippers who do not declare a value of over $100 also lose their opportunity to claim more than that amount should the item be lost or damaged.
Nearly all couriers refuse to insure packages unless they are appropriately packed. Poorly or improperly packaged items typically are not eligible for reimbursement should they be damaged.
For example, delicate items must be buffered by bubble wrap, packing foam or peanuts, or other protective materials. If they are not, shippers are not eligible for reimbursement when they are broken.
Exceptions To The Rule
Not all carriers insure shipping on all items. Items commonly exempted from coverage include:
- Gems and precious stones or metals
Other items may be covered, but only to limited amounts. For instance, many carriers place hard caps on the amount of insurance customers can get on expensive items such as:
- Fine art
Shippers can still send these items with the understanding that they will not be reimbursed for their full loss should something happen.
Finally, many carriers restrict coverage to within certain geographic or national boundaries. Often this is because they are required to hand the package off to another company or service.
In an event, it is important that shippers ask questions when shipping. It is the only way to ensure that they fully understand what insurance they are receiving and under what conditions.
Submitting A Claim
Shippers should also take care to understand the claims process before shipping.
First and foremost, shippers should be aware that they are responsible for initiating a claim when an item is damaged in shipping. They must also do so promptly, as time limits usually apply.
Contrary to common assumptions, shippers typically cannot simply announce a value for their lost or broken item and expect to receive that amount in compensation. Each carrier has its own policies and procedures. In most cases, however, shippers must:
- State the value of their item upfront when shipping
- Provide evidence of the item shipped and its cost at the time of claim
- Do both of the above
Experienced shippers or those dealing with particularly valuable items may wish to take preemptive steps to ensure they are prepared should they need to make a claim. Best practices include:
- Taking photos of the item prior to packaging
- Keeping documentation of the item’s origin and value
- Taking photos of the item properly packaged
- Keeping shipping receipts
- Getting photos of the damaged item at delivery and/or unpacking
In the event that an item can be repaired rather than replaced, shippers may be required to take that route.
Shippers should be aware that reimbursements are not immediate. Carriers commonly take between two and five weeks to process and reimburse insurance claims.
How to Insure Shipping
To insure shipping on packages, consumers should take basic precautions. These include packaging items carefully and inquiring about terms prior to shipping. Perhaps most importantly, shippers should contract with quality, reliable carriers.
Contact Miami and Ft. Lauderdale’s best courier service today to discover how you can start shipping your packages properly insured and stress-free.