Who is Responsible for Damages to Goods in Transit?

Ownership plays a crucial role in determining responsibility for damaged goods. When ownership shifts between parties, so does the liability. However, when goods are in the possession of a third-party carrier, it's the carrier who assumes responsibility.

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Navigating Responsibility for Damaged Goods in Transit

During the transportation of goods, whether locally or internationally, damage can occur. In such cases, who bears the responsibility for the damaged goods, and how can one claim compensation as a buyer?

Goods are often transported by different types of carriers: common, contract, and private. These carriers are typically accountable for the goods in transit. Yet, the bill of lading can limit their liability.

Clarity regarding when ownership changes hands is vital for all parties involved. Understanding this helps determine who is responsible for any damage or loss of goods. The party responsible for the goods also bears the risks associated with them.

Ownership transfers when goods change hands, but this isn't always synonymous with goods being delivered. Parties involved should define when ownership shifts, ideally before any complications arise.

Various Contract Types Dictate the Carrier's Liability

They are as follows:

  • Contracts for Carriage at Owner's Risk: The carrier isn't liable for loss or damage, except when intentional.
  • Contracts at Declared Value Risk: The carrier is liable up to a specified amount mentioned in the contract.
  • Contracts on Declared Terms: The carrier's liability follows terms defined in the contract.
  • Contracts for Limited Carrier's Risk: The carrier is liable up to a certain amount.

Managing Liability Without a Formal Contract

Without a signed contract, a 'limited carrier's risk contract' typically applies. Clarity in rights and responsibilities helps manage risks for buyers, sellers, and carriers. Third-party carriers often transport goods without taking ownership.

Even so, there's still a risk of damage or loss during transportation. The laws of bailment, along with contract terms, govern such situations. Laws of Bailment stipulate that if no contract exists, the third-party carrier is liable for damages caused by negligence or intent.

Private Carriers' Liability and Damage Claims Procedure

Private carriers must exercise caution when transporting goods, as negligence or deliberate actions can make them responsible for any loss or damage. In such cases, insurance may not cover the loss or damage.

In cases where goods are damaged in the carrier's possession, but no misconduct or negligence is involved, the carrier's insurance should cover the losses.

Upon discovering damaged goods, the receiving party should request a carrier inspection via phone and submit a written request. Photographic evidence, purchase receipts, and relevant documentation are essential to support damage claims.

Civil court cases may award compensation for losses due to carrier negligence or misconduct, provided evidence of damage is presented.

Documents Required for Claims

Here is a common list of documents required:

  • Invoice, receipt
  • Delivery note
  • Any other relevant records.

GST Input Claims for Goods in Transit and Reversal for Damaged Goods

Regarding GST input claims on goods in transit, registered taxable individuals can claim input tax credit (ITC) for goods or services received, provided the invoice or proof of tax payment is recorded within 30 days of GST implementation.

Reversing GST on damaged goods involves issuing a credit note. The process varies for partially and completely damaged goods.


In conclusion, formal contracts covering liability aspects are essential to avoid disputes related to damaged goods. Parties can choose contract types and recovery provisions based on their comfort and risk tolerance when dealing with carriers.

Written By: PolicyBazaar - Updated: 19 September 2023
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