Responsibilities of the surveyor

The surveyor uses technical skills to establish the cause of loss or damage, assess the degree of damage and provide a complete picture of the situation in a report. This will include suitable recommendations as to minimising or making good the damage, and if necessary, recommendations of the best market for damaged goods, should a sale become necessary. Overall the report should enable the insurer to properly consider whether the loss or damage is covered by the policy conditions, as well as determining if there is a third party involved, who could be held liable. Very often this is the shipping company, the airline or the road carrier. The surveyor is often seen as a trouble shooter. Many consignees who receive damaged goods assume that because they are insured they can abandon the goods to the surveyor, in the mistaken belief that the surveyor is the insurer's representative. It is the surveyor's job to determine and report upon the cause and extent of loss or damage. The surveyor assists those who have an interest in the goods in minimising the loss or damage. Only in rare circumstances does the insurer give the surveyor an instruction to accept abandonment of the goods on the insurer's behalf. The surveyor provides assistance, giving impartial advice and guidance. Responsibilities of the insured Minimise loss or damage The Insured has a common law and statutory duty to take reasonable steps to avert or minimise loss or damage. The Insured (often the consignee, as ownership of the goods transfers during the transit) must act pro-actively, as if the goods were uninsured. The sorting of damaged goods from sound goods for the purpose of establishing and quantifying the loss is the Insured's responsibility and the costs involved in this are not usually recoverable from the insurer. Mitigation of loss is usually achieved, by removing any sources of continuing deterioration and then by repairing or reconditioning the goods. Where this cannot be done, disposal of the goods at the best price may then be the only means of minimising the loss. Provided that the cause of loss or damage is covered by the insurance policy the reasonable costs involved in this process are usually covered under a Sue and Labour provision in the policy. Prove the loss or damage was caused by an insured peril The claimant must show that loss or damage has occurred, that it occurred in the policy period, and must demonstrate an insurable interest in the goods at the time of loss. Surveyors will assist in this process by collecting information and documents. Hold Carriers/Third Parties Liable The Insured should give immediate notice in writing holding all carriers and third parties who may be liable for the lost or damaged goods. This procedure allows third parties to inspect the damage for themselves as soon as possible after delivery. By international transportation law, this is currently three days if by sea and fourteen days if by air. If there is any delay in this, the shipping line or the air carrier can argue that the loss occurred after they delivered. Failure to notify in the required time usually means that any prospect of obtaining a recovery against a third party is lost or is prejudiced. The surveyor will take an active part in the establishment of any third party liability and will assist in arranging for a joint survey to be held so that carriers and other interested parties are given an opportunity to view the damaged goods at the same time. The insurer cannot take action against third parties until the claim is actually settled. The Insured's contractual rights to pursue recovery action are then transferred or subrogated to the insurer. Selling damaged cargo If goods are to be sold (for example, the goods cannot be restored to pre-casualty condition), it is important to establish a pre-loss or sound market value for the goods in order to correctly quantify the loss. The consignee/claimant must give the surveyor their fullest co-operation when involved in these salvage sales. The surveyor's role in this instance is to assist in bringing together interested parties (buyer/seller) by making enquiries and seeking alternative uses. The surveyor does not become involved in the actual contract of sale or take responsibility for the goods. Negotiating a claim settlement In some circumstances where there are uncertainties or an absence of an exact amount of loss, it is the surveyor's role to assist by negotiating a fair and reasonable claim settlement figure between the claimant and the insurer. Is it a claim or not? As surveyors are impartial, they cannot give an opinion as to whether a claim will be covered by a policy or comment on whether an insurer is contractually liable to pay a claim. Occasionally, a surveyor may have a different role and may actually work as an employee or specific agent of an insurance company as an "in house Surveyor". In this instance the surveyor should be impartial and fair, as well as having the authority of the insurer to handle salvage sales, negotiate settlement of claims and discuss actual liability under the policy.

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