The liability of the freight forwarder in Germany is defined by various laws and regulations, in particular the German Commercial Code (HGB) and the German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp). In this context, international regulations such as the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) also play an important role. In the following, the liability of the forwarder in Germany is explained in detail.
Commercial Code (HGB): The HGB is the central body of law that regulates the legal framework for the transportation of goods in Germany. It also contains provisions on the forwarder's liability. The main provisions on the forwarder's liability are found in sections 407 to 450 of the HGB. According to Section 407 HGB, the forwarder is generally liable for loss of or damage to the goods entrusted to him during the period of carriage.
However, the forwarder's liability is not unlimited. According to Section 431 of the German Commercial Code (HGB), the forwarder's liability is limited to 8.33 special drawing rights (SDR) per kilogram of gross weight of the shipment. SDRs are an artificial currency unit created by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce exchange rate fluctuations. The liability limit of 8.33 SDRs applies to both loss and damage of the goods. However, in the event of a total loss of the shipment, the forwarder is liable for no more than the value of the entire shipment.
German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp): The ADSp are a collection of standard industry contract terms used by most freight forwarders in Germany. They concretize and supplement the legal regulations of the German Commercial Code (HGB) and contain additional provisions on the forwarder's liability. In the current version of the ADSp 2017, the forwarder's liability is limited to 2 SDR per kilogram of gross weight, unless otherwise agreed. However, the forwarder and the principal may individually agree on higher liability limits.
Liability exclusions: The forwarder's liability is excluded or limited in certain cases. According to § 426 of the German Commercial Code (HGB), for example, the forwarder is not liable if the damage is due to circumstances which he could not avoid even with the greatest care and the consequences of which he was unable to prevent. The ADSp also contain exclusions of liability, for example in the case of inadequate packaging or marking of the goods by the principal.
To minimize liability risks, forwarders can take out transport insurance for you.
This Reliable Transportation Insurance covers damage occurring during transport up to an agreed insured value. The client can also take out his own transport insurance to cover the risk of loss or damage. In many cases, carriers also offer additional insurance that goes beyond the legal liability limits to provide their customers with more comprehensive protection.
Notification of Damage and Statute of Limitations: In the event of damage, it is important for the customer to notify the forwarder immediately. According to Section 438 of the German Commercial Code, external damage or loss must be reported within seven days of delivery of the goods at the latest. For concealed damage, a period of 14 days after delivery applies. After expiry of these deadlines, it is presumed that the goods were delivered in perfect condition and the client loses his right to claim damages. The limitation period for claims for damages against the Freight Forwarder shall generally be one year in accordance with Section 439 of the German Commercial Code (HGB). In cases of intent or gross negligence, the limitation period is extended to three years.
Special regulations for international transports: In the case of cross-border transports, additional international conventions apply which regulate the liability of the forwarder. One example is the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR), which applies in many European countries. The liability regulations of the CMR are similar to those of the German Commercial Code (HGB), but the maximum liability limits of 8.33 SDR per kilogram of gross weight are slightly higher than in the ADSp 2017.
In summary, the liability of the freight forwarder in Germany is governed by the HGB and the ADSp, with international regulations such as the Special Drawing Rights and the CMR also playing a role in cross-border transports. Liability is generally limited, but can be extended by individual agreements or additional Freight Insurance Coverage. It is important that the principal acts quickly in the event of damage in order to be able to assert his claims against the forwarder.
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