Important Steps to Recovering Your Lost Baggage


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Traveling to an airport can be a busy and stressful ordeal for millions of people each day, especially if they are dealing with airport lost baggage.  Lost baggage falls into one of two categories, which is “lost and recoverable” or “lost, damaged, stolen, or missing without chance of return”.  If your luggage has fallen into the former, you will have to deal with internal company policies of the airline you flew regarding recovering your baggage.  This situation may resolve itself through the appearance of your baggage, albeit late, within a reasonable period.  However, if an airline declares your baggage as non-recoverable or your items are returned, but damaged, legal action might be necessary to cover the damages.

Federal Laws Regarding Lost Luggage

Federal laws govern lost baggage airlines compensation policies for commercial airlines in the United States. For baggage that is never returned, federal laws mandate airlines must compensate individuals up to $2,500 or the lesser value of the contents of the luggage.  Once your luggage has been deemed lost, which represents 2 percent of the luggage handled in an airport, the airport will allow you to claim the items inside the luggage and the luggage itself. Occasionally, lost luggage will turn up so do not lie about the items inside.  During this process, you should retain all receipts, paperwork, names, claims receipts, boarding information, and virtually any pieces of information presented during your discussions with airline officials.  In addition, you will be required to produce a detailed list of the items and the luggage itself, including their value.  Receipts for these purchases are ideal, but if not possible, individuals can estimate the depreciated value of the items, which is a grey area at best.  Airlines typically assess estimated claims with a thirty percent reduction for overestimates and depreciated value of the items.  Aiming too high or for items not actually there might account to fraud.  If the airline is culpable for baggage losses amounting to less than $2,500, the issue is rather straightforward, and individuals can recover the value of their documentable lost items via a check issued by the airline.  However, individuals with claims more than $2,500 are significantly more difficult, if not impossible to make.

Problems Faced When Recovering Lost Luggage

Aside from the fact that you no longer have your luggage, a number of other caveats are out there regarding recovery of economic damages for lost luggage.  Some items travelers should keep in mind, include:

  • The aforementioned rates of compensation are only for domestic flights.  International flights and compensation for lost luggage claims is established by the Warsaw Act and it established a reimbursement rate of about $9.08 per pound
  • Airlines are not liable for any baggage carried into a passenger cabin
  • Additional liability limitations are in place at most airlines, which expressly mitigate their liability for photo equipment, currency, jewelry, electronics, documents, or even works of art.
  • Airlines can limit their liability for loss, damage, or delay baggage if they post the terms of limited liable in a conspicuous manner, which have been ruled to include tickets, boarding passes, signs on premise, and websites
  • Most airlines will readily admit culpability for lost items for reasonable claims under $2,500 and will not rely on their legal liability limitations as a means of refusing passenger compensation

Claiming Lost Items over $2,500 on Domestic Flights

For flights within the United States, individuals with baggage claims in excess of the $2,500 compensation limit will most likely need the assistance of an aviation attorney to recover their losses.  Under federal law, airlines must use “reasonable communicativeness” regarding their liability limiting policies, which includes the way that they communicate this policy to their flyers.  Even then, flyers are hard pressed to retain compensation for more than the noted limit, unless they have purchased some form of insurance for their items. 

Help from a Lawyer

An aviation attorney will come in handy if your luggage has been lost for good. The attorney will know the laws governing lost luggage, how much money you can claim, what items you cannot claim, how to file with the airport and whether or not to file a lawsuit against the airport for withholding payment on lost items.

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