Here’s why a $16,000 luggage reimbursement claim will always fall flat

Luggage reimbursement

After her recent flight on Interjet, Lynda Leibrock discovered that unidentified “airline goo” ruined three pieces of her luggage. She hoped the airline would quickly pay her luggage reimbursement request– all $16,000 of it.

Things didn’t work out the way she had hoped.

Leibrock’s case is an example of how placing an unrealistic number on your luggage reimbursement request can end with your claim being dismissed outright as preposterous. It is also a reminder to document your damages with clear photos and request compensation based on those damages and your policy limits.

An unrealistic luggage reimbursement request

This traveler says airline goo ruined her luggage“My luggage came back from Mexico in some type of oily substance. I didn’t know if it was toxic, ” Leibrock initially told me. “And not knowing whether this substance was toxic, I threw everything out.”

Leibrock was under the impression that because she had purchased trip insurance from RoamRight that she would be reimbursed for all of her discarded items.

Luggage reimbursement has limitations
A $16,000 luggage reimbursement claim?

“Everything was ruined,” She explained. “I filed a claim with the airline, Interjet, but they offered me just $45 for dry cleaning. I also filed a claim with RoamRight and they denied the claim because I didn’t save the luggage nor the items. But who was going to pay for possible medical bills or decontaminating my house if we got ill?”

The value placed on her complaint to our advocacy team? $16,000. I was sure that this was a typo and pointed it out to Leibrock.

She quickly responded that it was not a typo. Her estimated value of the items that she had tossed in the garbage can was $16,000. She assured me that she had taken pictures of the damages and that she had receipts for the items.

An amended luggage reimbursement request

Once she gathered all her receipts and sent them to me, she amended her compensation expectations to “around $8,000.”

There are multiple problems with Leibrock’s claim that are important for travelers to understand.

The most glaring problem, of course, is that there are clear liability limits as to what an airline will reimburse a passenger for if their bags are lost or damaged. Because Leibrock was traveling from Mexico, the Montreal Convention rules apply. Under this regulation, the maximum amount that a traveler can expect for reimbursement of luggage is around $1,600 — if it is determined that the luggage has been lost or damaged.

Tossing the evidence in the garbage can

But if you are claiming damage to your luggage and the items inside your luggage, you must provide proof to the airline. By throwing away all of her items, she had also thrown away her proof. This resulted in Interjet, for the most part, rejecting her claim.

This traveler threw out all her belongings after a recent flight and then filed a $16,000 luggage reimbursement requestAlthough this part of the story was strange, I have encountered other consumers who have thrown away critical evidence to their cases. In fact, one recent hotel guest believed bedbugs had infested his belongings during his stay. His response?  He told me that he immediately threw $3,000 worth of belongings in a trash can along the road.

To be clear, it is never wise to toss away high-valued evidence.

Proof of damage?

But back to Leibrock’s case. I thought the photos that she had taken might support her claim for some type of reimbursement for her lost items — albeit drastically smaller than she was expecting.

However, Leibrock’s photographic “evidence” quickly squashed that thought. (You can view her photos above the title of this story)

I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at in some of the photographs.

I explained to Leibrock that these photos were not going to help her case. In fact, I thought that they hurt her case. These photos are dark, blurry and they show her luggage inside what appears to be her closet. Her evidence contradicts the claim that she threw the items away so that they would not contaminate her home.

At this point, I was a bit perplexed by Leibrock and suggested that she post her case to our forums — which she did.

What did RoamRight say about this luggage reimbursement request?

I decided to contact RoamRight and find out why the company had denied her claim in its totality. I thought this information could be helpful for other travelers as well as for Leibrock.

No one at RoamRight would speak to me concerning Leibrock. I received an email from one executive that simply said, “no comment.” Since Leibrock had permitted the company to talk with me, this response was surprising. Typically, most companies are eager to clarify their position for us.

Eventually, I heard back from one executive. He assured me that Leibrock’s claim had been thoroughly investigated. He also said that, despite what Leibrock had told me, she knew why RoamRight had rejected her claim.

What went wrong?

Since neither Leibrock or RoamRight will clarify for us, I can only surmise what went wrong here.

First, Leibrock placed an unreasonably high value on this luggage reimbursement request. RoamRight places a maximum limit on her trip insurance policy of $2,500 per person (not per bag). The $16,000 figure most likely set off alarm bells with the insurance company and caused it to closely analyze the claim. And unfortunately for Leibrock, she had no proof of damage. Providing receipts is not sufficient to prove damages. And the pictures do not show the damages that she is claiming.

When you discover that an airline has damaged your belongings, you should not leave the airport until you make a claim. In this case, Leibrock should have snapped her photos inside the well-lit airport and left the luggage in the claims department if she was concerned about contamination.

If she arrived home and discovered the damage, it was imperative to photograph the luggage in good light; making sure that the damage was visible in the photos before discarding the articles. Each damaged high-ticket item also needed to be photographed.

Finally, if you are indeed traveling with $16,000 worth of belongings, these articles should be itemized with your homeowner’s insurance under a “valuable items” policy. You may have some protection there, but again proof of loss or damage is needed.

The final word

We can’t help Leibrock because she made too many missteps in her efforts to obtain reimbursement for her damaged belongings. Her initial, incredibly high request probably tainted her claim from the start. And the pictures that she provided did not properly document any damage. I can’t say for sure what happened here, but it is a study of what not to do if you find your luggage is damaged by airline “goo.”

Should Leibrock have received any reimbursement for her damaged luggage?

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