A client of mine recently went on a shopping spree in Paris. Unfortunately for her, so did the baggage handlers at Charles De Gaulle airport. When she and her family arrived back at LAX, her bags were nowhere to be found. Days later, her family’s luggage turned up, but her suitcase filled with her Chanel and other luxury purchases was never located. She thought no worries, the airline carries lost baggage insurance is up to10,000 euros and she will make a claim with the airline and be made whole. Not so fast….

When any portion of a passenger’s journey involves international travel,
liability for loss is governed by an international treaty known as the
Montreal Convention of 1999 and is applicable to the airlines of those countries that have ratified it.  The United States is one of those countries. Liability is calculated in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) at the rate of 1,131 SDR. Thus, under the terms of the Montreal Convention of 1999, compensation for lost or damaged luggage on an international flight is limited to a maximum of roughly $1,900 — a figure that fluctuates because it is tied to the exchange rate of the dollar against various other currencies. For domestic flights, compensation will go to a maximum of $3,000. (Information about lost and damaged baggage is available at

A consumer complaint can be filed with the Department of Transportation/Aviation Consumer Protection Division or take other formal legal action. The loss will need to be well documented and will require such things as proofs of purchase, receipts, photographs, and other proof of ownership. You will need to prove the quantity, size, brands, color and value or each item.


Additional protection against lost or delayed baggage or other travel consequences or unforeseen circumstances that disrupt your travel can be obtained through the purchase of travel insurance. However, travel insurance claims can be difficult to make and are often times denied or minimized by the insurer. Before making a claim:

  • Carefully read and review your policy and make sure you have a right to complain and that your loss is covered under the policy you purchased;
  • Follow the guidelines and required procedures set out in the policy for making a claim. Do not give the insurer a procedural excuse for denying your claim. Watch out for mandatory mediation and arbitration clauses;
  • Document and Keep copies of all email and other correspondence. Memorialize all telephone conversations in writing;
  • Keep the originals of all receipts, evidence and other documents and send copies unless you are required to send the originals, in which case make copies of anything that you send.

Travel insurance claims are often denied, reduced or minimized for the following reasons:

  • The item claimed is excluded under the policy and not covered. Carefully read the exclusion provisions of your policy;
  • The claim amount is in excess of the benefit coverage you purchased;
  • You paid too much for the item, loss or charge you are claiming. An insurer will only refund what they deem to be reasonable costs;
  • You failed to use reasonable care to secure or protect your items ( e.g. you left bags unattended or left them someone you didn’t know and they were lost or stolen);
  • Wear and tear. The insurance does not replace new for old or used items and will only pay the present fair market value taking into consideration the depreciation of value;
  • You left valuables in checked-in luggage that should have been in your carry on bag;
  • You failed to disclose pre existing medical condition that might affect your travel plans when you bought the insurance; and/or
  • You failed to follow the required claims procedures set forth in the issued insurance policy.

The basis for the insurer’s decision is not always reasonable and not always done in good faith or in the best interest of the policyholder. If the insurance company has refused to pay your claim or if you feel that your claim has been improperly denied, adjusted or handled, contact attorney Fredrick S. Schwartz at (818) 986-2407 or for a free consult and evaluation of your claim.