Lost bag reimbursement rate not as much for buses

June 25, 2012 10:17:28 PM PDT
If an airline loses your luggage, you could be eligible for thousands of dollars in compensation, but as 7 On Your Side finds out it's a much different story, if you're taking the bus.

"I said, 'Oh man, now I'm in really deep doodoo,'" said San Pablo resident Dennis Christian.

That's how Christian felt when he missed the bus that was going to take him from Oakland to Wichita, Kansas for cancer treatments where his family lives. He had returned from the bathroom at the Greyhound station to discover the bus had left without him. But on the bus were his wallet, his luggage and every piece of clothing he owned.

"I'm stranded. I'm stuck. No food, no money, no nothing," said Christian.

Christian took the next bus to Wichita. In the meantime he called ahead to the station in Kansas to let Greyhound know his luggage was on that earlier bus.

"I said, 'Did such and such bus come in?' And they said 'Nope.' I said, 'Well, my luggage was all on it,' and he said, 'Well, it's not here,'" said Christian.

Christian filled out a claim form. In his luggage were several new jackets and a family heirloom, his grandfather's Bible dating back to 1937.

"It's all documented in there and everything. All the documentations of him being a preacher and everything, which were irreplaceable," said Christian.

Christian estimated he lost at least $1,000 worth of stuff. Unfortunately, Greyhound's maximum reimbursement is just $250. The Interstate Commerce Act allows bus companies to set their own reimbursement rates.

"In this case they say, 'We're not paying more than $250,'" said travel attorney Al Anolik.

Anolik is a noted travel attorney in San Francisco. He says anyone carrying more than that in their luggage should buy insurance.

"You could get $1,000 worth by paying another $16, but they didn't tell this passenger. He didn't know that he was limited. Who knows about the Interstate Commerce Act?" said Anolik.

Christian has since returned from his treatments in Kansas and doctors in the Bay Area continue to monitor him to make sure the cancer stays in remission. Meantime he's spent most of his savings on his health care and lives in a van.

"Well, God has blessed me with my health and he's blessed me with the ability to put something together for myself," said Christian.

Whatever compensation Christian can get for his lost luggage would be helpful. A year came and went and he still hadn't received it, so he called 7 On Your Side and we contacted Greyhound.

In an email statement, they told us, "We strive to provide resolutions and refunds in a timely manner and regret that did not happen in this case. Greyhound apologized and Christian has received a check for $250."

Bus passengers do have one additional remedy. If you can prove negligence, you could win in small claims court.


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