Air Travel, Wheelchair Damage and Adequate Insurance

I get a lot of mail about wheelchairs that were damaged by the airlines. I’ve also read a lot of misinformation about the airlines’ legal responsibility, in the event they damage a wheelchair. So I thought I’d set the record straight and remind folks of the facts.

First and foremost, remember that the airlines are not responsible for the full replacement cost of your wheelchair, should they damage it. On US domestic flights, their maximum liability limit is the original purchase price of the assistive device. So for example, if you paid $3500 for your wheelchair seven years ago, but it would costs $5000 to replace it today; then the airline is only responsible for the $3500.

Who is responsible for the rest? That would be you.

Which is why you need to read your insurance policy very carefully. In many cases a homeowners policy will cover your personal property wherever you travel; however some policies also exclude assistive devices. If that’s the case for you, then you need to buy a high deductible policy that covers your assistive device when you travel. Talk to you insurance agent about this, as it’s often cheaper to buy an annual policy, than to purchase extra travel insurance from a travel agent for each trip.

And if you’re traveling internationally, the Warsaw Convention addresses airline liability limits. And those limits are set at a skimpy $9.07 per pound for checked baggage. So if you have an expensive ultra lightweight manual wheelchair, you won’t be compensated nearly enough to actually replace it.

Oh sure, some airlines have gone above and beyond and actually replaced damaged wheelchairs, even though they weren’t legally required to do so. But ‘I look for that practice to stop in these tough economic times. After all, nobody is looking for ways to fork out extra money these days — especially the airlines,

So read your insurance policy and see if you’re covered. If not, then find adequate coverage before your next trip. Otherwise you may find yourself saddled with a hefty repair bill for damage you didn’t even cause.

Plan ahead, and make sure you are adequately insured. In the end it will save you time, money and lots of frustration.