Passsengers On Exploded Megabus Get Inadequate Compensation For Bags, Can’t Get Legal Help

Image courtesy of The Frugal Traveler

When a Minneapolis-bound Megabus caught fire and exploded last month in the suburbs of Chicago, no passengers were injured. Their baggage, however, was destroyed, and that’s how they learned how difficult it is to get compensation when everything in your bag has burned up in a bus explosion. Even having a travel writer for the New York Times on board isn’t enough to recuperate the full value of everything they brought on the bus.

It’s not just a few pairs of pants and a laptop that we’re talking about here. One passenger had everything he owned in the bus’s baggage hold, since he and his brother were using the discount bus service to move. People generally don’t buy travel insurance with baggage protection when they’re taking an $11 bus ride from Chicago to Minneapolis, but maybe we should.

Megabus caps the value of the baggage they’ll cover at $250, and offered $400-500 to people who were part of the Lake Forest bus explosion. Passengers argued that the contents of their bags were at least double that, but Megabus wasn’t about to budge, even if the passenger could show receipts.

Frugal Traveler columnist Lucas Peterson and other passengers found themselves arguing over replacement value and depreciation with Megabus representatives. (Do you have to replace a new computer with another new one, or a similar one that’s used? What about a pair of used jeans?)

Here was the dilemma: losing possessions worth thousands of dollars was at best a huge hassle and at worst a hardship for the passengers, but there isn’t legal help for people in that situation. The relatively small amount at stake mean that no lawyers would be interested, and Megabus would be able to argue about depreciation of destroyed items in small claims court.

Should the bus have pulled over as soon as they smelled smoke? The driver said that he had radioed for a replacement bus, then kept on driving. After the explosion, he claimed that he had been looking for a safe place to pull over, and Megabus representatives backed him up, saying that was the correct thing to do.

After a Fire, Megabus Passengers Stranded on Compensation [New York Times]