The airline is responsible for safeguarding your checked luggage. However, they do a very terrible job when it comes to keeping it safe sometimes and this can ruin your plans. Not to worry though, because you are not helpless in such a situation.
1. Reach out to the airline immediately: Immediately you receive your bag and you notice signs of damage, you have to notify the airline asap. It is best to do that at the airport immediately since most airlines require in-person notification. You should also snap pictures of the damage to your luggage, snap photos of the luggage barcode tags, create an inventory of the damaged goods, and ascertain the cause of the damage.
2. Visit the airline baggage service office: After you inspect your bag and log in the damage, you have to speak to an airline baggage service representative immediately to avoid coming back to the airport. If you reach out to them via the phone, they might need you to come with your damaged bag to the in-airport baggage service office. You will be given a claim number and might have to complete some paperwork. These forms must be filled to fasten the process.
3. Pay attention to notification deadlines: Some airlines will give you a particular number of hours to report a claim. This is unique to every airline so you must be aware of the deadline to not fall short.
4. Keep every damaged item: Every damaged item, luggage tag should be kept safely until the airlines solve your complaint. You could be asked to mail your damaged items to an inspection center with a prepaid shipping label. Keeping them safe is key to a resolution of the problem.
5. Use credit card baggage insurance: As you already know, insurance helps in cases like this. However, your credit card company might need you to inform them of your damaged baggage within a specific period of time. You might have to provide more documentation to complete the claim process.