Who is Liable When a Car Catches Fire in a Parking Lot?

Imagine returning to a parking lot only to find your car engulfed in flames—your vehicle, a victim of an unexpected fire. Who bears responsibility for such a loss? This question becomes quite an interesting information to have, especially in light of recent events like the parking lot fire near Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA T3).

In the case of the NAIA T3 parking lot fire, which destroyed 19 vehicles, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has made it clear that they disclaim liability due to the area being leased to a private concessionaire. This raises the question: if not MIAA, then who?

who is liable car catch fire parking lot

Understanding Liability

Liabilities in cases of parking fires refer to the legal responsibilities or obligations that individuals or entities may have when a fire occurs in a parking facility, particularly if vehicles are damaged or destroyed as a result. These liabilities can involve determining who is at fault or negligent in causing the fire, which is essential for establishing accountability and potential compensation for affected parties. Depending on the circumstances, liabilities can shift based on the circumstances surrounding the fire. It might fall on the parking management or lot owners if their actions or negligence contributed to the fire, such as inadequate fire prevention measures or failure to maintain a safe environment.

Furthermore, liabilities in parking fire cases encompass the legal repercussions and financial obligations that may arise from property damage or personal injury resulting from the fire. This could involve legal claims, insurance disputes, or civil lawsuits to determine fault and seek compensation for losses incurred. Understanding liabilities in such cases is crucial for all parties involved, including parking facility operators, vehicle owners, insurance providers, and legal professionals, to navigate the complexities of liability laws and ensure fair resolution and accountability in the aftermath of a parking lot fire.

Photo credit: Annie Dogillo/ Facebook

Legal Perspectives

When it comes to legal responsibilities regarding fortuitous or unforeseen events like parking fires, the general rule is that no person shall be held responsible for events that could not have been foreseen or prevented. This principle is outlined in Article 1174 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. However, if human intervention or negligence contributes to such events, liability may shift to those responsible for causing or exacerbating the situation.

Some of the factors that come into consideration in terms of liabilities under the legal perspective include:

Contractual Agreements

Many parking facilities display signs or issue tickets with disclaimers stating they are not liable for loss or damage to vehicles and belongings. However, these disclaimers might not hold up in court under certain conditions, especially if negligence or failure in duty is proven. The enforceability of such disclaimers can be challenged under certain circumstances.

Legal Counsel Insights

Legal professionals emphasize that parking management or lot owners can indeed be held liable depending on the circumstances leading to the fire. Factors like negligence, warranty obligations, and the nature of the incident play crucial roles in determining liability.

Force Majeure and Human Intervention

While unforeseeable events (force majeure) like natural fires are typically exempt from liability, human intervention or negligence can shift responsibility back to the management or operators of the parking facility.

Warranties and Responsibilities

Legal experts emphasize that concessionaires and parking lot operators can be held liable based on their warranties and responsibilities. If they fail to uphold their duty to maintain a safe environment, they may be liable for damages resulting from a fire or similar incidents.

The Role of Insurance

If your vehicle is involved in a parking lot fire, having comprehensive insurance coverage is a good thing. Insurance policies often cover unforeseen events, usually including fire-related damages, enabling vehicle owners to seek compensation for losses incurred. It’s necessary to understand your insurance policy and report any incidents promptly to your provider.


Insurance law allows for subrogation, meaning that if you experience a covered loss, your insurance provider can pay you, the policyholder, and then step into your shoes to pursue legal action or file a claim on your behalf. Essentially, the insurance company assumes your rights and can seek reimbursement for the amount they paid out, depending on your policy’s coverage and exclusions. This underscores the importance of thoroughly reviewing your insurance policy before signing to understand these terms and conditions of your insurance coverage.

Challenges Without Insurance

If you don’t have insurance, then things can get a bit more complicated. While authorities investigate, it’s hard to draw conclusions until specific findings come out. This can turn into a situation where everyone points fingers, and figuring out who’s responsible can be really tough. Having said that, proving negligence or establishing the proximate cause of the fire becomes essential but challenging and would require legal representation. It could lead to a long legal battle because no one would want to foot the bill for damage to the affected vehicles. 

The law also requires the person alleging negligence to prove it. This can involve exploring various scenarios, including the remote possibility of someone intentionally starting the fire. Basically, the person suing has to show that the damage wouldn’t have happened without the defendant’s actions or negligence—easier said than done.

Proximate Cause

Determining liability is tricky due to the concept of proximate cause. Proving liability often involves establishing the proximate cause—what directly led to the damage. Proximate cause means proving a direct connection between the damage and someone’s fault or negligence. Was it negligence, an unforeseeable act, or a combination of factors?

Think about it—could the incident have been caused by someone leaving their engine running over dry grass? Or maybe it was due to poor car maintenance resulting in flammable fluid leaks? There’s even a wild chance that a bystander threw a cigarette onto dry bushes. Or could this be considered an act of nature, like a rare lightning strike? Until you have more information and the courts weigh in, there are more questions than answers.

Video: Who’s liable in the NAIA T3 Parking Fire

Watch as Attorney DJ Jimenez, the law expert behind the social media account, “Pinoy Street Lawyer,” sheds some light regarding liability in the case of the recent parking fire near NAIA Terminal 3 in this video from One News PH.


Liability in parking lot fires hinges on various legal, contractual, and investigative factors. While disclaimers may attempt to absolve parking management from responsibility, legal experts say that ensuring you have adequate insurance coverage and understanding your legal rights is crucial. If you find yourself in such a situation, you must seek legal guidance to help you navigate the complexities of liability and compensation. Once negligence or a breach of duty is established, those responsible for the parking facility could be held liable for damages caused by such incidents.

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