If my rental car is totaled in a natural disaster such as a hurricane, who is responsible?

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If my rental car is totaled in a natural disaster such as a hurricane, who is responsible?

I was in a rental vehicle and it was flooded in
the recent hurricanes now the rental company
is billing me the full amount of the car. Is there
anything I can do… I do it feel I am responsible
for this vehicle as it was a natural disaster and
also by law doesn’t the rental company have to
have insurance in every vehicle they put on the
road?

Asked on February 15, 2017 under Accident Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It doesn't matter if they had insurance: even if someone has insurance, they are allowed to go after a person who is otherwise obligated to pay, rather than putting it through insurance--the law does not require them use their insurance. (Or if they do use insurance, they could still sue someone otherwise liable to pay to recover their deductible or any other amounts not paid or covered by insurance).
The issue is: are you liable. You would only be liable if one or both of the following occured:
1) You agreed to be liable contractually. Review the rental agreement you signed: if it stated that you would be responsible for the damage in a situation like this, then they can seek the money from you; you agreed in writing to pay.
2) If you were at fault in some way--such as by leaving the windows in the car open, so the rain got in that way, or by parking a car in a known low-lying or prone-to-flooding area while a hurricane was coming, since doing so would be negligent, or careless.
However, if you did not contractually agree to be liable, and also were not negligent or otherwise at fault, you would not have to pay for damage due a storm or natural disaster.


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