Golf carts are small utility task vehicles that golfers and golf course personnel use as a form of transport on a golf course.
Most golf carts seat 2-4 people. They are not seatbelt-equipped, but they can reach moderate speeds. Golf carts are responsible for roughly 15,000 emergency room visits each year—some accidents turning fatal.
Many golf carts are modified beyond their stock capabilities, paving the way for much faster and more dangerous carts than those rolling off the production line. Teenagers and children account for roughly one-third of all golf cart accidents and injuries.
This high statistic is partly because teens in several states can operate golf carts at 13 and 14 years of age. Below are a few scenarios in which many golf cart accidents occur:
- Loss of control of the golf cart, resulting in a rollover or collision with an object or person;
- Collision with another golf cart;
- Collision with a golfer or other pedestrian; or
- Collision with objects such as trees, walls, poles, or water features.
Any of the above accidents can result in serious bodily injury. Injuries can range from contusions and cuts to broken bones and head, back, and neck injuries.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Golf Cart Injury?
Golf cart injury liability can extend to the driver, the manufacturer of the vehicle, and the golf course owner. If the driver acted negligently or recklessly while operating the vehicle, they might be held liable. If the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the injury occurred, additional liability could result.
If the accident occurred due to faulty mechanical parts or issues with the brakes or engine, the victim might sue the golf cart manufacturer. If the golf course owner knew of the problematic cart and still allowed golfers to use it, they, too, could be held liable.
Are There Any Legal Remedies for a Golf Cart Accident?
A victim of a golf cart accident may sue for damages if there is a liable party. Compensatory damages may be awarded to a victim for medical costs and hospital bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If the injury occurred due to a product defect, it might be possible to file a class-action lawsuit if other people were similarly affected. A recall for the defective product may also be issued.
What Qualifies as a Golf Cart?
Understanding what qualifies as a golf cart could be useful to prove your personal injury case. While liability issues involving golf cart accidents are similar to those in motor vehicle collisions, there are important differences regarding issues like insurance.
What qualifies as a golf cart varies by state. Still, most jurisdictions consider a golf cart as any motor vehicle designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting purposes. Some states do not allow golf carts to exceed speeds of 20 miles per hour. The registration of golf carts in some states is governed by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Can Golf Carts Drive on Public Streets?
In some states, golf cart drivers are legally permitted to drive on public streets. In areas where this is allowed, carts may only be allowed on roads within a certain range of local golf courses.
Standard regulations for driving carts on public streets may include:
- The cart cannot go above 30 miles per hour
- The cart may not carry more than five passengers
- Weight regulations
There are many contexts in which these carts may be useful for traveling, aside from golf courses. Some of these include:
- Retirement communities
- Tourist and vacation areas
- Getaways and resorts
- Other recreation areas
Traffic laws regarding golf carts are determined at the state and local levels.
When golf carts are driven on public roadways, they are typically subject to the same traffic laws as other vehicles. Driving a golf cart on a public street increases the risk of serious crashes and severe injuries.
When a golf cart collides with a car or truck, those in the cart face a high possibility of serious injury.
Examples of Golf Cart Negligence
Negligence could lead to a golf cart accident. A driver could operate a golf cart while intoxicated or travel at unsafe speeds. They could also drive aggressively, putting bystanders at serious risk of injury. It is possible to file a civil lawsuit against the negligent operator in these cases.
When Will I Have a Case Against the Owner of a Golf Cart?
In some situations, the golf cart owner may not be the same individual that operated the vehicle at the time of the accident. Regardless of whether the golf cart owner was present at the scene of the crash, you could have a viable case for compensation against them.
Under some state laws, golf carts are considered “dangerous instrumentalities.” In some states, because of this designation, a golf cart owner could face indirect liability for an accident, even if they were not involved.
What Should I Do After a Golf Cart Accident?
After any type of accident, the people who are involved are usually shaken and unsure of what actions to take.
It is important to take appropriate steps after being involved in any vehicular accident.
After a golf cart accident:
- Contact the Authorities: contacting the authorities following a golf cart crash is crucial. Calling the authorities will ensure that a police officer and any necessary medical personnel arrive quickly. The police will write a report detailing the circumstances of the collision. A police report will be important if you decide to pursue compensation for your damages.
- Gather Witness Accounts: Look for anyone who has witnessed the accident. Collect brief descriptions of the accident from witnesses, along with their names and basic contact information. If you decide to pursue legal action, witness testimony may be useful in securing the maximum compensation possible.
- Document the Scene of the Accident: Take photos with your phone of any property damage, resulting injuries, street signs and intersections, and street or roadway obstructions or hazards.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Assistance with a Golf Cart Accident Claim?
Suppose you have been injured in a golf cart accident and know that it was due to negligent circumstances from another person or the course. In that case, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of your best course of action, build your case, and represent your best interests in court.
Pursuing a lawsuit against the owner of a golf cart could be your best path towards fair compensation.
One benefit of pursuing compensation from the golf cart owner is that they could have an insurance policy in place. Insurance coverage is common for commercial entities that borrow or rent golf carts. If you were injured by a golf cart owned by an apartment complex or golf course, you could be entitled to pursue a claim through their insurance policy.
It is important to remember that success with golf cart accident claims is never guaranteed. A personal injury lawyer could help you pursue a civil lawsuit or insurance claim against the owner of a golf cart.