Golf is a popular sport. Many business deals and partnerships are formed on the golf course and golf professionals remain some of the most highly paid athletes in the world. However, avid golfers may be surprised to learn that golf cart accidents are more common—and can be much more serious—than they expect.
Why Are Golf Carts Dangerous?
A study published in the Journal of Safety Research found that approximately 156,040 patients were sent to the emergency department for injuries involving golf carts from 2007 to 2017. The rate of injuries in seniors increased by 67.6 percent over the decade, with 8.06 per 100,000 seniors sustaining golf cart-related injuries.
Aside from adults and seniors, the statistics are worrying for children as well. Children are involved in at least a third of all golf cart crashes. And the average rate of traumatic brain injuries incurred by children as a result of golf cart accidents is over triple that of adults.
Golf carts look like cute and harmless little vehicles, but they can be quite substantial. While most golf carts are made for two to four, certain large models seat up to eight passengers and weigh a whopping 1,500 pounds. These giant golf carts can carry their weight in load, which means that a fully-loaded cart would weigh the same as a small automobile; That is a lot of damaging power!
Golf carts can also achieve speeds of up to 19 miles per hour. While this does not sound particularly fast, it is more than enough to result in a serious impact incident. Golf carts generally do not have ample safety features such as doors, signal lights, safety belts, or side mirrors. Therefore, nearly 40 percent of golf cart injuries are a result of passengers being flung from the cart. The zippy little vehicles are also prone to tipping over and rolling, particularly when making sharp turns or driving over uneven terrain.
In 2016, the European crash test agency, Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Program), crash-tested a golf cart. The vehicles were found to have little to no side protection, meaning that side impact directly hit the dummy’s legs. For frontal collisions, the front end of the cart collapsed entirely, sending the steering column into the chest of the dummy. Of course, the tests were performed at higher than normal speeds, but the lack of safety features remains a cause for concern.
Who is Liable for the Accident?
There are many reasons why a golf cart accident could have happened, and, similarly, many individuals or entities could be liable. If you have been injured in a golf cart accident, you should speak to an attorney who will examine the facts of the case and determine who should be held responsible.
The first question to ask is, “who was driving the golf cart?” Drivers are generally more liable than passengers for any accidents that occur. If the driver of the golf cart was displaying irresponsible behavior or intoxicated, then they could be liable for the accident. If the driver was a minor, then their parent or guardian may be held responsible.
Likewise, if the driver was an employee of the golf course, then you could hold both the employee and the golf course at fault. Under the terms of vicarious liability, a supervisory party (such as the golf course) can bear responsibility for the negligent conduct of their subordinate.
If you were driving the golf cart that met with an accident due to unsafe conditions on a country club or any other property, you can hold the premises liable. Course owners have a duty of care to the public to ensure that their environment is free of hazards. For example, if you roll your golf cart due to an extremely steep hill or a poorly paved road, the property owner can be liable for not maintaining safe conditions.
Additionally, the owner of the golf cart has a duty of care to ensure that it is safe to operate. Therefore, should your accident have been caused by a defect with the golf cart itself, then the owner of the golf cart may be found liable for failing to perform appropriate maintenance. Sometimes, course owners can be held responsible for tasking unqualified staff such as golf caddies to maintain their vehicles.
Golf cart or country club owners can also be liable for accidents if they do not provide proper advice on the dangers associated with using a golf cart. They should also inform users on how to safely operate and control golf carts. There are often waivers that users have to sign before renting a golf cart, but these have little legal standing and can be considered void on the grounds of public policy.
If you have been injured in a golf cart accident, the best thing to do is to consult with an attorney familiar with golf cart injury cases. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, the attorney can recommend how you can seek compensation from the liable parties and get justice for your accident.