Warning! Every state has different laws regarding golf cart accidents. This article focuses on golf cart accidents in Florida.
Table of contents
- Do you have a case if a car hits you while you’re in a golf cart in Florida?
- What types of damages can you recover in the above scenario?
- $10K Settlement after car hits security guard in Dolphin Mall parking lot
- Is a golf cart owner liable for the golf cart driver’s negligence in Florida?
- Is the golf cart owner still liable if the golf cart is driven on a private road or golf course?
- Can a Community Association be Liable for issuing a license to some under the age of fourteen who drivers a golf cart and causes someone else’s injury?
- Can a parent be liable for letting their 14 year old (or younger) child drive a golf cart that the parent doesn’t own, and the child causes someone’s injury?
- Is the insurer of the golf cart’s owner obligated under the financial responsibility statutes to provide primary liability coverage for a permissive operator of the golf cart?
- Is a golf cart a motor vehicle for purposes of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law?
- How to you determine the priority of insurance that covers the operator of a golf cart whose negligence caused someone’s injury?
- Actual Florida golf cart accident and injury cases
- Is someone who negligently drives a golf cart and injures you liable for your damages?
- Will your first party coverage pay for some of your damages?
- Will the homeowner or renters insurance of the negligent golf cart driver pay for your damages?
- If a minor child carelessly drives a golfcart and injures someone in Florida, can you sue the minor child?
Do you have a case if a car hits you while you’re in a golf cart in Florida?
Yes, if the driver’s negligence caused your injury. Florida’s confusing no-fault laws do not apply if you were hurt while in a golf cart.
You have a straight tort claim against the car driver, owner and other parties who you can sue.
What types of damages can you recover in the above scenario?
You can recover damages for:
- Past Lost Income
- Future lost income reduced to present value
- Medical expenses (Past and Future)
- Replacement value of lost personal property (e.g. broken glasses, broken watch, etc.)
- Funeral expenses
- Reimbursement for mileage to and from medical appointments
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.
- Punitive Damages (if the vehicle driver was drunk, etc.)
This type of case is most similar to a motorcycle accident case in Florida.
$10K Settlement after car hits security guard in Dolphin Mall parking lot
I settled a case for $10,000 where a car backed into my client, a security guard, while he was on a golf cart. He was on his golf cart in the Dolphin Mall parking lot.
Allstate insured the at fault driver with $10,000 in bodily injury (BI) liability insurance.
My client was not covered under any policies that provided uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Dolphin Mall is located in Sweetwater, Florida west of Doral and Miami.
Is a golf cart owner liable for the golf cart driver’s negligence in Florida?
Yes. In Florida, a golf cart is a dangerous instrumentality. Meister v. Fisher, 462 So.2d 1071, 1072 (Fla.1984). Therefore, the owner is liable for damages caused by the driver’s negligence in Florida.
However, if a company rents a golf cart to you, and you let a friend drive and he/she crashes, the golf cart company is not automatically liable to you just because it owns the golf cart. You must prove that the golf cart company’s failure to maintain the cart was the cause of your injury.
You still have a personal injury claim against your friend. You should make a claim with your friend’s homeowner’s insurance and his/her auto insurance.
In addition, your uninsured motorist insurance may cover you for your injuries.
Is the golf cart owner still liable if the golf cart is driven on a private road or golf course?
Yes. A golf cart is a dangerous instrumentality whether driven on a private road or golf course, or on a public road. Therefore, the owner is liable for damages caused by the driver’s negligence on public or private property.
The Supreme Court reasoned that virtually any motor vehicle sufficiently dangerous to be regulated by the legislature is also sufficiently dangerous to be subjected to court-imposed liability under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. As a result of the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, a golf cart owner generally has unlimited vicarious liability for the negligence of any permissive operator.
Can a Community Association be Liable for issuing a license to some under the age of fourteen who drivers a golf cart and causes someone else’s injury?
Yes. This is true even if the community association did not own, lease or control the golf cart involved in the accident.
For example, someone under the age of 14 may be issued a license by the community association to operate a golf cart on its property. They may operate the golf cart in an unqualified, careless fashion resulting in a collision which caused “severe personal injury” to another.
A community association’s act of issuing a license to someone under 14 child creates a foreseeable zone of risk giving rise to a duty owed by the community association to the injured person (as an inhabitant of the property the association manages, at least in part).
It is within the foreseeable zone of risk that an untrained minor might operate a golf cart incompetently and injure a third-party. As such, an association has a legal duty to either “lessen the risk or see that sufficient precautions are taken to protect others from the harm that the risk posed.”
The injured person can claim that the community association failed to exercise reasonable care in licensing drivers such as someone under 14 years old who were without the reasonable qualifications, training, instruction, screening, or supervision.
Additionally, the injured person can argue that the community association failed to adequately supervise and/or instruct individuals it knew would be operating golf carts, and failed to exercise reasonable care by authorizing individuals, including minors, who were inexperienced drivers, to operate golf carts alone on roadways and paths shared by pedestrians and bicyclists.
If you suffer damages because a golf cart driver who is under the age of 14 hit you, you may be able to recover damages for bodily injury, pain and suffering, disability, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money, and aggravation of a previously existing condition.
Again, this is true even if the community association did not own, lease or control the golf cart involved in the accident.
Most claims settle before trial. However, if it doesn’t, a jury will determine whether adequately qualifying, training, instructing, screening, or otherwise supervising individuals granted golf car licenses constitutes reasonable care under the circumstances.
The duty imposed is no different than in any negligence action — reasonable care under the circumstances.
Seale v. Ocean Reef Club, Inc., District Court, Southern District Florida, 2013 is the case that stated the above laws.
Can a parent be liable for letting their 14 year old (or younger) child drive a golf cart that the parent doesn’t own, and the child causes someone’s injury?
The judge was Cecilia M. Altonaga.
Is the insurer of the golf cart’s owner obligated under the financial responsibility statutes to provide primary liability coverage for a permissive operator of the golf cart?
No. Although a golf cart is a dangerous instrumentality and, thus, its owner generally has unlimited vicarious liability for its permissive operation, it is not a motor vehicle subject to Florida statutory financial responsibility. The case that said this is Am. States Ins. Co. v. Baroletti, 566 So.2d 314 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990).
Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal gave the opinion in that case.
There are fourteen counties in the Second District, which include: Pasco & Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hendry, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier and Lee.
The golf cart owner’s insurer is not primarily liable as a matter of law for all operators.
Is a golf cart a motor vehicle for purposes of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law?
No. A golf cart is not a motor vehicle for the purposes of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law. § 627.732(1), Fla. Stat. This means that if you are injured while occupying a golf cart in Florida, you are not entitled to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits.
How to you determine the priority of insurance that covers the operator of a golf cart whose negligence caused someone’s injury?
The priority of coverage and the duty to defend the operator of a golf cart should be determined by the language of the relevant insurance policies. Am. States Ins. Co. v. Baroletti, 566 So.2d 314 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990).
Careful attention should be paid to the “other insurance” clauses. Fowler; Sentry Ins. Co. v. Aetna Ins. Co., 450 So.2d 1233 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984).
Actual Florida golf cart accident and injury cases
In the Am. States case, on November 12, 1987, Ms. Tilton rented a golf cart from Holiday Hotel Corporation, d/b/a Rolling Green Golf Course (Rolling Green).
Rolling Green owned the golf cart. While Ms. Tilton was operating the golf cart on the golf course, she allegedly ran over Mrs. Baroletti, causing injuries. Mr. and Mrs. Baroletti sued Ms. Tilton and Rolling Green.
Between the two defendants, three insurance policies appear to provide coverage to one or both defendants. Ms. Tilton has a policy on a mobile home in Florida and a homeowners policy on a house in another state. These policies are provided by Prudential and Selective and contain liability coverage for Ms. Tilton’s benefit.
Rolling Green has a business general liability policy through American States which covers its risk on the golf cart. The court did not have the insurance policies, so it could not determine if the American States policy, by its terms, provides coverage to Ms. Tilton, or whether her two insurance carriers provide coverage to Rolling Green.
Is someone who negligently drives a golf cart and injures you liable for your damages?
Will your first party coverage pay for some of your damages?
As in any personal injury case, you should put any available first party coverage on notice of the claim as this coverage may pay for your damages. First party coverage includes, but is not limited, to:
Will the homeowner or renters insurance of the negligent golf cart driver pay for your damages?
It should if the golf cart driver did not own the golf cart. Some insurers have excluded golf carts from coverage in a homeowners insurance policy, so you should read the policy very carefully.
Here’s some information that I learned from a USAA Insurance Company homeowner’s insurance agent:
If someone owned a golf cart, and it was used to drive in the street, the owner would need to have it listed on their auto insurance policy in order for their to be coverage. If it isn’t listed on their auto insurance policy, USAA says they’ll deny liability coverage.
If they have it listed on their auto policy, and the have it listed on their personal umbrella insurance policy, then both of those policies should provide coverage. This is what USAA sales agents say in Florida.
If someone owns a golf cart, but they just use it on their property, their homeowners insurance should provide coverage. For example, if someone has a several acre lot and they use their golf cart to get around the big property, their homeowners insurance should provide coverage. This is the position that USAA sales agents take in Florida.
If a minor child carelessly drives a golfcart and injures someone in Florida, can you sue the minor child?
Yes. You can sue a minor just like anybody else – in their own name and in their individual capacity.
The fact of minority does not prevent the court from exercising jurisdiction over their person. However, Rule 1.210(b) requires that the court appoint a GAL for a minor defendant once joined as a party.
Service is another matter – you have to serve the minor through the parent or legal guardian. See FS 48.031 and 48.041.
 It is significant that golf carts are defined as motor vehicles in the chapters of Florida Statutes concerning traffic control and motor vehicle licenses, in order to exempt them from licensure, and to generally ban them from the highway. §§ 316.212, 320.105, Fla. Stat. (1987). The fact that golf carts are not typically used on roads and highways does not alter the fact that they are dangerous instrumentalities. Meister v. Fisher, 462 So.2d 1071, 1073 (Fla. 1984). It does, however, place them outside the purposes of financial responsibility and no-fault coverage. §§ 324.011, 627.731, Fla. Stat. (1987).
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