Golf Cart Accidents and Liability
Golf carts are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in Georgetown, downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Myrtle Beach and other communities throughout South Carolina. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 15,000 golf cart-related injuries are serious enough to necessitate an emergency room visit occur in the United States every year. Unfortunately, like motorcycle accidents, when a person or family is involved in a golf cart accident, these accidents often cause catastrophic injuries as golf carts lack safety features available in most automobiles.
In a journal published in The American Surgeon, Dr. Antonio Pepe of Grand Strand Surgical Care in Horry County, South Carolina, reported that 75% of the golf cart-related injuries identified in his study required hospital admission. According to Dr. Pepe “[m]ore importantly, and more dramatically, we’ve seen a lot of head-related injuries… these vary from minor to severe concussions, to severe brain injuries, mild concussion and moderate brain injury, and even severe brain injury.” According to the journal, 13% of the patients injured required admission to the intensive care unit.
Although sometimes these golf cart accidents are truly unpreventable, many are the result of negligence of another person or the driver of the golf cart. In these cases, the person injured in the golf cart accident may be entitled to compensation for the medical bills, pain and suffering, and in some situations, punitive damages. It is important to consult with an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer who can explain the process and determine what available insurance coverage exists.
When consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine whether or not to pursue a case, there are many factors that have to be explored and investigated. It is important to quickly contact an experienced personal injury attorney familiar with golf cart liability as it can be crucial to preserve evidence and start the process of seeking medical treatment. For example, if you are the owner of the golf cart, it may need to be preserved in the appropriate manner to later be inspected by liability experts and engineers. If you are not the owner of the golf cart, it may be appropriate to have an experienced photographer or investigator take photographs of the golf cart that can be used in litigation.
Below is a list of some questions that will need to be discussed when consulting with an attorney:
When and where did the golf cart accident occur?
In South Carolina, you can only drive a golf cart during daylight hours. During these hours, you can drive on secondary highways or streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. You can cross a highway or street at an intersection even if the highway or street being crossed has a speed limit of greater than 35 mph. As such, it must be determined whether the driver of the golf cart was operating the golf cart lawfully.
Additionally, it is important to determine where the accident occurred. If the accident occurs on private property, this may trigger additional insurance coverage applicable to the property owner. For example, if the driver is a golf course employee, the golf course itself may be at fault, triggering whatever insurance the golf course maintains. Additionally, if the golf cart accident occurred on a farm, there may home owner insurance coverage or a commercial general liability policy in place applicable to your claim. Your attorney should be able to determine how much insurance coverage is in place for the injury.
Who owns and maintains the golf cart and is it registered?
Additionally, for the purpose of establishing liability and determining the amount of available insurance coverage, it is particularly important to know who owns and maintains the golf cart. In South Carolina, particularly on public land, the golf cart must be registered through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. In order to register the golf cart, the owner must complete the following through the DMV:
- Submit a completed Golf Cart Permit Decal and Registration Application (Form GC-2).
- Provide proof of insurance for the golf cart.
- Submit a SC driver’s license number (and the driver’s license number of all other drivers of the cart).
- Pay the $5 fee.
By determining who registered and owns the golf cart, your attorney can determine how much insurance coverage is available for your injuries.
If the accident was caused by a problem with the golf cart itself, the golf course, country club, or individual who owns the golf cart may be liable for failing to properly maintain it. Similarly, if a specific person often uses the golf cart and did not report potential damage or wear, they may be responsible.
Were alcohol or drugs involved?
Unfortunately, alcohol is one of the major risk factors for golf cart injuries as there is a common misconception that a slower vehicle, like a golf cart, decreases the likelihood of serious injury. According to the report, Golf cart-related injuries: A community at risk, the patients who presented with golf cart injuries were screened for alcohol and nearly 40% of the patients had evidence of alcohol intoxication.
A driver who is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle or golf cart is most likely liable for any accident that occurs, but if they were over-served (especially if the driver is underage), the provider of the alcohol may also be liable under South Carolina Dram Shop laws. These are situations your experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer should investigate.
Some auto insurance companies offer specialized golf cart insurance coverage, but even those claims can be denied. Whether your golf cart accident is covered by homeowner’s insurance, motorcycle insurance, car insurance or another party’s property liability insurance, golf cart liability coverage can be a challenge to prove. When a severe golf cart accident injury has occurred, such as an occupant who suffered traumatic head injuries after being ejected from a golf cart, any ambulance, hospital, surgery and rehabilitation bills can be financially devastating.
Contact a South Carolina Golf Cart Accident Attorney
While these are some of the most pertinent questions that help determine liability, in most cases, many factors will be involved. That’s why it can help to consult an experienced South Carolina accident lawyer about any golf cart accident liability questions. If you or a loved one has been injured in a golf cart accident, call Evans Moore, LLC today at (843) 995-5000 for a free consultation on your case. As experienced South Carolina golf accident attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to quickly help you determine who is most at fault and help you pursue an effective claim.