There was a time when golf carts were only seen on the green. Today, as cities across the U.S. strive for cleaner living and more serenity, golf carts have become increasingly more prevalent off the golf course. South Carolina in particular is also a popular destination for golfers. Golf Week ranks it number 6 for elite public-access golf courses, while Golf.com rates it the fourth-best state for “golfiness.” With tourists showing up to enjoy golfing in the state, more golf carts have arrived as well.
Unfortunately, operators tend to associate golf carts with leisure vehicles. According to First Edition, over the last two years, an estimated 35,000 golf cart accidents led to emergency room visits. Auger & Auger’s Charleston golf cart accident attorneys have found that most collisions result from inexperienced and underage operators, reckless antics and horseplay, or intoxication of operators.
Golf carts can have many kinds of collisions — with multiple carts, automobiles, pedestrians, golf cart flips and rollovers, or drunk operator accidents. Sharp turns can cause passengers (especially children) to be swiftly ejected from a golf cart because carts that operate in golf course communities are not typically equipped with seat belts or airbags. Carts are also boxy and slightly top-heavy, making them easy to flip. The combination increases the risk of serious injuries for occupants. Our Charleston golf cart accident attorney knows that life-changing disabilities are frequently suffered in these slower-speed vehicles, leading to spinal cord damage and paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, neck injuries, lacerations, and painful bruises, and even death.
Charleston motorists must perceive golf carts as having the same potential for severe injuries in a collision as do cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles. Understanding South Carolina’s golf cart laws may sharpen this perception:
There is no one way these crashes occur as numerous situations may lead to a collision, but here are some common reasons for golf cart accidents:
Depending on the model, your golf cart may be able to safely hold 450 to 800 pounds. If you look up the owner’s manual for your cart, it should tell you the specific number. In general, carrying more than 2-3 passengers is not recommended as more weight in the cart increases the risk of flipping it, especially when going up or down a hill or around curves. Instead, see if there’s another cart available to take some of your potential riders or offer to come back and pick them up after dropping off the first round of passengers.
Even if the cart remains upright and doesn’t collide with anything, people may be seriously injured simply by tumbling out of the cart. Again, these small vehicles have no seat belts, so a sharp turn can throw an unsuspecting passenger out. Some people may fall due to horsing around, riding on the back of the cart, or hanging off the side. To reduce your risk, avoid these risky behaviors as a passenger. If you’re driving and your friends pull any of these antics, stop the cart and tell them you’re not moving until they straighten up. Also, make sure none of your passengers are dangling a foot or arm out of the cart – in some cases, a limb might get caught on something as you pass by, leading to a broken ankle or worse.
Sometimes people think that if they’re a little too buzzed to drive a car, driving a golf cart instead is a safer alternative, but this is not a good idea either. Under South Carolina law, any golf cart you intend to drive on the road has to be registered with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and is considered a motor vehicle. As a result, you can be charged with driving it under the influence as you would in a car. If you cause an accident that injures or kills someone while driving a golf cart under the influence, you can be charged with felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury or death.
Don’t take any chances. If you’re enjoying a few drinks on the golf course like many people do, let someone sober drive the cart. If you’re drinking at home or on vacation and think that a golf cart might be a good way to get around while a little tipsy, it isn’t. Consider calling a ride share or having what you need delivered instead.
Like driving under the influence, distracted driving is also a problem for golf cart operators. If you’re driving on the street, being distracted can lead to an accident with a larger vehicle like a car – but unlike the car’s driver, you’re much more likely to be seriously injured in a small vehicle that lacks seat belts and doors.
And the risks aren’t limited to when you drive a golf cart on the roads. Distractions when driving on a golf course can also be deadly. Remember that golf carts are easy to flip, and there tend to be many people walking around on the green. If you’re staring at your phone or reaching for a sandwich, you could easily run into a pedestrian or drive into a sand trap.
Treat a golf cart like you would your car – don’t use your smartphone while driving it, and avoid other distractions like food or drinks. You can enjoy these things once you’ve safely parked the cart.
This is a complex question that depends on several factors. Your Charleston golf cart accident lawyer may need to spend some time sorting out liability before you can proceed with a claim. They are likely to ask you the following questions:
In an accident between a golf cart and a vehicle, it’s possible the golf cart driver may have been at fault, the car driver may have been responsible, or both drivers may share partial responsibility. South Carolina uses modified comparative negligence statutes, so in a shared fault situation, it is possible for the party who has less than 50 percent responsibility to make a claim on the other party’s insurance. The person who is more than 50 percent responsible is considered mostly at fault and is liable. However, the injured party’s award will be lessened by whatever amount of fault they had.
If you were hurt in a golf cart crash with a vehicle and believe the car driver was at fault, it’s important to seek the assistance of a Charleston golf cart accident attorney right away. They can help you fight back if the other party claims you were to blame for the accident.
Another common situation occurs when a golfer is injured while driving in or riding on a golf cart at their local course or resort. Sometimes parks and other outdoor attractions that involve a lot of walking also offer carts. In most cases, if you’re renting or using a golf cart that belongs to a business, they will probably have you sign a release form or waiver saying that you meet specific requirements (like being at least 16 years old and having a driver’s license), that you will operate the cart responsibility, and that the business isn’t responsible for your injuries if you get in a wreck with the cart. However, these release forms aren’t always enforceable, and in some cases, you may still be able to make a claim against the business anyway. If you’ve had an accident in a rented cart, it’s a good idea to ask for a copy of any documents you signed so your lawyer can look them over.
The question of what caused the accident will also come up again. If the golf cart crashed due to a mechanical failure of the cart, it’s possible the business neglected to properly maintain it, and they may be liable. Sometimes accidents happen due to obstacles on the course or property, such as an unexpected dip or hole in the ground. This may also be the property owner’s liability. On the other hand, if you were driving the cart recklessly and that was why you crashed, it’s unlikely that the business is responsible for your accident.
But what if you were walking along the green, and a golf cart driver came speeding around a sand dune and hit you? In some of these cases, the golf course or business might be responsible, especially if they gave the cart to someone who appeared to be intoxicated or did not meet the minimum requirements for age and licensure. But in most cases, the person driving the cart is probably liable. In some situations, you may be able to seek compensation from both parties. Sometimes there may also be a claim against a third party, such as the manufacturer of a defective component that caused the crash. Or, a company that maintains the grounds may be liable if they caused some issue with the green or landscaping that led to the accident.
If an individual owns a golf cart and lends it to a friend, who then causes an accident, the cart owner’s homeowner’s insurance company may cover damages from the accident. Sometimes the owner may be personally liable if they gave someone permission to use the cart despite that person not meeting requirements – for example, if they let their 13-year-old drive the cart unsupervised. If the golf cart was stolen or taken without the owner’s knowledge, the owner is probably not liable, but their insurance may or may not cover the crash. Often your attorney will need to look into the applicable insurance policies to determine the best path forward.
As you can see, determining liability in golf cart collisions can be complicated and requires the help of an experienced golf cart attorney. We recommend contacting one as soon as possible to learn your options for seeing compensation.
Since 1994 Auger & Auger has put our clients at the top of our list; in customer care, advocating for your rights, offering a zero-fee guarantee, and winning cases that compensate you for your physical and financial losses. A Charleston golf cart accident attorney is always ready to take your call for a free consultation. As with any collision, especially involving severe injury to you or your loved one, it is vital to establish the parameters of your case immediately.
Call (843) 751-4690 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!