Carts pull, and cars propel, yet somehow the original golf cart was mislabeled as a “golf car.” In fact, these machines are still considered to be cars by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) because they are self-propelled vehicles, whether powered by electricity, the sun, or gasoline.
Unfortunately, operators still regard golf carts as cars without respecting the relative risk potential. According to Jana Lynott, Senior Policy Advisor with AARP, people who operate golf carts on public roads are as vulnerable as pedestrians and bicyclists. That’s because these carts are smaller than a typical car and lack many safety features a passenger vehicle has.
Our Greenville golf cart accident attorney with Auger & Auger finds that most of the accidents involving golf carts can be attributed to someone’s negligence. Distracted driving, reckless operation, and impaired driving have all resulted in golf cart accidents in South Carolina.
A golf cart accident is not a minor incident. We have all stubbed a toe or tripped over a crack in the pavement, yet merely rolling your golf cart into another vehicle, a sign, or a building can wreak havoc on your body. Spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, and broken bones are common injuries sustained in these low-speed collisions. Injuries from falling out of or being ejected from a golf cart can also be quite serious. Auger & Auger has extensive experience with golf cart injuries and we know they can be life-altering and financially debilitating.
There are substantial differences between passenger cars and golf carts, but as The National Golf Cart Association points out, accidents occur because of these variations. Golf carts lack headlights and turn signals, seatbelts, airbags, rearview and side mirrors: all elements of safety and communication. The lack of side doors makes ejection a simple and frequently occurring accident, and taking a hard turn can flip the cart right over.
Section 56-2-100, and 105 of the South Carolina Code of Laws are outlined below:
● Golf carts cannot be driven during nighttime hours.
● You may not drive your golf cart further than 4 miles from your registered address, or from the ingress/egress of your gated community.
● Registration and proof of insurance are necessary to purchase a 5-year renewable permit; these along with a valid license must be available while driving.
● Operating at speeds over 35 mph is prohibited.
● You may operate a golf cart on a highway with a 35 mph posted speed.
● You may cross a highway with a higher posted speed, from a designated intersection.
There are no operator requirements other than obtaining a valid driver’s license, registration, and permit to operate one of these low-speed vehicles (LSVs) — if you are at least 16 years of age and have a valid license, you can drive a golf cart!
However, the fact that additional training isn’t a requirement shouldn’t stop you from learning everything you can to improve your safety. DuPont offers an online driver training course, teaching extensively safe operating procedures. Even if a driver chooses not to complete one of these courses, merely being aware of the aforementioned laws in South Carolina can go a long way in decreasing accidents.
Golf cart accidents happen in many different ways, and there are a number of people or entities who may ultimately be responsible. Sometimes the liable party is not who you might initially think is responsible. Additionally, personal injury law in South Carolina is based on comparative negligence statutes, which means that liability can be shared by multiple parties. If your case makes it to a jury trial, the jury would be asked to assign a percentage of responsibility to the parties named in the lawsuit. A party that is less than 50 percent responsible can collect damages from a party that is more than 50 percent at fault, but the final award will be reduced by the less-responsible party’s percentage of fault.
Here is an example of how comparative negligence might affect a golf cart accident case:
You are driving a golf cart, and a friend of yours is sitting in the passenger seat. Coming up on a curve, you underestimate how sharp it is and fail to slow down enough. As you realize your error and hit the brake, your passenger decides to stand up and hang off the side of the cart so they can yell at someone on the other side of the golf course. The golf cart flips and lands on your friend. You are both injured in the wreck, but your friend’s injuries are more serious due to being pinned under the cart in the accident. Whose fault was the crash?
Because of their shape and design, golf carts are inherently prone to flipping. That’s why drivers are advised to go slowly, especially downhill and around curves. In this scenario, you are responsible for driving too fast around the curve, even if it was an honest mistake.
But this potential for flipping is also why passengers are advised to keep all limbs inside the cart at all times and to never stand or hang off the side of a golf cart. Your passenger is responsible for that behavior, too.
Who is more at fault? That would be up to a jury to decide if you and your friend filed claims against each, and if the case went to trial. They would make the decision based on the facts of the case and the evidence presented at trial. If they believed that you were going a little fast, but the cart probably wouldn’t have flipped without your passenger’s actions, they might find the passenger was 70 percent at fault. On the other hand, if the jury believes that you were going way too fast to the point of driving recklessly and that you probably would have crashed if your passenger had stayed inside the cart, they might find you were 80 percent at fault. This is one reason why it’s essential to engage a Greenville golf cart accident lawyer as soon as possible, so they can get to work on building your case.
The majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court. But whether your case is resolved in a courtroom or through mediation and negotiation, the percentage of fault is still an important consideration. If your passenger and their attorney believe there is ample evidence that you were mostly at fault, they may be less inclined to agree to a fair settlement. What happens will depend on how much evidence you can provide to show the other party was responsible, which is another reason why it’s important to speak with a Greenville golf cart accident attorney right away. We will immediately start investigating your accident and recovering as much evidence as possible to prove your case.
The driver and passenger aren’t the only people who could potentially be at fault in an accident. Here is a list of parties who might be liable, depending on the circumstances of the crash:
● The golf course or another business that owns the golf cart. If this entity didn’t take care of the cart and your accident happened due to a preventable mechanical failure, the business could be liable. Or, the company may have failed to warn you about a hazard on the course, like an unexpected hole or dip in the ground. They may also have failed to ensure that the person they rented the cart to had a valid driver’s license and was at least 16 years old. Any of these situations could mean the course or club is liable. Don’t think that signing a waiver means you can’t sue the golf course, either – these waivers usually don’t cover the company’s negligence, nor do they prevent a lawsuit in every possible situation. Speak to a golf cart accident lawyer to find out your options.
● Individuals who own golf carts. This is a little less common, but if an owner of a golf cart allows the cart to be operated in a way that is dangerous or illegal, it’s possible they may be liable. For example, if your neighbor owns a golf cart and allows a 12-year-old to drive it around the block in violation of state law, and the child runs you over while you’re out for a walk, your neighbor could be liable. Another example would be if your neighbor knowingly gave the golf cart keys to a clearly intoxicated friend who was in no shape to drive, and they later caused an accident in which you were hurt.
● Golf cart drivers. Whether you or someone else was driving the cart, it’s possible that the accident was all or mostly due to driver error. Sometimes this amounts to a simple mistake, but in other cases, the driver may have been reckless – for example, if they were speeding excessively or intoxicated. Sadly many golf cart accidents are attributed to alcohol use by the driver. If you are the driver, it is also your responsibility to ensure that the cart isn’t overloaded (another risk factor for flipping and accidents).
● A golf cart passenger. As noted in our earlier example, passengers can unbalance a golf cart very easily, causing it to flip or crash. Another possible scenario is when a passenger dangles a leg or arm out of the cart. This is less likely to make the cart flip, but could still cause injury if the limb gets caught on something. We’ve seen cases where a passenger had a foot hanging off the cart, and it got caught on an object – a tree, another golf cart, a table, etc. These situations often lead to broken ankles or legs. Unfortunately, the injured passenger may then sue the golf cart driver, claiming the injury was caused by their driving.
● Car drivers. If you were in a golf cart that was hit by a car, the car driver could be at fault, especially if you were obeying the law and following the rules for golf carts. Accidents on roadways can be complicated, and the driver’s insurance company won’t be eager to pay your claim. Meanwhile, the car driver may claim that you were at fault. The sooner your legal team starts collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses, the better.
● Third parties. It’s common for everyone involved in an accident to insist they did nothing wrong, and usually, someone is mistaken. However, if this truly is what happened, your accident could be due to a mechanical defect in the cart. Either it was defective when it was purchased, or it had work done and a replaced part turned out to be faulty. It’s also possible that a repair person made an error when performing regular maintenance. In these situations, you may have a claim against the third party – the manufacturer, the repair company, etc. If you suspect this is the case, it’s important that you speak with an attorney before you get the golf cart repaired so our investigators can go over it.
Depending on the situation, there are multiple possibilities for insurance coverage. Usually, we will sit down with the client, go over what happened, and try to determine who might be liable. From there we look for any relevant policies. Golf courses and businesses typically have liability insurance that covers a wide variety of injuries that might happen on the property. Car drivers should also have liability insurance coverage. In a few cases, homeowner’s insurance might kick in for a golf cart accident. To learn more about your options, please contact us for a free case evaluation.
Our Greenville golf cart accident attorney strongly believes that injured victims deserve to be compensated for the financial difficulties they experience through no fault of their own. Auger & Auger has a combined litigation experience base of more than 50 years. We are confident in our legal skills and dedication to excellence, which we endorse by offering a zero-fee guarantee; i.e. you don’t pay unless we win your case.
A member of our team is ready to speak with you at no cost. Time is of the essence because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the ongoing elements of an injury claim. South Carolina’s statute of limitations gives you 3 years from your accident date to file. Now is the time to act!
Call (855) 969-5730 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!