The use of golf carts is widespread when you live in a state like Florida. They aren’t just used on golf courses anymore. They’re increasingly popular for leisure, casual outings, and workplace usage.
You’ve seen them on the roads a lot if you live here. Furthermore, the beautiful, warm, sunny weather allows Floridians to quickly get from one place to the next with golf carts. In addition, the open-air, lightweight design of golf carts gives people a fun experience that feels more exciting than a regular car.
While golf carts are fun to ride, they can be dangerous. One of the main reasons is that golf carts don’t have protective barriers, seatbelts, or airbags. Moreover, after sustaining injuries in a golf cart accident, you might need guidance on what steps to take next. That’s because golf carts don’t necessarily apply to the same rules as typical car accidents.
Golf Cart Accidents in Florida
Florida has the most golf courses of all the states in the country. That means it has one of the highest volumes of golf carts, too. But golf carts are not just for golfers to ride on the green. We see them all over Florida, from apartment complexes to public streets.
While golf carts are a fun and convenient way to get around, accidents can be hazardous for cart riders. Some of the most common causes of golf cart accidents in Florida are:
- Rollovers due to overloading or overcrowding the cart
- Lack of seat belts or safety restraint measures, or not wearing seatbelts if there are any
- Drunk or distracted vehicle operation
- Sharp turns
- Reversing downhill
- Driving in wet or muddy terrain
- Leaving the brake unlocked while the cart is unoccupied
- Racing or other types of horseplay
- Falling out of the golf cart
- Hitting another object like a tree or driving into a pothole
- Hitting another object and getting ejected from the golf cart
Many times other vehicle operators cause accidents and crash into golf carts. Whether they are distracted, intoxicated, or did not see the golf cart, it’s usually some form of negligence that caused another motorist to hit it. If a car hits a golf cart, the outcome can be catastrophic for the golf cart passengers. Their injuries might be worse if they were not wearing a seatbelt or if the car was driving at high speed when it hit the cart.
Who’s at Fault in a Florida Golf Cart Accident?
Golf cart accidents are like other car accidents in Florida, but they have some additional complexities.
For starters, you are not required to register or insure your golf cart in Florida. In addition, drivers don’t need to carry a valid license. That’s because you cannot operate golf carts on Florida roads. However, some local laws allow them on roads. As you can see, this further complicates matters, and your case will depend largely on where it occurred.
Converted golf carts have different requirements. For example, adding specific features makes it a “low-speed vehicle.” In that case, registration, Personal Injury Protection coverage, and a driver’s license would be required. The following features differentiate a traditional golf cart and a converted golf cart:
- Front turn signals
- Rear turn signals
- Stop and tail lamps
- Red reflex reflectors
- Exterior mirror on the driver’s side
- Interior rear-view mirror
- Exterior mirror on the passenger’s side
- Seatbelt (for each seat)
- A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
Again, the outcome of a golf cart accident can vary widely depending on the following:
- Who was at fault for the accident
- Whether or not the golf cart driver was operating it with the owner’s permission
- Whether or not the golf cart has add-ons that make it a “low-speed vehicle.”
Are Golf Carts Legal to Operate on Florida Streets?
It depends on where you are and whether the golf cart is a “converted golf cart.” Under Florida Statute section 320.01(22), golf carts are defined as “motor vehicles designed for sporting or recreational purposes…under 20 mph.” Golf cart operators can drive them on roadways with posted speed limits of 30 mph or less.
When Can You Drive a Golf Cart?
Golf cart use is permitted only between sunrise and sunset. So, you can drive it as long as the sun is out. However, Florida law makes exceptions for converted golf carts. So if you have safety features like headlights, brake lights, and a windshield, you can operate your golf cart after dark.
Who Can Drive A Golf Cart in Florida?
Anyone 14 years or older can drive a golf cart. You do not need a valid driver’s license. Unfortunately, this poses a significant risk for young children who do not have driving experience and don’t require adult supervision to drive.
What Makes Golf Carts So Dangerous?
People often underestimate the danger of golf carts since they are “low-speed.” However, after a collision, the results of a golf cart accident can be disastrous, especially if a car hits it. The injuries will almost always be more severe for the golf cart occupants than the car. That’s because golf carts don’t have the same safety equipment as cars. They lack airbags, a windshield, mirrors for blind spots, and seatbelts.
“Dangerous Instrumentality” Doctrine for Golf Carts in Florida
The “dangerous instrumentality” legal doctrine in Florida puts strict liability on a golf cart owner who entrusts their vehicle to another person. That is, if someone’s negligent driving causes a golf cart accident and injures another person, the owner can be held liable for letting that person operate their cart.
Insurance Requirements for Golf Carts in Florida
If you have a converted golf cart, you will need to register and insure it. Before you get a title and registration, the golf cart must pass inspection and receive a VIN from the Motorist Services Regional Office. In addition, your golf cart must be street-legal before you are eligible to get a title and registration.
The type of insurance you need for a converted golf cart is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. In Florida, this is also known as no-fault insurance. It helps cover expenses like medical bills and lost wages after a car accident. With PIP, it doesn’t matter who is at fault for causing the accident. Additionally, you need property damage liability (PDL) coverage, which covers property damage. The minimum limit for both PIP and PDL is $10,000.
You will need to show proof of PIP and PDL before you can register a converted golf cart. You don’t need insurance for a regular golf cart (not classified as a low-speed vehicle). So, let’s say you don’t have insurance and cause a golf cart accident. In that case, you would need to cover the cost of your injury and damages. However, if another car hits you, you might have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
Where Do Most Florida Golf Cart Accidents Happen?
In Florida, golf cart accidents are the most prevalent in the following areas:
- Housing communities and apartment complexes
- Small towns
- Golf courses
How Do Golf Cart Injuries Happen?
A 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition recently showed data that more than 6,500 adolescents experience a golf-cart-related injury annually. In Florida, children as young as 14 are allowed to operate golf carts. Sometimes, even younger children ride as passengers. Children driving golf carts with little or no adult supervision have an increased risk for accidents. The most common golf cart-related injuries include:
- Head injuries like concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Face injuries
- Neck injuries
- Wrist and hand injuries
- Or death
The most severe golf cart injuries involve a passenger getting thrown out of the cart. Since golf carts are open and don’t have seatbelts, the occupants have very little protection in a collision. They could fly out of the cart by making a sharp turn or getting hit by another vehicle.
What Are the Different Types of Golf Cart Accidents?
Like any other motor vehicle accident, golf cart accidents happen for many reasons. However, the most common reason is negligence or wrongful acts of the golf cart driver or another driver.
For instance, let’s say another driver is texting while driving or driving drunk and then rear-ends your golf cart. If you sustain injuries resulting from the collision, the other driver can be held legally accountable for your damages. The damages would include any losses you incurred from them rear-ending you, like injuries, property damage, and more.
Here are other examples of possible golf cart accidents:
- Single golf cart crash
- Multiple-cart crash
- A golf cart crash involving another vehicle
- Golf cart rollover
- Pedestrian collision
- Bicycle collision
If you were hit by another vehicle while driving a golf cart, you might have a valid personal injury claim. But first, you will need to prove the other driver’s negligence. Therefore, hiring an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer is in your best interest. A legal professional can review your case to determine who is at fault and to what extent they are at fault.
Understanding Negligence in Florida
Florida laws require all drivers to operate motor vehicles with a level of care that a reasonable person would apply in a specific circumstance. So, while driving a golf cart, drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care. Likewise, car drivers have a duty of care to drive without harming others. In legal terms, failing to drive with reasonable care that results in injury or damage to another person is considered negligence.
You can seek compensation if you were driving a golf cart and another driver’s negligence caused your injuries. However, you will need solid evidence to prove the other party’s negligence. The defendant may try to argue that they acted reasonably and are not liable for your injuries. Therefore, you need an experienced lawyer who is well-versed in dealing with personal injury cases. They can help you firmly establish the other party’s negligence. That way, you also have the best chance of getting the highest compensation possible.
Does Florida Have a Time Limit for a Golf Cart Injury Lawsuit?
In most cases, the time limit, or statute of limitations, for a Florida golf cart injury is four years from the date of the accident. So you have four years after the accident to file a claim. If you do not do it within the statute of limitations, you may lose your chance to seek recovery for your damages and injuries.
The exception to this rule will be if you discover your injuries at a date later than the accident. For example, let’s say the accident happens on a specific day, but your injuries present symptoms two weeks later. In that instance, you would have four years from the date of discovering your golf cart accident-related injuries to file a claim.
Do I Need to Hire a Florida Golf Cart Accident Lawyer?
It’s best to seek professional legal advice rather than guess your way through the aftermath of a golf cart accident. An experienced Florida Golf Cart Accident Lawyer can help you:
- Determine and establish clear liability for the accident
- Determine how to file a claim
- Assess and determine an appropriate claim value (how much compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries
- Understand your rights and defend them
- Negotiate and deal with insurance companies effectively
- Communicate with you during your case
- Obtain all documentation and evidence necessary to support your claim
- Medical records
- Expert testimony (physician, doctor, etc.)
- Eyewitness testimony
- Proof that the other party was at fault
Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Determining who is at fault for a golf cart accident and who will pay for damages is not always straightforward.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a golf cart accident, it’s better to seek professional legal advice rather than blindly navigating your way through uncertainty. We understand how disruptive an unexpected accident can be because we’ve been in your shoes. That’s why our dedicated legal team will treat you with the utmost respect and work tirelessly to win your case. Insurance companies and the local courts know us and take us seriously because of our proven track record and high success rate.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, or call (727) 381-2300 for the legal help you can trust.