As the name might suggest, golf carts were originally intended to provide an easy way around golf courses, but they have since become popular for other uses.
In some neighborhoods, it’s not unusual to see residents riding golf carts around the block for a quick errand or trip to a friend’s house. Because most golf carts top out at about 15 MPH, people often believe they’re a relatively safe way to travel short distances.
While a golf cart’s low speeds reduce the risk of an accident, the risk of injury is still higher than you might think. Golf carts don’t have many of the features that help improve car safety, such as seatbelts (unless they’re added aftermarket), airbags, or a strong roll cage.
Even at 15MPH, golf cart passengers can be thrown from a golf cart in a collision and suffer injuries. Additionally, some golf cart owners make adjustments that allow the carts to travel closer to 30 MPH.
A collision is not necessary for someone to get hurt. Many golf cart accidents are single-vehicle crashes, often involving either a rollover or the cart flipping over.
Due to their boxy, top-heavy design, golf carts are especially prone to flipping, and drivers should use extra care when going up and down hills or around curves.
If you or a loved one have suffered a golf cart accident, you might struggle with pain and mobility issues for weeks or months afterward. Many people contact us for help determining who might be liable for a golf cart accident so that they can pursue damages for their injuries.
Why Do You Need an Illinois Golf Cart Accident Attorney?
Determining fault in a golf cart accident is complicated, as there may be multiple liable parties, including:
- The golf cart driver
- The golf cart owner
- The owner of the property where your accident happened
- A golf cart passenger
- A mechanic or service worker who worked on the cart
- The golf cart manufacturer or a component manufacturer
- The driver of another golf cart or a motor vehicle if there was a collision
Of course, the responsible parties may disagree that they are at fault. This becomes more complex when you understand that Illinois law allows for shared responsibility under its modified comparative negligence statutes.
What does that mean for your case?
It means the other party doesn’t have to prove that you were 100 percent to blame or that they were completely faultless. Instead, they only have to make a case that you were more at fault (at least 51 percent) to avoid paying you anything.
But if they fail to prove you were mostly responsible, they can still reduce their own bill by arguing you had some degree of fault. Any percentage of responsibility attributed to you will be subtracted from your total damages.
As you can see, proving fault in a golf cart accident can be an intricate problem. Your Illinois golf accident attorney can help you navigate the situation and will work to get you the settlement you deserve.
How to Reduce the Risk of Golf Cart Accidents
Here are some tips to lower the risk of accidents and injuries in your golf cart:
- Don’t drink and drive a golf cart. As we discussed, you can still get hurt in a golf cart crash, even at low speeds, so this isn’t a safer alternative if you’ve been drinking.
- Texting and driving a golf cart is also dangerous. If you want to check your messages, find a safe parking place first.
- Your kids or grandkids may beg for a ride on your golf cart, but this is unsafe for young children. Even if your cart has aftermarket seatbelts, these don’t do a good job of protecting small bodies. One study found that more than 6,500 kids are hurt in golf cart incidents yearly, with the most common injuries affecting the head and neck.
- Always read the owner’s manual to ensure you’re familiar with everything before you head out.
- Don’t carry more passengers than you have seats for – overcrowding a cart increases the risk that it will flip or roll over.
- Passengers should be seated and should keep their arms and legs inside the cart at all times. Unfortunately, we see a lot of cases where a passenger let their arm or foot hang outside the cart and suffered broken bones or other injuries when the cart came close to another object.
- Never permit a passenger to stand or hang off the side of the cart. If your passengers are doing this kind of horseplay and refuse to stop, then it’s time to pull the cart over until everyone can behave safely.
- Slow down and be careful when turning, as this is one of the times when your cart is most vulnerable to flipping. Make sure to use turn signals or hand signals before turning.
- Golf carts are not designed to protect riders from lightning, so if it looks like a storm is coming, you should go inside and wait it out.
- If your golf cart has seatbelts, always use them, as they can reduce the risk of ejection in an accident.
- Yield to pedestrians and go slowly on the golf course or in any area people frequent.
- Always double-check the parking brake before walking away from your golf cart. We’ve also seen a number of cases where an empty cart simply rolled away and crashed into a person or another cart because the brake wasn’t engaged.
What Should You Do After a Golf Cart Accident?
Here are some important steps to take after an accident in a golf cart:
- Check to see if anyone in the cart is injured, including yourself. It’s a good idea to seek medical care even if you think your injuries are insignificant. Sometimes, people believe they’re fine after an accident but wake up in pain the next day. If anyone is seriously hurt, call an ambulance right away and stay with them until help arrives.
- Try to get the name and contact information of everyone present. Your lawyer may want to talk to any witnesses later on.
- If you were hit by someone driving a golf cart, or your golf cart was hit by a car, insist on exchanging contact and insurance information with the driver. If the other driver refuses or leaves, write down their description and, if applicable, license plate number.
- Make a crash report with the local police department if anyone has suffered an injury or more than $1,500 in damage.
- Take pictures of the scene, the damage to the golf cart, and your own injuries.
- Speak with an Illinois golf cart accident attorney immediately to protect your legal rights.
What If You Rented a Golf Cart and Signed a Waiver?
A waiver doesn’t mean the rental business is never liable. It means you acknowledge there are risks associated with driving a golf cart, and the rental business is not responsible if you or others cause an accident.
However, the rental business is still responsible for its own negligent behavior. If the rental business fails to take reasonable steps to provide you with a safe golf cart, they may still be liable, waiver or not. Examples include:
- If the rental business didn’t use regular maintenance and a preventable mechanical problem caused your accident, they might be negligent.
- If the rental business knew of a potentially dangerous problem with the golf cart, such as a brake problem, and failed to fix it, they might be negligent.
- If the rental business was aware of hazards on the property – such as a large hole in the ground – and failed to address them or warn you, they could be liable.
If you have any concerns about liability with a rented golf cart, please contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
What Are Illinois’ Laws About Golf Carts?
Illinois generally prohibits golf carts on roadways but allows municipalities to make their own laws regarding whether golf carts are allowed on streets within the city limits.
Several Chicago suburbs and other cities in the area allow “street legal” golf carts, but only on roads with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less. The criteria for “street legal” varies depending on the municipality, but state requirements include adding seatbelts, making sure the cart has working headlights and taillights, and adding doors.
Drivers should be at least 18 and have a valid driver’s license, and passengers should not be younger than eight years old. Also, you will need the state minimum liability insurance if you are driving on the street.
Golf Cart Versus Car: Who Is At Fault?
If you’re driving your golf cart on the street and are hit by a car, the car’s driver may claim that you were at fault. But who is responsible for these situations?
It depends on the specifics of the accident, but in general, golf cart drivers should follow the same rules of the road as everyone else. If you had the right of way and a car hit you, the other driver may be at fault.
However, you may have difficulties if the other driver claims that your cart wasn’t “street legal” in some way that affected their ability to see you. For example, if they claim you didn’t have or weren’t using your headlights, your case may become complicated.
Your Illinois golf cart accident lawyer will search for evidence that your cart met all the safety requirements and your lights were working at the time.
It’s also important to remember that even if you made a mistake – such as using headlights that weren’t quite up to specifications – that doesn’t automatically mean you were at fault. To prove negligence, the other driver would have to show that this was the reason for the accident.
For instance, if your headlights were only visible from 400 feet instead of the required 500 feet, you might be cited for that. But if the car that hit you was only 300 feet away, your attorney could argue that this did not affect the other driver’s ability to see you.
Also, remember that with shared fault, even a driver who made a mistake might only have a small percentage of fault. Maybe your headlights weren’t bright enough, but the other driver was speeding and ran a red light.
Your lawyer could argue that the driver still would have seen you if they had stopped at the light. In a situation like this, you might be 10 or 20 percent at fault but would still be able to collect some damages from the mostly-at-fault party.
Do I Have to Go to Court for a Golf Cart Accident?
Probably not. Most personal injury cases are settled out of court through negotiations with the insurance company.
However, that doesn’t mean you can handle your case alone. Insurance company adjusters are highly experienced in denying claims or paying as little as possible, and they will look for every opportunity to devalue your claim.
They might argue that you have a higher percentage of fault than you do have, assert that your medical treatment was unnecessary, or claim your accident wasn’t covered due to convoluted language in the policy.
The best way to ensure you receive a fair settlement is to speak with a golf cart accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Where Can You Find an Experienced Illinois Golf Cart Accident Law Firm?
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries in a golf cart accident, please contact The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation to learn more. We’ll review the details of your case, answer your questions, and let you know your options for pursuing compensation.
Founder and lead attorney Robert S. Fakhouri was an accomplished student at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. After graduating, he became one of the youngest members of the Illinois Bar.
He then worked as a legal clerk and litigation associate before founding his own firm at 25. Since then, he has dedicated himself to helping injured people get the help they need with medical bills, lost incomes, pain and suffering, and other damages.
When he’s not helping clients or negotiating with insurance companies, you can find him offering no-nonsense legal advice to his many social media followers. Contact The Fakhouri Firm today at (312) 999-9990.