Golf carts are extremely popular in Texas, not just on golf courses but also in neighborhoods. It’s not uncommon to see people, including children and teens, zipping up and down the residential streets, using these compact vehicles for a quick trip to a friend’s house, the community pool, or even a corner store.
However, as popular as golf carts are, they can also pose a significant safety risk. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 18,000 people are injured in golf cart-related accidents every year in the United States. These accidents can result in catastrophic injuries and, in some cases, even death.
If you have been injured or someone you love has been killed in a golf cart accident in Fort Worth, Dallas, or the surrounding areas, it’s important to contact an experienced Fort Worth golf car accident lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to substantial compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
In this article, the personal injury attorneys at Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group explain Texas golf cart laws, common causes of golf cart accidents, who may be held liable, the process of recovering compensation, and how our law firm can help.
Understanding Texas Golf Cart Laws
In Texas, golf carts are regulated by Subchapter F of the Texas Transporation Code. The statute is rather lengthy but, in general, here are the rules of the road for the operation of a golf cart in the Lone Star State:
- Definition: Texas defines a golf cart as a motor vehicle designed primarily to transport persons on a golf course.
- Registration and Licensing: Typically, golf carts are not required to be registered or titled. However, a golf car can receive a golf cart license plate. Additionally, no driver’s license is mandated solely for golf cart operation on private property or within specific communities. However, if operated on public roads, standard driver licensing requirements apply.
- Road Use with a Golf Cart License Plate: Golf carts that have a “Golf Cart” license plate can be driven on roads under these specific circumstances:
- Within a master-planned community that has consistent restrictive covenants and an approved plat from a county or municipality.
- On public or private beaches that allow vehicular traffic.
- On highways with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less, during daylight hours, and within two miles of its regular parking spot, primarily for commuting to and from a golf course.
- When crossing intersections, even those intersecting with highways that have posted speed limits exceeding 35 mph.
- Public Road Use: In Texas, golf carts can be operated on public roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, but local ordinances might further dictate when and where they can be driven.
- Equipment Requirements: Golf carts used on roads at a speed of 25 mph or less must display a slow-moving vehicle emblem. They also must have headlamps, tail lamps, reflectors, parking brakes and mirrors.
- Driving Age: While Texas law does not set a minimum age for golf cart operation on private property, operating on public roads requires the driver to have a valid driver’s license, effectively setting the age at 16 or older.
- Insurance: Texas does not require golf carts to be insured, but it’s wise to have coverage, especially if driving on public roads or in places with potential liabilities.
- Local Ordinances: Municipalities in Texas can set their own rules regarding golf cart usage, so it’s essential to check with local authorities to ensure full compliance.
Common Causes of Golf Cart Accidents
Golf carts, while convenient and fun, are not without inherent risks. Accidents can and do occur when operated without proper caution or in hazardous conditions. Here’s an insight into the most common causes of golf cart accidents in the Fort Worth area:
Negligent or Reckless Drivers
Many accidents occur because golf cart drivers are intoxicated, distracted, speeding, ignoring safety rules, or not paying attention to their surroundings. Their negligence or recklessness can lead to collisions with other golf carts or motor vehicles, especially in areas where carts and regular vehicles share the road.
Collisions with Another Vehicle
Golf carts often cross public roads or sometimes inadvertently enter traffic lanes, leading to potential collisions with faster, larger vehicles. When these vehicles are driven recklessly or negligently, the risks increase. These accidents can be severe, given the notable difference in size and protection between the two.
Sudden Stops or Turns
Golf carts’ open design can be hazardous. Abrupt stops or sharp turns might result in passengers being ejected, leading to a wide range of potential injuries.
Uneven terrains or steep inclines can make golf carts more prone to rollovers. These can be particularly perilous due to potential crush injuries or the ejection of passengers.
Golf Cart Defects
Like any vehicle, golf carts can have manufacturing or design defects or could be poorly maintained. Faulty brakes, malfunctioning steering mechanisms, or other defects can directly contribute to accidents.
Golf cart accidents don’t always stem from the vehicle’s operation. Unsafe conditions on properties, like poor road design, lack of signage, or ill-maintained paths, can be a significant factor in causing mishaps.
With the bustling activity on golf courses and nearby areas, pedestrians are at risk too. They can be struck by a golf cart, especially during peak hours when many carts are on the move.
Being aware of these potential dangers and operating golf carts with care can help reduce the risk of accidents. However, if you or someone you know is injured in a golf cart accident in Fort Worth, it’s important to contact a knowledgeable Fort Worth golf cart accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Why Golf Carts Are Dangerous
Golf carts, while convenient, lack critical safety components found in cars, such as doors, airbags, and seat belts. The absence of safety amenities means that many golf cart accidents can lead to serious consequences. Victims may sustain injuries like broken bones, head and spinal trauma, lacerations, or internal organ damage. These can require extensive medical treatment and recovery periods that take a toll on the victim’s overall well-being, finances, and quality of life.
Accident Prone Zones for Golf Carts
Golf courses are naturally filled with golf carts, making them a primary location for potential accidents. The combination of varied terrains — from flat fairways to hilly greens — coupled with distractions, such as players focusing on their game, the movement of maintenance crews, or even just the sheer beauty of the landscape, amplifies the risks. Additionally, players may not always be vigilant while driving the carts. This complacency, mixed with the natural obstacles and distractions, makes golf courses a significant hotspot for accidents.
Residential Communities & Neighborhoods
In gated or neighborhood communities, it’s not uncommon to see residents opting for golf carts for their daily, short-distance commutes. Whether it’s a quick trip to a neighbor’s house, a jaunt to community amenities, or just a leisurely drive, the frequency of golf cart usage is high. However, this also increases the chances of accidents. Residential roads might not be as wide or well-maintained as public roads. Children playing, pets on the loose, or simply an unexpected obstacle can lead to sudden stops or swerves, making these communities vulnerable to golf cart mishaps.
While golf carts are not designed for high-speed traffic, there are certain crossings, intersections, or specific stretches where their presence is permitted. These areas can become particularly risky during peak traffic hours. Cars and other larger vehicles might not always anticipate a golf cart’s movement, given their slower speeds and smaller size. Furthermore, the design of golf carts makes them less visible, especially in low-light conditions or when obscured by larger vehicles. This combination of factors makes public roads a concerning environment for golf cart operators.
Outdoor Public Events
Outdoor public events, such as games, concerts or fairs are often bustling hubs of activity, attracting large crowds and fostering an atmosphere of excitement. At such events, golf carts are commonly utilized for various purposes, from shuttling attendees and VIPs to transporting equipment or refreshments. However, the combination of crowded spaces, distracted attendees, makeshift pathways, and the temporary nature of some setups can make these events particularly accident-prone for golf cart drivers and pedestrians alike.
The distractions of loud music, announcements, and the general hustle and bustle can mask the sound of an approaching golf cart. Moreover, attendees, especially children, might not be familiar with golf cart protocols, increasing the risk of collisions. Given the transient nature of these events, there might not always be well-defined paths or signages for golf cart movement, further elevating the potential for accidents.
Typical Injuries in Golf Cart Accidents
While they may seem safe at a glance, accidents involving golf carts are often serious, leading to minor abrasions to life-altering conditions including:
The force exerted during collisions, whether with another vehicle or an obstacle, or falls from the cart can be substantial. This often leads to victims suffering from broken or fractured bones, which can be painful and require extended recovery periods.
Given that most golf cart users don’t wear helmets or other protective headgear, they are particularly vulnerable to head injuries. Even minor accidents can lead to concussions or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injuries, both of which can have lasting effects.
The severity of certain accidents, like rollovers or high-impact collisions, can be devastating to the spinal region. Such injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis, forever changing the lives of those affected.
Golf car accidents can cause abrupt jolts or sudden changes in direction, leading to strains or damage to the cervical spine. Such unexpected movements can result in neck injuries, as the delicate structures of the neck are forced beyond their normal range of motion.
Sprains and Strains
The dynamics of a moving golf cart can cause harm, especially during sudden stops or sharp turns. These sudden movements can strain or sprain muscles and joints, leading to pain and potential mobility issues.
Lacerations and Abrasions
Golf carts’ open designs expose passengers to the outside environment. In the event of an accident, this can result in cuts from broken glass, debris, or even road rash from skidding on pavement or rough surfaces.
Proving Negligence in a Fort Worth Golf Cart Accident
In personal Texas injury law, including golf cart accidents in Fort Worth, the crux of a successful claim revolves around the concept of negligence. Essentially, for an injured party to recover damages, they must establish that another party acted negligently and that this negligence directly caused the injuries sustained.
Here are the elements required to prove negligence in Texas:
Duty of Care
The injured party (plaintiff) must demonstrate that the defendant (the alleged negligent party) owed a duty of care to them. For instance, every golf cart driver has a duty to operate their vehicle safely to prevent harm to others.
Breach of Duty
Once a duty of care is established, the plaintiff must then prove that the defendant breached that duty. This could involve showing that the golf cart driver was reckless, distracted, or failed to observe safety rules and regulations.
It’s not enough to show that a defendant breached their duty of care; the plaintiff must also prove that this breach directly caused their injuries.
Lastly, for a claim to be valid, the plaintiff must have sustained actual damages. This could be physical injuries, but also includes property damage, emotional trauma, lost wages, and other financial losses.
Comparative Fault: Texas follows a modified comparative fault system. This means if a plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for the accident, their award for damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault. However, if they are found to be 51 percent or more at fault, they are barred from recovering any damages.
To successfully navigate the intricacies of a Fort Worth golf cart accident case, it’s important to seek the expertise of an experienced personal injury attorney familiar with Texas laws and regulations.
Potential Liable Parties in Golf Cart Accidents
When a golf cart accident occurs, determining liability can be a complex process because multiple parties might be responsible. Here’s a breakdown of potential liable parties in such accidents:
Golf Cart Driver
The most immediate individual to consider is the driver of the golf cart. If they were operating the cart recklessly, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or without adhering to golf cart safety guidelines, they could be held liable for any resulting injuries or damages.
Golf Cart Owner
If the driver is not the owner of the golf cart, the owner could potentially be held liable, especially if they allowed an inexperienced or impaired individual to operate the cart. This is particularly relevant if the owner knew of potential hazards and failed to address them or warn the driver.
Golf Course or Property Owners
If the accident occurs on a golf course or within a gated community, the property owner or management might be liable. This can be the case if they failed to maintain safe pathways, neglected to post adequate signage, or did not provide clear rules for golf cart usage on the premises.
Golf Cart Manufacturers
If a defect in the golf cart itself contributed to or caused the accident, the manufacturer might be held responsible under product liability laws. This can include issues related to faulty brakes, steering mechanisms, or any other manufacturing defect.
If the golf cart was recently serviced or repaired and a malfunction related to the service caused the accident, the maintenance company or technician might be held liable.
Other Vehicle Drivers
In instances where a golf cart collides with another vehicle, the driver of that vehicle could also be deemed liable, especially if they were speeding, distracted, or otherwise not following traffic rules.
Pedestrians or Bystanders
In rare scenarios, pedestrians or bystanders might contribute to a golf cart accident, for example, by suddenly stepping in front of a moving cart or causing an obstruction. Their actions could be considered if they played a significant role in the incident.
Texas is a tort-based accident liability state. That means liability will go to the party most responsible for causing the accident. This can be tricky with golf cart wrecks, however. While all drivers must carry car insurance to cover victims’ damages after an accident, operating a golf cart doesn’t require insurance in Texas. In some cases, it could be difficult for victims to receive insurance benefits for a crash involving a golf cart. Victims may need to seek compensation from a party that has applicable insurance coverage instead.
For example, if a negligent operator caused the wreck, his or her homeowner’s insurance may cover losses if that person owned the golf cart. Otherwise, a victim’s recovery options may be limited. It is important to seek advice from an experienced Fort Worth golf accident lawyer after a serious golf cart accident in North Texas. We can help.
Contributory Negligence in Fort Worth Golf Cart Accidents
So what happens if you think you could be partly at fault for a golf cart accident? Texas operates under a “modified comparative fault” system. This means if you’re found to be 20 percent at fault for the accident, your compensation will be reduced by that percentage. However, if you’re more than 50 percent at fault, you might not be eligible for any compensation.
Determining liability in golf cart accidents requires a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accident. Gathering evidence, speaking to witnesses, and understanding local laws and regulations are essential steps.
An experienced Fort Worth golf cart accident lawyer can assist you in building a strong case and fighting for the compensation you deserve. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’ve been injured in a golf cart accident in Texas. Our team is ready to guide you through the legal process and fight for your rights.
Types of Compensation for North Texas Golf Accidents
In Texas, compensation – or monetary damages – for a personal injury claim can be categorized into three main types:
This type of compensation addresses the tangible and quantifiable financial losses that a victim might incur due to the accident. Specifics under this category include:
- Medical Expenditures: These can range from immediate medical treatment costs to ongoing medical care and surgeries that might be required in the future.
- Therapy Costs: This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and any other rehabilitation services that help the victim return to their pre-accident state.
- Lost Income: If the accident results in an inability to work—either temporarily or permanently—victims can be compensated for the wages they would have otherwise earned during the recovery period.
These damages are harder to quantify but are crucial in addressing the non-material impact of the accident on a victim’s life. They include:
- Emotional Distress: Accidents can lead to psychological challenges, including anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Pain and Suffering: This refers to the discomfort and distress that stems directly from the physical injuries, but also any potential ongoing pain that is anticipated to continue in the future.
- Decreased Quality of Life: If the injuries result in permanent disability, lifestyle changes, or an inability to participate in previously enjoyed activities, compensation can be sought for the diminished enjoyment of life.
These are less common and aren’t awarded to compensate the victim per se. Instead, they are meant to act as a deterrent and penalize those who might have caused harm due to extreme negligence or malicious intent. The intention is to send a strong message and discourage similar conduct in the future.
It’s important to point out that there is a statute of limitation in Texas for personal injury claims. A plaintiff typically has two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Failing to file within this period could bar the plaintiff from recovering any damages.
When to Consult a Fort Worth Golf Cart Accident Lawyer
Navigating the aftermath of a golf cart accident can be a daunting task, especially when you’re dealing with injuries, emotional trauma, and financial hardship. Retaining a specialized Fort Worth golf cart accident lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Here’s how they we can assist you:
Expertise in Local Laws
A Fort Worth lawyer will be well-versed in Texas-specific laws and regulations pertaining to golf cart usage, ensuring your case adheres to all local legal guidelines.
A Fort Worth golf cart accident lawyer will conduct out a comprehensive examination of the accident scene, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and consult with experts to build a solid case on your behalf.
Accurate Valuation of Damages
Determining the true extent of damages—both economic and non-economic—can be complex. An experienced lawyer will ensure you’re adequately compensated for medical bills, therapy costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other relevant damages.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Legal Strategy and Court Representation
If your case needs to go to court, having a specialized lawyer means you have someone experienced in presenting and arguing cases in front of a jury. They can develop a strategic approach tailored to the specifics of your case.
Protection of Your Rights
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of your rights in the wake of an accident. A knowledgeable lawyer will ensure your rights are upheld and protected throughout the legal process.
Beyond the legal aspects, dealing with the aftermath of an accident can be emotionally taxing. Having a supportive legal team can provide a sense of stability and assurance during such challenging times.
A Fort Worth golf cart accident lawyer doesn’t just provide legal assistance. They offer comprehensive support, guiding victims through the complexities of the legal system, ensuring their rights are upheld, and fighting diligently for the compensation they deserve. If you find yourself in such a situation, seeking their expertise is a crucial step in securing justice and rebuilding your life.
Speak to A Fort Worth Golf Accident Lawyer Today
If you were injured or someone you love was killed in a golf cart accident due to negligence, it’s imperative to contact a Fort Worth golf cart accident lawyer as soon as possible. We can help. The team at Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group understands how traumatic these incidents can be, both physically, financially, and emotionally.
We will fight to get you compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Importantly, we operate on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no legal fee until we win compensation for you. We also offer free consultations so there’s no reason not to pick up the phone now.
Call us today at (817) 207-4878 (HURT) or contact us online.