From Golf Cart Accidents to Spectator Injuries, How to Stay Safe on the Green
With pleasant weather, peaceful scenery, and hundreds of luxurious courses, Florida is practically a golfer’s paradise. There are over 1,250 golf courses in Florida, more than in any other state. Many of them are part of residential communities, where residents can simply hop on their golf cart and head out for an exciting day on the green. Even for those who just like to watch, Florida has many options, like the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, which has drawn big names like Tiger Woods.
But even though Florida is the perfect place for golf, golfers and golf still face any injury risks. From golf cart accidents to spectator injuries, there are plenty of golf safety issues to be aware of.
Getting To the Green
Golf carts are common in Florida, where they are often used not just for golf but as a means of transportation. In Florida, golf carts use is technically limited to:
- County roads designated by the county for golf cart use
- Municipal streets designated by the municipality
- Two-lane county roads within the jurisdiction of a municipality designated by that municipality
The terminology can be confusing. That is why it’s important to check the laws of your city, county, or homeowner’s association.
Florida law is a bit clearer about who can drive a golf cart. Anyone over the age of fourteen is legally able to operate a golf cart in Florida. A drivers’ license is not a requirement.
Golf Cart Injuries
Like many other vehicles, golf carts are not inherently dangerous. That said, there are still around 1,300 golf car accidents every year. Many are the result of dangerous or negligent behavior. A golf cart accident is more likely to occur when the operator is doing something unsafe, like crossing at a busy intersection. Negligent drivers can also be a big concern, as a driver who is distracted, intoxicated, or speeding might not see a smaller golf cart until it is too late.
After a golf cart accident, common injuries include:
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Neck injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Damaged wind pipes and asphyxiation
- Crushing injuries, like broken bones
Golf Cart Safety
A serious injury like a TBI doesn’t just mess up a golf career. It can also have a major impact on a person’s life and finances, and could lead to high medical bills, lost wages, or even an inability to return to work. Luckily, there are a few easy tips golf cart operators can follow to stay safe on the roads:
- Do not hang any limbs outside of the cart
- Stay seated when the cart is in motion
- Do not operate a golf cart while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Obey all road rules, like yielding to pedestrians, just like you would if you were driving a car
- Make sure to lock the breaks before getting out of the car
- Always be aware of surroundings
- Drive carefully when going over steep or rugged terrain
- Slow down on hills, corners, bumps, and public roads
Liability on the Course
Another place where golfers might suffer from injuries is on the course itself. Through overexertion, repetitive motion, or just overall wear and tear, golfers are susceptible to injuries like elbow tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries, and back pain. But while some injuries might just as consequences of the game, others can arise through property negligence. For instance, if there is an unmarked hole in the ground, a golfer could fall and break their ankle. The golf course might be liable for the injury if they knew, or should have known, that the hole existed and posed a danger to visiting golfers.
Premise liability depends on a variety of factors, including if the golfer signed any waivers before entering the golf course. But like any other kind of property, a golf course has a duty to keep its visitors safe, which is why they should remedy or clearly mark any dangers, like holes in the ground or an alligator infested pond—and why they might be partially liable for any injuries.
Risks aren’t just for the players, either. Even spectators can be injured on the sidelines. A recent example of a spectator injury occurred at France’s Ryder Cup when a spectator was hit by an errant golf ball. She suffered from a fractured eye socket and irreparable eye damage, and has likely lost vision in the damaged eye.
Spectator injuries are rare, but when they do happen, often result in serious injuries. Common injuries include head trauma, facial damage, or mouth injuries, like broken teeth.
Based on the concept of “volenti non fit injuria,” much of the responsibility falls on the injured fan. From the Latin phrase “to a willing person, injury is not done,” volenti non fit injuria means that someone cannot hold another person liable if they willingly placed themselves into a potentially dangerous situation. By purchasing a ticket for a golf tournament and entering the course, a golf fan is attending the event even though they know there is a risk of getting hit by a stray ball.
However, some spectator injuries might still result in compensation for the injured person. For example, if tournament officials did not instruct spectators to stand at a safe distance, they might be liable for any injuries. In the case of the injury at the Ryder Cup, the injured woman is considering legal action, alleging no one yelled fore, as is common when a ball goes toward a crowd. Since cases such as these involve unexpected circumstances, the concept of volenti non fit injuria might not apply.
Whether you’re an experienced golfer, a tourist who wants to spend the day outdoors, or simply a fan hoping to catch a glimpse of your favorite professional golfer, you have so many options in Florida. Just remember to stay safe and alert at all times and know your rights. And of course, always keep your ears open for someone yelling “fore!”
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.