I’ve received two calls this month about golf cart accidents in resident owned communities.
The first call was from a resident who had been given my name at the office at one of the ROCs we represent. This resident told me that he was attending a private function in the ROC’s clubhouse and drove his golf cart to that event. He parked the cart by the clubhouse but left his keys in the cart–and, while he was in the clubhouse, another resident’s grandson started the cart and ran into another child. According to the caller, he didn’t think the child’s injuries were severe, but was nonetheless concerned about his potential liability. I advised him that, because our firm represented the ROC, I could only suggest that he find another attorney and contact his insurance carrier. I then contacted the ROC’s manager to confirm that the event was not sponsored by the ROC and suggested that the ROC advise its insurance agent about the incident just to be safe.
The second call was from several officers of another ROC I’ve worked with for almost fifteen years. The ROC’s President was clearly upset as he told me that one of the community’s residents had been killed and several others injured the day before in a golf cart accident. This horrible incident occurred in the community and these officers wondered whether it made sense for the board to pass a rule requiring that all residents with golf carts provide the ROC office with proof of insurance covering their carts. While I advised these officers that such a rule might create more problems than solutions for their community (for reasons I’ll explain in an entry within the next few weeks), I told them to immediately contact the ROC’s insurance agent about the accident, even though the golf cart was not owned by the ROC nor driven by either a member of the ROC board or an employee of the ROC.
Golf carts function as "second cars" for many residents in ROCs and it’s common to see drivers of almost all ages seated behind the steering wheel of these vehicles. We tend to forget that golf carts are not "toys" and that severe injury or death can result from golf cart accidents. I found an entry in another Florida law blog that focused on the increase in golf cart accidents over the past few years and I recommend it to ROC managers and board members.
What can ROC managers and board members do to minimize the chances of golf cart accidents in their communities?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Is your insurance agent able to speak about golf cart safety? How about someone from your local law enforcement agency? If so, invite them to speak at one of your community’s regular coffees or other well-attended social events.
- If your community doesn’t already have rules prohibiting children driving golf carts, or at least requiring an adult to be in the cart with them when they are driving and prohibiting children under a certain age from driving carts, consider passing such a rule or revising your current rules if needed. Note that Florida’s statute governing the operation of golf carts provides that a person must be at least 14 years old to operate a golf cart on a "public road or street" and that local municipalities are permitted to pass laws governing the operation of golf carts that are more restrictive than the state’s requirements.
- Rules can also be amended or added to encourage all golf cart owners to obtain and maintain golf cart insurance.
- ROCs should also consider requiring golf cart owners to register their carts with the office, obey posted speed limits, and remove the keys from the cart when the cart is parked or otherwise not in use.
- Finally, I’d suggest posting this entry and the other blog entry I mentioned above on the community bulletin board and keeping the entries there for the next few months so your "snowbirds" can read them when they return.
Any golf cart accident, particularly one that causes injury or death, is one too many. Let’s all do our best to educate ROC members and guests that golf carts are not "toys" and must be operated properly and safely.