Insurance Coverage for Golf Cart Injury in Georgia

In a recent case, a Georgia appellate court decision arose out of an accident in which a woman was injured by a motorized golf cart. The driver was driving his golf cart at the amphitheater of a planned community. The golf cart was designed with four seats. ASI provided a homeowner’s policy to the driver. The woman and her husband sued the man driving the golf cart for negligence.
In 2012, American Strategic Insurance Corporation asked the court to declare whether the insurance policy covered the golf cart accident. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. ASI acknowledged that the accident occurred during the effective policy term.
The policy identified the types of liability coverage available, including personal liability. This portion of coverage was for claims or lawsuits brought against the insured because of bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence covered by the policy. The insurance contract agreed to pay the necessary medical expenses for an injury that were determined within 3 years from the accident date. For others, the coverage would only apply to someone off the insured location if the personal injuries were caused by the insured’s “activities.”
Every insurance policy contains exclusions. The driver’s policy excluded coverage for motor vehicles except motorized golf carts designed to carry up to 4 people that could not exceed a speed of 25 miles per hour.
The policy also included an endorsement that modified the exclusion to say that a motorized golf cart had to be owned by the insured, designed to carry up to 2 people and 2 golf club bags, that was not modified after being manufactured and that could not exceed 25 miles per hour on level ground.
ASI argued to the lower court that the policy offered no coverage due to the endorsement that amended the exclusion to exclude 4-seater golf carts like the driver’s. The injured woman and her husband argued that a reasonable insured could understand that the language “up to 2 persons” actually imposed a minimum requirement that the cart had to seat at least two people. The trial court found that the exclusion did not unequivocally exclude the type of coverage sought by the insured and the injury victim. The trial court denied the insurer’s motion and granted the driver’s motion.
The insurance company appealed, arguing that the trial court had erred in ruling that the policy didn’t exclude coverage for the golf cart accident and granting the injury victim’s summary judgment motion. The appellate court explained that interpretation of an insurance policy is subject to the usual rules of contract construction. The parties are bound by plain and completely clear terms. However, if the contract’s provisions can be interpreted in two or more ways, it is ambiguous. At that point, statutory rules of contract construction are used to determine the parties’ rights.
The  court explained that the exclusion’s terms provided for no coverage for motor vehicles, except in the case of golf carts designed for four riders. This meant that the policy excluded coverage for those golf carts that seated only 1-3 people. Read with the Endorsement, the exclusion applies except where a golf cart was designed to carry up to 2 people. The injury victim and her husband had argued that a 2-seater golf cart was covered but a 1-person cart was excluded. The couple had pointed examples of other cases in which the phrase “up to” was used to set a minimum. For example, where someone had to type up to 90 words per minute, applicants who could type more were not excluded.
ASI argued that it meant to set a maximum. The court explained that the test was what a reasonable person in the insured’ position would understand the terms of the insurance contract to mean. Exclusions are constructed strictly against the insurer. The appellate court found the exclusion ambiguous and affirmed the lower court.
If you are hurt in a golf cart accident or any other accident involving a motor vehicle, you will need an attorney with knowledge of insurance coverage issues and personal injury liability. Experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney Terrence R. Bethune can evaluate your case and fight for any compensation you may deserve. Contact us at (470) 709-0666 or via our online form.
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