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Florida court says auto insurer must cover golf cart accident, p2

Tue Jul 30th, 2013 on     Insurance Claims,    

We are still talking about a recent Florida court of appeal decision in an auto insurance case. The decision is noteworthy because it involves golf carts — specifically, a modified golf cart driven on a public road. Generally, the only way to get a golf cart to go above 20 miles an hour is to make some modifications. The owner of the insured in this case had done just that, ostensibly so he could drive on public roads.

The driver was in an accident, and the occupant of the cart he ran into was injured. The victim sued, but the driver’s insurance company denied the claim. It seems the golf cart did not qualify as an auto under the policy.

The policy defined an auto as a vehicle “designed principally for use on paved public streets and highways.” The golf cart was not designed for such use, the insurer said; the modifications may have made it suitable for use on public roads, but it did not leave the factory that way. 

As we said in our last post, the trial court agreed. The golf cart was not designed for public roads, so coverage was properly denied.

The appellate panel, though, found that the definition in the policy runs contrary to Florida law. Under the state’s Financial Responsibility Law, a “motor vehicle” is a self-propelled vehicle designed — and required to be licensed — for use upon a public road or highway. However, state law categorizes modified golf carts as “low-speed vehicles,” and therein lies the rub for the insurance company.

What’s the difference? Well, we’ll explain that in our next post.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Florida Auto Policy Covers Modified Golf Cart: Court,” July 22, 2013

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