Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Golf Cart Rollover

One of the first trials I participated in was a golf cart rollover case that went to trial many years ago.  It pitted golfing buddy against golfing buddy.  The saddest part of the case was that the plaintiff truly was injured.  He required back surgery and was in continuous pain. 

The allegation was made that my client, the driver of the golf cart, failed to utilize engine braking while going down a steep hill that had a sharp curve in the middle of it.  The plaintiff was in the passenger seat. As they went downhill, the golf cart built up too much speed and applying the brakes only resulted in a loss of traction as they approached the curve quickly.  Faced with going off a cliff and certain severe injury for both, or taking the turn too fast and risking a rollover in a flat area, my client choose to turn into the curve.  The result was a rollover of the golf cart that didn't injure my client, but caused severe injury to the plaintiff. 

I was working for USAA in their staff counsel office at the time.  My client had both an auto policy and umbrella policy with USAA.  Coverage would have clearly been offered under the umbrella policy for this lawsuit, but there was a question as to whether or not his auto policy would provide coverage for the lawsuit.  My client was provided a defense in the matter, and we tried the case.  The jury felt this was an accident that involved no one's negligence, and the Plaintiff recovered nothing.

Had my client not had an umbrella policy, he may have been in a fight, not only with his golfing buddy, but with his insurer regarding coverage and defense of the matter.  He had the umbrella policy and there was no fight regarding coverage.  Most people don't understand what an umbrella policy will cover and why they would need one.  I recommend this type of policy to all my clients.  The cost is generally minimal (under $200 or $300 a year for $1 million) and the benefit is tremendous in that it will cover most things (excluding intentional acts) not covered under an auto or homeowner policy.  Consider it if you can afford it.

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