Keeping out of the rough: Are you liable if your golf ball hits someone?
You’re about to tee off on the 18th hole as the sun blisters on above. Near the green, are the slow-coach gentlemen who’ve evidently never heard of making haste. They appear to have moved off but the trees obscure your view. Do you take the shot?
Previous cases of golfing negligence
Recent and more historic cases have shown that taking the shot in this situation could lead to serious implications.
In 2015, Stewart Muir was ordered to pay £10,000 after an errant slice of the ball hit another golfer on the head, causing intermittent severe headaches and nausea. Muir called the common golfing warning, ‘Fore!’ but the judge found that the shot was negligent.
In 2007, a similar scenario occurred, though the golfer that was hit unfortunately lost an eye. The judge found the player that struck the ball was 70% liable, with the clubhouse liable for 30%. The victim was awarded £397,000 in damages.
In Australia in the mid-90s, a golfer took a shot, did not call or give a warning, and the ball hit a fellow golfer. It caused life-changing injuries, and the golfer who had taken the shot was found not to have considered the consequences, the shot being ‘plainly negligent’. He was ordered to pay $2.6m in Australian dollars.
So, who’s liable?
Certainly, there is a grey area where liability is concerned, yet surprisingly, it is often the individual player that must pay substantial damages costs, not the clubhouse. In these cases and in others, defendants have argued that the cautionary signage managed by the clubhouse is not presented clearly enough. However, often it’s the players who are taking risky shots ultimately deemed as negligent. What’s more, a report found that 92% of shots taken, fall within a 30 degrees cone; meaning 8% go astray. How can you be sure that the shot you’re about to take won’t land you in trouble?
Taking precautions on the golf course is a prerequisite of the game, but considering all risks should be ingrained into every golfer’s mind.
Many golf clubhouses offer insurance as part of a membership, but some do not. Whether you want to protect yourself from taking a bad shot, or wish to cover your golf belongings from unexpected accidents or theft, contact R Collins & Co on 01977 558391.