In the recently decided case of Angelotta v. Security National Insurance in Florida’s Fifth District, an issue came up regarding whether a golf cart can be considered a vehicle and whether the regular use exclusion of an insurance policy is valid under Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law. The accident in this case occurred when the defendant was driving his modified golf cart at a speed of twenty miles an hour when he struck and injured the plaintiff inside of a retirement community. It should be noted that the defendant had forced place insurance under Florida’s Financial Responsibility statute, which requires some drivers to maintain insurance coverage over and above Florida’s minimum requirements due to their poor driving history of causing accidents and/or driving under the influence charges. The defendant’s insurance company refused to cover the damages arguing that the golf cart did not meet the definition of an “auto” under the terms of the insurance policy. The policy defined an “auto” as a self-propelled private passenger motor vehicle designed principally for use on paved public streets and highways. Additionally, the insurance company argued that since the defendant leased the golf cart and regularly used the golf cart, but never listed the vehicle on his insurance policy, the insurance company did not have to cover the injuries based on the “regular use” exclusion of the insurance policy. Ultimately, the plaintiff prevailed in the law suit and was able to defeat both those arguments.
First, the Court decided that the modifications to the golf cart made it a low speed vehicle under Florida law and that the golf cart fell under the definition of an “auto.” Further, the Court decided that the “regular use” exclusion of the policy conflicted with the public policy provisions of Florida’s Financial Responsibility. The Court concluded that because the defendant had insurance under Florida’s Financial Responsibility laws and because that law is designed to protect the public from particularly unsafe drivers, the defendant’s insurance policy could not contain exclusions that would contradict that design. Had the golf cart not been modified and had the driver not had forced place insurance, it is unlikely that the plaintiff could have recovered anything for their injuries under the defendant’s auto insurance. But that is why it is important to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate all possible avenues of recovery and the rights that you have if you’ve been injured in an accident.