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FORE! Can You Recover Compensation If Hit With an Errant Golf Ball?

June 10, 2016

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” – Winston Churchill

Golf – the most seeming innocuous and graceful sport that can turn the most patient of player into a blathering idiot!  Golfers become ranting combatants against picturesque greens. While playing, one can expect a series of errant shots, hazards, and the misfortunes of the battle.  Players typically associate these hazards with high grass, sand or water, and rarely with the hazard of personal injury.  Yet personal injury is prevalent in the game, especially here in Arizona, with more than 300 courses across the state.

Did you know that the average golf ball soars off the tee at nearly 165mph?  Such high velocity in combination with little to no accuracy makes the likelihood and occurrence of personal injury in golf more common than one would imagine. Recognizing this probability of injury, Bob Hope jokingly commented on his golf experience with ex-president Gerald Ford, when he stated: “Shortly after I started playing golf with Jerry Ford, I thought it was time to take some lessons. Not golf lessons. First aid.”

In the United States, there are roughly 41,000 people per year who are treated at an emergency room due to golf-related injuries. With approximately 300 days of sunshine and over 200 golf courses in the Phoenix Metropolitan area alone, it is likely that Phoenix is a hot spot for such injuries. As golf can be a dangerous sport and there are numerous things that can go wrong when a golfer steps onto a tee box, the majority of legal action concerns three specific areas:

1) Players and spectators struck by errant golf balls;

2) Passerby’s hit by errant golf balls adjacent to a golf course; and

3) Neighboring homeowners adjacent to a golf course.

Whether you have played golf or not, it is a widely known fact that golfers, regardless of their skill level, cannot avoid unintentional hooks, slices, and dreaded shanks. That withstanding, it is a general rule that golfers will not be held liable for injury or damage that was caused by an errant shot. Essentially, golfers assume the risk of injury as soon as they step onto the first tee. Several Courts have even held that it is “common knowledge” and an “inherent risk” that golf balls do not always fly to their intended target, thus negligence is not established.

From a golfer’s perspective, most of us have accidentally hit a drive that sailed so far out of bounds, the ball landed in the next neighborhood. So, what if you’re partaking on a Sunday morning stroll near a golf course, enjoying the green grass and desert landscape when BONK, a golf ball hits you in the head? Is the golfer with the dreadful slice liable for your injury? Unfortunately not, several Courts have ruled that a golfer who accidentally misses a fairway and flies a golf ball off the course and onto an adjacent sidewalk or roadway is not liable in negligence for the resulting injury.

What about a property owner with a house on the right side of the 16th fairway who is struck by an errant tee shot? This scenario too, has been ruled upon in several court cases. Comparable to above, the Courts ruled that such property owners living adjacent to golf courses should be perceived similarly to a spectator at a sporting event. In this regard, the property owner chooses to live there, much as an individual chooses to attend a sporting event. The assumption of risk and inherent dangers of golf must be accepted.

Simply stated, what may have constituted as nothing more than a poorly struck tee shot does not result in liability to the golfer for injuries suffered by someone else on the golf course, adjacent roadway, or house. This is mind; there are some exceptions to the situations mentioned above. It should be noted that if a personal injury occurs as the result of a poorly designed or maintained golf course inconsistent with the inherent risk of the game, a claim could be made. Additionally, golfers who carelessly swing and strike the golf ball without proper lookout may potentially subject him/herself for liability of an injury. Finally, a golfer may be liable for personal injury if he/she acted recklessly or “totally outside the range” of normal participation. An example may include knowingly hitting a golf ball into the “danger zone” or same direction of another person without warning. (i.e. hitting into someone).

Call Torgenson Law to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you or a family member suffers a personal injury as a result of an errant golf ball, give us a call for a free consultation. Because the personal injury process can be a complicated one, you will want to have an accomplished legal team examining your case, collecting evidence, and protecting your rights. Give the Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Torgenson Law a call at (602) 726-0747.