When golf becomes a deadly contact sport, who is liable?

Many golfers have a sort of love-hate relationship with the game. Hitting the perfect shot is a great feeling; a physical feeling from the first part of the swing until the ball drops perfectly on the green. As great of a feeling as a good day can have, the opposite can be felt when things just are not going right.

Those sand traps, ponds and ridges are not the only hazards in the game of golf. The little white dimpled ball can quickly turn into a dangerous weapon that can cause fatal brain injuries in some cases. Is anyone liable in this situation? The answer is, maybe.

When it comes to accidents like these, the answer depends on both the circumstances and the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred.

First, the circumstances. There is some risk that is involved in the game of golf, just like many contact sports. Golfers are going to hit “stray” balls, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be liable. However, there are some actions that step outside the bounds of golf etiquette.

Have you ever experienced an antsy golfer, one who thinks it might be their duty to move the game along? When a golfer gives an intentional warning shot to those still on the green, they could possibly be held liable for injuries. Even though they didn’t directly touch the other person, they may still be committing a type of battery.

What if a golfer simply hits a stray ball without an ill-will at all and it strikes another person? What if this happens often? Could there be a negligent design in that part of the golf course? Is there a tee too close to another hole? What if the distance markers are wrong?

These questions have all led to liability in cases across the country. For those who wonder if they might have a claim in Pennsylvania — no matter how unusual it might seem — a wrongful death attorney will help them sort out the facts, the law and the possible compensation they may be eligible for.

Source: The New York Times, “The Intersection of Golf and the Law,” Bill Pennington, June 23, 2012

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