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Golf Bag Bling: What Is a ‘Motorized Vehicle’ on a Standard Homeowners Policy?

Clients have purchased remote-controlled electric golf bag carriers. How would a homeowners policy respond if one of these ran into a person or another vehicle, either on the course or in the parking lot of the clubhouse?
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golf bag bling: what is a ‘motorized vehicle’ on a standard homeowners policy?

Our agency has many clients that have purchased electric golf bag carriers—averaging around $1,500 to $3,000 each in value—that they operate with a remote control. I am not sure how a homeowners policy would respond if one of these ran into a person or another vehicle, either on the course or in the parking lot of the clubhouse. While homeowners usually covers lawnmowers, that's only on the insured's premises.

Q: Is a remote-controlled motorized vehicle covered under a homeowners policy? 

Response 1: Homeowners policies typically exclude property and liability coverage for "motor vehicles," which are commonly defined as self-propelled land vehicles. 

Electric golf bag carriers are obviously self-propelled. The question is: Are they vehicles? 

A common definition would be something "used for transporting people or goods, especially on land, such as a car, truck or cart." Read broadly, that definition could include something that transports golf clubs. 

If considered a motor vehicle, policies typically only cover them if they are not licensed and used to service a residence or designed to provide mobility to a person with a disability. Liability coverage is also provided for golf carts being used at a golf course, although these wouldn't likely be considered golf carts. Liability coverage also extends to the use of unlicensed vehicles designed for off-road recreational use, but if they're owned by the insured, they're only covered while on an insured location like the residents' premises. 

You'll have to ask your insurers what they think since the policy language isn't clear. Property coverage could be afforded by scheduling them like other golf equipment if the company is willing. Some personal umbrella policies would also provide liability coverage for them. 

Response 2: Unless they are used in business—which is doubtful but should be asked—I do not see any liability exclusion. They are not vehicles used to service the insured's premise and probably do not exceed the speed limitation in the policy—again, double-check to be sure. Regarding physical damage, you could schedule them if you want to be sure of coverage, no deductible and broader perils.

Response 3: The ISO homeowners policy added a definition for "motor vehicles" in 2000 that clarifies them as "a self-propelled land or amphibious vehicle." The word “vehicle" is not separately defined, but Merriam-Webster defines it as:

  1. A means of carrying or transporting something
    1. Motor vehicle
    2. A piece of mechanized equipment

It is a piece of mechanized equipment that is self-propelled on land, so I would say there is no property coverage under an ISO homeowners policy since it doesn't service the premises or assist someone with a disability.

In the same year, the ISO homeowners defined "motor vehicle liability" to include both ownership and use of motor vehicles. The Section II coverages begin by excluding all motor vehicle liability if, at the time of the occurrence, one of the listed circumstances exists. It would not appear that any of these apply to the golf bag carrier, so liability would most likely apply. 

Since, however, there are a wide range of proprietary forms out in the marketplace, if I were you I'd review my insurer's forms or contact my underwriter to determine their take on coverage.

Response 4: ISO alone has at least three different homeowners editions in the marketplace that treat this exposure differently. It's dangerous to generalize about coverage—you must read the form in question. If you have multiple homeowners forms from carriers in your agency, you have to review each one.

Response 5: The device fits the definition of a motor vehicle but not the definition of a golf cart. Either see if the personal auto policy will add it or get a separate recreational vehicle policy.

Response 6: Homeowners property and liability coverage for the electric golf bag carrier would be form-specific. Some homeowners policies provide liability coverage for motorized golf carts not subject to motor vehicle registration while on the golf course and when they cross public roads to access the facility and are being used for golfing purposes.

Those insurers might include this bag carrier within that definition. You would need to review each homeowners form and ask the insurer for its position on coverage.

This question was originally submitted by an agent through the Big “I" Virtual University's (VU) Ask an Expert Service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

Thursday, February 18, 2021