One kind of accident many cyclists and motorcyclists are all too aware of is being doored by a car. Too many of us have been in such accidents, and they’re hard to avoid entirely. Motorists often park unsuspectingly in bike lanes, and where there are no bike lanes and there’s street-side parking, just doing your legal best to stay in your lane can result in getting doored by a car. The only other option is to ride on the sidewalk, and that’s illegal. And in the city, it may be impossible.
All it takes is for someone to open their door without looking, and bam! You’re on the street. And sometimes this kind of accident can cause serious injury. So who’s going to pay for it?
Negligence in Dooring Accidents
Dooring acccidents are almost always the result of the driver or a passenger on the driver’s side opening the door, suddenly blocking you with a hundred pounds of metal, plastic, and glass.
Even trying to avoid it can cause an accident. A helmet can help, and you should always wear one while riding, even if your city’s laws don’t require you to. However, it’s not going to do much good for the rest of your body.
Potential Dooring Injuries
Being doored by a car can result in anything from minor bumps to catastrophic injuries that change your life and are expensive to treat. Dooring injuries may include:
- Cuts, scrapes, and bruises
- Broken bones
- Nerve damage
- Organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
If someone doors you, don’t just leave the scene, even if you feel okay. You need to get the insurance and contact information of the driver and have EMS techs look you over. Call 911 or have someone call for you. If your injuries are serious, make sure you involve the police, as with any other car accident.
What Are California’s Dooring Laws?
California actually has a state law, Vehicle Code 22517, specifically designed to protect other vehicles, including bicycles, from being doored. The law forbids drivers and passengers from opening their doors on the side facing traffic until it’s reasonably safe to do so and does not interfere with other traffic.
This law means that anyone who causes a dooring accident is liable for it, not the cyclist. In addition to this law, many other cities have their own laws and ordinances about dooring.
Bringing an Injury Claim for Dooring
If you’ve been injured in a dooring accident, you have the same right to bring an injury claim against the person who owns the car as you do for any other car accident. All you have to do is demonstrate they violated the state and city dooring statutes by failing to check before they opened the door.
What If You’re Partially at Fault?
The person who caused the accident (or their insurer) may claim you’re at least partly responsible for it. This raises the specter of comparative negligence. This is almost always used in an attempt to decrease the potential damage award, because part of the fault could then be assigned to you.
If this argument is used against you, be sure to hire an experienced bicycle accident attorney to defend your interests.
What Damages Can You Sue For?
Minor injuries are regrettable in a dooring accident, but typically not grounds for a damage claim or lawsuit. However, the typical components of a car door can be very dangerous; if you veer into an oncoming car to avoid the door, the results may be even worse.
If you’ve suffered severe injuries and can prove an occupant of a car was responsible because they negligently opened a door in your path, you are eligible for damages from them and their insurance company. Among other things, they should pay for:
- Existing medical bills, and any future medical bills you can reasonably expect to incur.
- Lost earnings both now and in the future.
- Permanent disfigurement and/or disability.
- Pain and suffering.
- Funeral and burial costs, if you represent someone who died in a dooring accident.
Have You Been Doored by a Car?
If you have been doored by a car and suffered serious injury, you deserve compensation. No one in southern California knows bicycle law better than Los Angeles Bicycle Law. We specialize exclusively in bike law and have helped hundreds of people injured in bike accidents. For more information, contact us today.