Cyclist Dooring Accident Laws and Recovering Compensation
The term “dooring” may not be familiar to many people, but most avid bicyclists and motorcyclists know what dooring is because of the injuries it can cause.
Dooring happens when someone in a parked vehicle opens a door facing oncoming traffic in such a way that an oncoming cyclist has no way to avoid hitting it.
Simply put, dooring is a type of bike accident occurring when a bicyclist collides with an open car door.
Most bike riders know to travel in a designated bike lane or along the side of the road to avoid moving vehicles, but this places them next to parked cars in some locations.
Most people exiting the left side of their vehicle don't realize they are not just blocking the bike lane but are also creating the risk of colliding with an oncoming cyclist.
Even low-speed bike riders can suffer serious injuries when striking a fixed heavy object. The collision usually causes the rider to fall backward off their bicycle onto the pavement, or they could be hurled over the car door.
In a situation where the bicyclist had sufficient time to react and swerve away from the car door, they are now at high risk of being struck by oncoming traffic.
Dooring accidents can cause catastrophic injuries to cyclists and even death in some cases. In California, dooring is also against the law, and victims of dooring accidents can file a personal injury claim against the person who opened the car door illegally.
Our California personal injury attorneys will review the related laws below
What Does California Law Say About Dooring?
In California, the rule about opening a car door into traffic is covered in Vehicle Code 22517. Specifically, it says:
- “Nobody shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of traffic.”
Simply put, dooring is a traffic violation, and when someone violates the law, they are placing cyclists at risk of being involved in an accident that requires medical attention.
If a car is parked on the roadside, the occupants can only leave the door open for a reasonable amount to load or unload the vehicle.
Based on this law, your injury attorney could establish that the vehicle occupant was liable for your injuries due to negligence.
In other words, bicyclists who have been injured in dooring accidents in California can pursue personal injury claims against the people who caused their accident.
Bicyclists and motorcyclists are especially susceptible to injury from dooring incidents because (a) they have very little protection, and (b) they often have no room to avoid the door because their path is between the vehicular traffic on their left and the parked cars on the right.
How Dooring Accidents Can Cause Injuries
When someone opens the door of a vehicle in the immediate path of an oncoming cyclist, it provides the opportunity for significant injuries in several ways:
- The cyclist collides directly with the open door;
- The impact with the door catapults the cyclists over the handlebars, causing them to fall on the pavement;
- The cyclist swerves to avoid the open door and collides with one or more vehicles approaching on the opposite side;
- The cyclist slides to avoid the open door and skids across the pavement.
One of the reasons dooring is so dangerous to bicyclists and motorcyclists is because it has both the impact of a fixed object and the ability to throw the rider over the door onto the pavement ahead—effectively resulting in a double impact which can cause excessive injury.
Common Injuries Caused by Dooring Accidents
Dooring accidents can cause many injuries, some of which are pretty serious. These include:
- Traumatic brain injuries,
- Neck and spine injuries,
- Broken bones,
- Severe lacerations,
- Road rash,
- Internal injuries,
- Soft-tissue injuries,
Complications and Long-Term Effects
Aside from the pain of the injuries themselves, dooring injuries can create a wide range of complications for the victims, both with medical issues and life disruptions. These may include:
- The need for multiple surgeries to repair damage;
- The risk of infection due to road rash and other lacerations;
- Extensive physical therapy to restore mobility and function;
- Loss of income/loss of job due to an inability to work;
- Potential for brain damage with TBI injuries;
- Possible need for in-home care during the recovery process;
Some injuries from doorings can be permanent, particularly damage to the spine and brain. In addition, many victims of dooring accidents end up with a lifetime of chronic pain that reduces their overall quality of life.
Recovering Damages from Dooring Accidents
Because it is a violation of the road rules to open a door into oncoming traffic, the person who opened the door is legally liable for any injuries caused as a result.
Thus, victims of dooring accidents in California can file a personal injury claim to recover damages from the party responsible. These damages may include:
- Medical expenses;
- Rehabilitation costs;
- Therapy costs--treating any psychological trauma incurred by the accident;
- Property damage to the bike and other objects involved in the accident;
- Lost income/loss of earning capacity due to an inability to work or a permanent injury;
- Pain and suffering damages--compensation for both the physical pain and emotional impact of the incident;
- Past medical bills and medical costs reasonably expected in the future;
- Any permanent disability.
In the tragic situation where the dooring accident killed the bike rider, then the family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving Liability in a Dooring Injury Accident
While it should seem relatively easy to prove someone is liable in a dooring accident due to a violation of VC 22517, there may be exceptions that a defendant or their insurance might use to try to avoid liability.
For example, the driver might argue that the cyclist was far from the door when it opened and had plenty of time to come to a stop, or that the cyclist was wearing dark colors at night and the driver couldn't see them.
Thus, to prove liability in a dooring accident, the attorney must demonstrate four things:
- The defendant had a duty of care to protect the cyclist from danger;
- The defendant breached that duty of care by opening the door illegally;
- The cyclist was injured as a result of that action; and
- The cyclist suffered loss as a result of those injuries.
After a dooring accident, the person who caused the crash could argue that the cyclist was partially responsible for it.
This is called “comparative negligence.” It's an attempt to reduce the financial liability of the guilty party's insurer by placing a percentage of the fault for the accident on the victim.
In this situation, the damages would be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the victim.
In cyclist dooring accidents, if there is an allegation of comparative negligence, we can make solid arguments against it based on the circumstances.
Injury Justice Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County and serves victims of negligence throughout Southern California, including Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
We offer a free case evaluation by calling (818) 781-1570 or filling out our contact form.