Getting hurt in a dooring accident is often jarring and confusing. You might ask yourself how this happened and who will pay for your injuries.
The responsibility likely doesn’t lie with you. Let’s break down the reasons why it isn’t your fault and what you should do next. If you hurt in dooring accident contact bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible.
What Is a Dooring Accident?
A dooring accident is a traffic collision that typically involves a cyclist or another vulnerable road user and a stationary or parked motor vehicle. It occurs when a vehicle occupant suddenly opens their door, often without warning, directly into the path of an oncoming cyclist or other road user.
As the cyclist approaches the vehicle, they might not have enough time or space to react, which can lead to a direct impact with the open door. This collision can transfer substantial force onto the cyclist and, depending on the angle and speed of approach, could also throw the cyclist off their bicycle and onto the pavement or into traffic.
The suddenness and unpredictability of dooring incidents make them particularly hazardous. In many cases, neither the person opening the vehicle door nor the approaching cyclist anticipates the event until the moment of impact.
The injuries that result from dooring accidents can range from skin-deep abrasions to more severe injuries like fractures, especially if the cyclist is traveling at a higher speed.
Compounding the risk is that, following the initial collision, the cyclist could fall into adjacent traffic lanes, further increasing the potential for injury.
How Common Are Dooring Accidents?
Additional data from IRCOBI illustrate just how common dooring accidents are and how frequently they result in various crash injuries:
- Between 2010 and 2020, there was an alarming increase of approximately 50 percent in the number of U.S. bicyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles. There were 938 bicycle accident fatalities recorded in 2020 alone.
- An estimated 130,000 cyclists sustain crash injuries annually in the U.S.
- Global data sources suggest dooring incidents account for three to ten percent of all cyclist traffic collisions leading to injuries.
- A recent study that examined 17,156 individuals who sustained injuries in dooring collisions found that approximately 13 percent of all dooring accident cases resulted in fractures.
- Another 48 percent of all individuals who got hurt in dooring accidents sustained superficial injuries, such as abrasions, contusions, and lacerations.
- Seventeen percent of these individuals complained of pain but reported no other injuries following dooring accidents.
- The most common body regions that dooring accidents injure include the upper extremities (36 percent), lower extremities (15 percent), and the head (12 percent). One in five dooring accidents injures multiple body regions.
- In about 56 percent of dooring accidents, cyclists made direct contact with both the open vehicle door and the ground. In approximately 43 percent of incidents, the cyclist made contact with the open vehicle door only.
Common Causes of Dooring Accidents
Dooring accidents are unfortunately common in many urban areas, especially where motorists and cyclists share road spaces.
Several factors can contribute to these types of accidents, including:
- Driver or Passenger Inattention: The predominant cause of many dooring incidents is a lack of attention by vehicle occupants. Whether engrossed in conversation, distracted by electronic devices, or just lost in thought, inattentive drivers or passengers sometimes forget to check for oncoming cyclists before swinging open their doors.
- Tinted or Blocked Windows: Vehicle windows with heavy tints or visual clutter like hanging ornaments or stickers can significantly impede an occupant’s view. These obstructions can prevent occupants from noticing approaching cyclists, increasing the risk of sudden door openings.
- High Traffic Areas: Bustling urban zones with dense mixes of vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians inherently present heightened crash risks. The constant flow and proximity of cyclists to parked cars mean the probability of a door opening just as a cyclist is passing by increases substantially.
- Parallel Parking Zones: Roads with parallel parking spaces often provide limited room between parked vehicles and traffic lanes. This spatial constraint reduces the room cyclists have in which to react, especially if a car door unexpectedly opens in their immediate path.
- Low Light: Even during nighttime or in conditions with reduced visibility, drivers and passengers must check their surroundings to ensure the coast is clear before opening vehicle doors.
- Obstructed Bike Lanes: Cyclists occasionally find debris, parked vehicles, or construction materials blocking their designated biking lanes. These obstructions can force cyclists into the main road, closer to the line of parked cars, and amplify the risk of a dooring incident.
- Vehicle Design: Some cars and trucks, due to their specific designs, have doors that are larger or swing open more widely than others. These designs pose increased dooring risks, as the doors occupy larger portions of the adjacent spaces, making collisions with cyclists more likely.
- Inadequate Signage: Proper road signage indicating bike lanes or shared traffic zones is essential. In the absence of adequate signage, drivers and passengers might remain oblivious to the potential presence of cyclists, leading to decreased caution when opening doors.
What to Do if You Get Hurt in a Dooring Accident
Taking the right steps after a dooring accident can make a significant difference in both your physical recovery and any subsequent legal or insurance claims you make.
Once you leave the accident scene and seek medical attention for your injuries, here’s what you should do:
- Follow your doctor’s medical advice and treatment plans.
- Attend all follow-up medical appointments as necessary.
- Document all of your injuries with photos and journal entries.
- Retain copies of all medical records and bills.
- Take photos of the damage to your bicycle and the other vehicle.
- Get quotes for repairing or replacing your damaged bicycle.
- Gather contact information from available witnesses if you haven’t already.
- Notify your own insurance company about the accident.
- Avoid discussing the accident with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
- Obtain a copy of the police report, if available.
- Document any work days you miss or income you lose due to the crash.
- Save all receipts related to the accident, including those for bike repairs.
- Avoid posting details or comments about the accident on social media.
- Consult an experienced dooring accident lawyer.
What Are Your Options for Seeking Compensation After a Dooring Accident?
After a dooring accident, you might deal with injuries, medical expenses, property damage, and income losses from missed work.
You may exercise several options for seeking compensation for these losses, such as:
Third-Party Insurance Claims
One of the primary avenues for seeking compensation after a dooring accident is to file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance policy. The at-fault party negligently opened the car door. When you file a third-party claim, you can seek reimbursement for medical bills, lost income, and repair or replacement costs for damage to bicycles or other personal property.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage
If the at-fault party lacks insurance or has insufficient coverage, you may turn to your own insurance policy. Uninsured (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage could make up for the gaps in the other party’s policy.
If you carry medical payments (MedPay) coverage as part of your insurance policy, it could cover your accident-related medical expenses. If you have this coverage, you can file a claim for compensation no matter who caused the accident, which can help during liability disputes or slow claims processes.
If insurance claims don’t result in a fair settlement, you may file a lawsuit. You might need to do this if your case involves severe injuries, long-term disabilities, or disagreements about fault.
How Do You Prove Fault in a Dooring Accident?
After a dooring accident, victims seeking compensation must establish fault.
Lawyers and other investigators typically rely on this evidence to prove fault in dooring accident injury cases:
- Police Reports: Often, after a significant road accident, law enforcement comes to the scene. They will typically create a report that details the circumstances of the accident, including statements from both parties, witnesses, and, in some cases, their own assessments of fault.
- Witness Statements: Witnesses can provide objective accounts of the incident. Their testimony can verify your version of events and establish the negligence of the other party.
- Photos and Video Footage: Photos or videos from the scene can depict the positioning of the bike and the car, the road conditions, and the angle of the open door. In some urban areas, surveillance cameras from nearby buildings or traffic lights might capture the incident, providing strong evidence.
- Medical Records: Medical reports detail the injuries you sustained and link them to the accident. They can also provide insights into the force and angle of the impact, further establishing the nature and severity of the collision.
- Expert Testimony: Accident reconstruction experts can analyze the evidence, recreate the dooring accident, and offer insights into the actions of the parties leading up to the incident. Their testimony can help prove fault after a dooring accident.
- Damage to the Bicycle and Vehicle: Inspecting the damage to the bicycle, the car door, and the rest of the vehicle can yield useful information about the angle and speed of the impact. The damage pattern can corroborate your account of the accident and indicate liability for the collision.
- Personal Testimony: Your personal account of the incident, while subjective, is still an essential piece of evidence. A consistent and clear recounting of events can bolster your credibility and support your case.
How a Lawyer Could Help With Your Dooring Accident Case
Managing a dooring accident injury claim is no easy task, especially when you’re still in the process of recovering from the accident. Fortunately, you can enlist the help of a knowledgeable lawyer to streamline the process. A Bakersfield personal injury attorney can protect your legal rights and maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.
Here are some key ways a dooring accident attorney can assist with your claim:
- Investigating the circumstances surrounding the dooring accident
- Gathering evidence to substantiate your claim
- Interviewing witnesses to build a robust case
- Calculating the total extent of your crash-related losses
- Reviewing local traffic laws and regulations pertinent to your case
- Identifying all possible sources of compensation for your injuries
- Collaborating with accident reconstruction experts when necessary
- Consulting medical professionals to understand the severity of your injuries
- Facilitating communication between you and the at-fault party
- Reviewing insurance policy details to determine coverage scope
- Drafting and submitting a comprehensive claim document
- Negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf
- Protecting you against tactics that could minimize your compensation
- Advising you on whether to settle or take your case to trial
- Representing you in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary
- Filing all legal documents correctly and within the appropriate deadline