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When Cyclists Get 'Doored' by a Car, Who's Liable?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 21, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cycling in the city is dangerous. Not only do bicyclists have to be aware of cars and pedestrians, but they have to be hyper-aware of that point when car drivers are about to become pedestrians.

Any person who has spent time biking in an urban setting has a story of almost or actually getting "doored" -- colliding with an open car door as you cruise along a line of parked cars. So whose fault is it when a cyclist gets doored? The biker? The driver? What if it's a passenger? Let's take a look:

The Rules of the Road

Most traffic laws require cyclists to ride in bike lanes or to the right of traffic, which places them perilously close to parked cars. Drivers and passengers are required to check for bicycle traffic before opening a door. Therefore, the door opener is usually liable if a cyclist gets doored.

If there was no motor vehicle traffic at the time, the person who opened the car door could argue that the cyclist had the chance to avoid the door. The motor could then contend that the cyclist contributed to the accident and should be partly responsible

But normally, drivers and passengers should check their mirrors and be sure the door-zone is clear of cyclists before opening the door.

The Dangers of Dooring

About ten percent of all bicycle-car collisions were due to a motorist opening a door in the path of a cyclist. A ten-year study on bicyclist fatalities in New York City showed that three percent were dooring incidents: either a cyclist striking an open door or swerving to avoid one.

As scary as getting doored is, it may be safer than other collisions. According to an analysis of bike accident data, "80.04% of those cyclists who were doored were injured, while 94.40% of those in non-dooring crashes were injured." Additionally, the most serious door-zone-related injuries happened when cyclists were hit by another motor vehicle while swerving to avoid the door.

So cyclists might be better off hitting the door, and taking the issue up with the person who opened it. If you've been injured in a bike accident, you may want to consult with an experienced injury attorney today.

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