Car Door Bicycle Accidents
Accidents involving car doors that open into the path of an oncoming bicyclist, also called car dooring, happens more frequently than you might imagine. In a 2002 Boston study of the occurrence, researchers found that 16% of all injury-producing accidents were the result of a motorist or passenger opening their door into an oncoming bike rider. However, in 30% of bicycle injury accidents, riders were injured when they also had to take action to avoid striking an open car door but which led to a collision with some other object, usually another vehicle.
Bicyclists tend to ride to the far right of the right traffic lane, usually near parked vehicles. Consequently, the risk of car dooring is higher. Bicyclists do need to be cautious of sudden car door openings into their path of travel and try to ride a car door length away from the vehicle if safe to do so. Riding defensively is common sense and should be practiced at all times.
Motorists, though, have a duty to look out for bicyclists or mopeds when opening a car door into a traffic lane. Many states have laws whereby a motorist cannot leave a car door open for a period that is longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. They also cannot open their door to oncoming traffic without first seeing that it is safe to do so and without interfering with the flow of traffic.
Unfortunately, drivers and passengers open their doors without first looking. In many towns and cities, bike lanes may have increased the risk of a cyclist striking a car door. When loading, or unloading or parking temporarily, a car will enter the bike lane and stop. Cyclists in the bike lane instinctively ride very close to parked cars within their lane to avoid regular traffic but risk having it open into their pathway. Liability for a car dooring accident usually rests on the motorist, though cyclists may bear some responsibility if they were speeding and/or riding very close to the parked vehicle without slowing or failed to notice that the car door had been open for some time even though this would be impeding the free flow of traffic.
If a bicyclist strikes the door, the bicyclist can be propelled over the door or into traffic depending on the angle of collision. Of course, serious injuries such as broken limbs, head injuries, and internal injuries may result.
Injured riders from such accidents will have to seek compensation from the culpable rider’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance if they possess any. Otherwise, they can obtain a judgment against the rider and attempt to collect from them personally or by various collection efforts.