This bicycle accident is the most dreaded, hated, and gruesome of the collisions. This happens when the cyclist is riding along and a car passenger suddenly swings their door open, either in front of the cyclist or towards the side of the cyclist, striking the rider on the side, knocking them down or into traffic as a sitting duck. Another version is when the cyclist swerves to avoid hitting door and is forced into traffic.
When the passenger door is swung open in front of a bike rider, he or she flips over onto the pavement. There is even a case where after the cyclist lands on the floor another vehicle runs over their arm.
WHO IS AT FAULT FOR DOORING ACCIDENTS?
The code section used for a bicycle rider’s collision with a car door is Vehicle Code section 22517. In fact, this section dates to as far back as 1947 where it was California Vehicle Code Section 956.6.
Vehicle code 22517 basically says, no person can open the door on the side of moving traffic, unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without movement of such traffic. This language clearly puts liability on the person opening the door by charging them with the obligation to check before they open the door. However, because of the word “reasonably” in the statute, it becomes a very fact-driven analysis. Insurance companies will attempt to use this to reduce liability. This is why it is so important to preserve evidence and contact an attorney as soon as possible.
HOW TO PREVENT DOORING ACCIDENTS:
Try to avoid or increase distance in areas where Uber or Lyft ride services drop off or pick up passengers, especially when approaching restaurants. Curbside pickup and valet attendants are constantly swinging doors open in a rush without looking. UBER and Lift create an extra issue of liability because their drivers are classified as independent drivers even though in every other way they act as an employee. But this is an issue an attorney will litigate.
When riding, have a lookout for car’s breaks lights or passenger compartment lights. If passenger light has come on, it could mean the car has recently been turned off and the door is about to open. Or if brake lights are on but go out, that could also mean the driver has taken their foot off the break and is about to exit.
CHECKLIST AFTER A DOORING ACCIDENT
Get yourself to safety as soon as possible. Most often, you are a sitting duck. Leave the bike. I know you are reading this now saying of course I’ll leave the bike behind. But at that moment, your instinct is trying to preserve your bike. If injury is severe, as it usually is, Call 911. Some Garmin head units and some Apple Watches will automatically detect a hard fall and notify your emergency contact. Take pictures. Note where the accident happened and note who opened the door.