Your Options When Injured In A "Dooring" Accident While Cycling

Cyclists in Florida are well aware of the dangers they face daily while traveling on Florida’s roads, especially the sudden danger of a car door swinging open, also known as “dooring” accidents. In 2019 alone, hundreds of dooring accidents involving cyclists were reported across the state, making Florida one of the most dangerous places in the United States for cyclists.

These accidents are among the most dangerous and unpredictable. These accidents can have serious physical, emotional, and financial consequences. Keep reading to learn more about your options if you were injured by a car door while riding your bike.

Victim on the asphalt. Bicycle and silver colored car accident on the road at forest at daytime

The Dynamics Of Dooring Accidents

Dooring accidents aren't just a matter of bad luck; they're unfortunate events intertwined with legal complexities and the potential for serious injury.

What Is Dooring?

Dooring occurs when a car door is opened into the path of a cyclist, creating a dangerous situation that can lead to serious injury or even death. This accident occurs suddenly, giving the cyclist little time to react and avoid a collision.

In many cases, dooring isn’t only an unfortunate mishap but also a reflection of the negligence of motorists who fail to look for cyclists.

States have bicycle laws that protect bicyclists and establish the responsibilities of motorists who share the road. Awareness and compliance with these laws by all parties can drastically reduce the number of "dooring" incidents and ensure the safety of cyclists.

Common Injuries

Abrasions and bruises are common when riders come into contact with the opening car door or the sidewalk. More severe impacts can lead to broken bones, particularly in the collarbones or wrists, as cyclists instinctively reach out their arms to cushion a fall.

Head traumas, including concussions, are a significant risk if a helmet isn't worn at the time of impact. Traumatic injuries can lead to even more complex damage, such as internal organ damage or spinal cord injuries that require immediate emergency care.

What Contributes To Dooring Accidents

While often overlooked in discussions about road safety, dooring accidents are a significant hazard, especially in urban areas with a high concentration of cyclists and parked vehicles. Understanding what contributes to these accidents and implementing various prevention strategies can significantly improve the safety of cyclists on our roads.

Lack Of Awareness

Many drivers don't realize the danger that opening a car door presents to passing cyclists. Cyclists often are injured because someone didn’t check their mirror before opening a door.

Raising awareness through campaigns and driver education programs could dramatically reduce the number of dooring accidents, protecting our bicycling community from harm’s way.

Improper Bike Lane Design

Properly designed lanes protect cyclists from swinging doors and help prevent dooring accidents. Designers must give bikes enough space to navigate safely, which means positioning lanes outside the "door zone," where an open car door can reach. This creates a buffer between parked cars and cyclists, significantly reducing the risk of collision.

Additionally, bike lanes should follow smooth paths free from obstructions or sudden changes in direction that could force bikers into harm's way. With thoughtful design, cities can ensure safer travel for everyone on the road, making cycling a more attractive mode of transportation.

Rights And Responsibilities Of Cyclists And Motorists

Understanding the legal framework for dooring accidents is important for cyclists and motorists, as it outlines a web of rights to protect cyclists and duties for motorists. This intersection of law and safety shapes the playing field and ensures that every road user knows what’s expected of them when it comes to an unfortunate collision with a door.

Traffic Laws

Cyclists need to know they’re entitled to the same rights as other vehicles on the street. This means you have a right to your lane and, like any motorist, must signal turns and obey stop signs and lights. However, each state may have additional rules tailored for cyclists' safety.

For example, under Florida Statute 316.2005, it’s the motorists’ duty to avoid causing any interference with other traffic. They’re required to check their mirrors and blind spots for bicyclists before opening their car doors.

So, if an opening car door hits a bicyclist in Florida, it's likely due to the driver's lack of care. Being well-versed in local bicycling laws will increase your safety and help determine liability if someone disregards these rules and injury or damage occurs.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence takes the law further by examining how your actions may have contributed to the accident. Even if a car door suddenly opens into your path and causes a dooring accident, you aren't automatically free of fault. Lawyers and courts look closely at every detail, such as whether you were riding too close to parked cars and whether you were following safety rules for cyclists.

This principle determines how much compensation you can receive depending on your share of fault in an accident. If it turns out that both you and the car driver acted carelessly, your compensation may be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.

It's important for cyclists to understand this concept as it directly affects any legal claims or lawsuits following a dooring accident. Always ride responsibly and gather evidence whenever possible. These actions could significantly affect the outcome if negligence is compared during a lawsuit.

Steps To Take After A Dooring Accident

In the unfortunate event of a dooring accident, knowing the appropriate steps to take can greatly impact the outcome and protect your rights and well-being. Whether you're a cyclist who's been hit or a motorist involved in the incident, it’s important to respond correctly.

Seek Medical Attention

After a dooring accident, you should seek medical treatment immediately, even if you think you aren’t seriously injured. Some injuries can hide under the adrenaline rush and may not show symptoms until hours or days later.

Having medical professionals examine you will ensure that all your injuries are properly documented — an important step if you need to claim compensation for your inconvenience.

Make sure to keep a record of any medical treatment you have received about the door collision. This includes visits to the emergency room, appointments with specialists, physiotherapy treatments, and any medication prescribed to treat injuries and pain management related to the accident.

Calling The Police

It's important that the police come to the scene of the accident, even if the injuries appear minor. Officers will make a report, which is an official account of what happened and can prove valuable later. This documentation often contains details that can affect liability and insurance claims.

Ensure you give officers as much information as possible about the incident without admitting fault or speculating about the incident. The facts should speak for themselves, and it's best to avoid making statements that could be used against you in later court proceedings.

Police reports help build a timeline and support your case if you're seeking justice or compensation for damages you suffered in a dooring accident.

Gathering Evidence

Be sure to take photos of the accident, including close-up images of damage to your bike and the vehicle door. Take a wide-angle shot showing the position of both vehicles on the road.

If there are skid marks, record these as well. Don't overlook road signs or traffic signals — they help to support your case by providing context.

Request contact information from witnesses who saw the incident since their statements can strengthen your claim later. Make notes about the accident while the details are still fresh in your mind — they can be vital when recalling the exact events to the authorities or in court proceedings.

Recourse For Dooring Accident Victims

Victims of dooring accidents may have the right to pursue legal compensation claims, emphasizing the importance of understanding one's options and seeking adept legal counsel to navigate the complexities of personal injury law.

Insurance Claims

You’ll usually need to file a liability claim citing the motorist's policy to receive compensation from the motorist's insurance company. As a cyclist, you should provide all relevant information about the incident, including medical reports, photographs of injuries, witness statements, and event details.

It’s important to remember that insurance companies often try to minimize compensation payments, so it’s usually in your best interest to speak with a bicycle accident attorney about your accident first.

An attorney can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf and work to ensure that compensation covers the full range of medical costs, rehabilitation costs, loss of earnings due to injury, and other damages associated with the accident.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

Cyclists can take legal action by filing a personal injury claim against the motorist responsible for the door collision and their insurance company. If you're considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, it's important to start documenting everything about the incident and your injuries as soon as possible.

You should also contact a bicycle injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure your claim is handled properly.  Your injury lawyer will handle all of the intricacies of your case, from gathering evidence, filing a claim, negotiating with the insurance company, and even handling the court proceedings if the case goes to trial.

Litigation may seem daunting, but it provides a path to justice and compensation, even for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, typically not covered by insurance settlements.

Property Damage Claims

Dooring accidents often result in damage to the bicycle itself. In this case, the cyclist has the right to file a claim for damages to recover the cost of repairing or replacing the bicycle. This claim is particularly important as bikes can be expensive, and specialist equipment is often irreparably damaged in a collision.

Keep all receipts and estimates for the repair or replacement of your bike to support your claim. Detailed records and photographic evidence of the damage will strengthen your claim.

A lawyer can help you accurately assess the damage and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you receive adequate compensation to restore or replace your bike to its condition before the accident.

How To Prevent Dooring Accidents

Preventing dooring accidents requires a joint effort by motorists and cyclists, including awareness, education, and the implementation of safety measures. These strategies can reduce the risk of dooring accidents, creating a safer environment for all road users.

Drivers And Passengers Safety Measures

Drivers and passengers can take several proactive steps to prevent potential dooring accidents. These safety tips include:

  • Practice the 'Dutch Reach': In the 'Dutch Reach' method, the hand furthest away from the car door is used to open the door. This simple switch causes the person to turn their body, which naturally causes them to look over their shoulder, making them more likely to notice an approaching cyclist.
  • Check Mirrors and Blind Spots: Before getting out of the car, it is essential to check mirrors and blind spots for cyclists. Drivers should make it a habit to check for cyclists before opening the door, just as they would with any other vehicle.
  • Open Doors Slowly: Opening the car door slowly with a pause helps to warn passing cyclists and give them time to react. If you do not open the door too quickly, the driver and the cyclist can avoid a collision.
  • Use Appropriate Signaling: Passengers should signal to cyclists and other motorists that they want to open the door by using their turn signals or giving a clear hand signal if this can be done safely.

Safety Precautions For Cyclists

Cyclists, like motorists, play a role in their safety, especially when navigating the urban landscape. Some safety measures you can take include:

  • Stay Out of the door zone: Cyclists should ride at a safe distance from parked cars whenever possible and avoid the “door zone," which is usually about 3 to 4 feet from parked cars.
  • Ride Defensively: Be aware of your surroundings, assume that drivers may not see you, and be prepared to avoid suddenly opening doors - these are all defensive strategies for cyclists.
  • Use Bike Lanes: Use designated bike lanes if available and safe. If there are no bike lanes, cyclists may use the entire roadway to avoid riding too close to parked vehicles.
  • Visibility: By making yourself visible with the help of lights, reflective clothing, and hand signals, you can attract the attention of motorists and passengers.


Urban Planning And Policy Measures

The following suggestions are a few ways that cities can do their part to help prevent dooring accidents:

  • Improved Infrastructure: Cities can create safer infrastructure for cyclists, such as protected bike lanes that physically separate cyclists from parked cars, significantly reducing the risk of dooring injuries.
  • Traffic Engineering: Implement changes such as buffer zones between parking lots and bike lanes, adequate street lighting, and the introduction of technology that alerts motorists when they detect an approaching cyclist.
  • Legislation: Introducing and enforcing laws that penalize dooring can serve as a deterrent. Legislators can also enact policies that require driver education programs to include strategies to prevent dooring.

Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you’ve been injured in a dooring accident or any other bicycle accident in Florida, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. We know the road to recovery can be difficult, so let us handle the legal and medical matters while you focus on your recovery.

Contact the Weinstein Legal Team at 888.626.1108 or click here to start a free case review with a Florida personal injury lawyer today.


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