If you do not regularly ride a bike in urban areas, it may sound odd, but a car door can be a lethal weapon. A driver or vehicle passenger suddenly opening a car door as you ride by can lead to a truly devastating injury. This type of accident is often referred to ‘getting doored’. Car door-related bike accidents are far more common than many people realize. Indeed, according to data collected and published by the League of American Bicyclists, approximately eight percent of all bike accidents occur as a result of a biker ‘getting doored’. This leads to an important question: If someone opens a door while you’re riding by on your bicycle, the question becomes, “who is at fault.”
‘Getting Doored’ – Whose Fault is it?
The Legal Standard
California is a comparative fault jurisdiction. This was firmly established in the 1975 state Supreme Court case of Li v. Yellow Cab Co. In the state, liability for personal injury claims, including all bicycle accident claims, must be established by proving negligence. In the most simple terms, this means that the party whose unsafe actions caused the accident will be legally responsible for any consequential damages. Of course, this is a fairly vague standard. It is imperative that bike victims understand how it applies to their accident case.
‘Getting Doored’ and Negligence
In California, as a general rule, these types of accidents are the fault of the driver or passenger who opens the car door. The primary reason for this is because the person who opens a door has a responsibility to check their rearview mirrors and to turn their head to ensure that the road is clear before they step out of their vehicle. Obviously, it is not even remotely feasible for bicyclists, who may ride past hundreds of parked cars in the busy city streets in an hour, to carefully look into each automobile to make sure that the doors are not opening.
Bicyclists Have Legal Duties as Well
That being said, this is only a general rule. In some cases, a bicyclist may be found to be partially (or fully) at fault for the accident in which they got doored. For instance, if the bicyclist sees the car pull over, sees the brake lights, and is riding very close to the car as they see the person getting out then a judge or a jury will probably say it’s the bicycle rider’s fault. This is because, in this scenario, it may be determined that the biker should have known better, and, therefore, that their actions were unreasonable and unsafe.
Compensation Available to Bicycle Accident Victims
If you were injured by a car door while riding in Northern California, you deserve compensation for the full extent of your damages. Depending on the specific facts of your claim, our team may be able to help you seek financial relief for:
- Any damage to your bike
- Emergency medical expenses
- Other hospital bills
- Lost wages, including diminished earning power
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of life enjoyment
We Have Experience Handling ‘Getting Doored’ Bicycle Accidents in California
Ultimately, any party whose negligence contributed to an accident should be held legally liable for any resulting injuries or damages. If the car has been pulled over for a while, there are no brake lights and a person suddenly flings their door open, they should be held at fault for any accident caused by their unsafe actions. At GJEL Accident Attorneys, we’ve handled a number of cases of bicyclists getting doored. For example, in one such case, we helped an injured California cyclist obtain $195,000 in compensation after he was doored by an exiting motorist.
If you were hurt in this type of accident, please reach out to our main office in Orinda, CA today. We can help you think through–at no charge to you–whether or not you have a case where we can do you some good.