When a client tells me that they were involved in a bike accident, I begin to envision the horrific lay of the land as they are peddling down the street and a car ignores a traffic signal or is busy jabbering on their cell phone and….. whack…
Well, not to say that the above circumstances don’t happen– and happen with a fair amount of frequency— the truth is that there’s another major component of bicycle injuries that tends to go unknown– until it happens to you or your child.
I am referring to a type of bicycle accident that can every bit as harmful to the cyclist as getting hit by a car– ‘dooring’. Dooring refers to the process of when an occupant of a parked car opens their car door into the path of a cyclist causing a collision.
In some circumstances when the cyclist does have time to react and swerve out of the way, the consequences can be even worse if they go into a live lane of traffic.
Looking before opening a car door is not just good manners– it’s usually the law!
One of the first dooring cases that I worked on involved a teenage boy who was riding in the bike lane when a person picking up blood samples from a nearby doctors office swung open her door and resulting in my client getting thrown off his bike to suffer multiple fractures and a closed head injury.
In response to many severely injured and killed cyclists, many jurisdictions have implemented laws that put the burden of looking before opening a door on the driver and occupants of the vehicle.
In Chicago, the city has codified the responsibility of looking before opening car doors:
9-80-035- Opening and closing vehicle doors
No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. Added Coun. J. 3-12-08, p. 22781, § 2
Similar legislation has been implemented by the State of Illinois:
11-14-1407- Opening and closing vehicle doors
No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. P.A. 79-1069
Certainly, these laws (and their similar counterparts in other states) need more publicity as many drivers are unaware of their existence. Thankfully, ignorance of the law is not an excuse!
Most auto insurance policies cover cyclists injuries that result from a negligently opened door on the part of a driver or passenger under the terms of the drivers and/or vehicle owners insurance policy. However, if you or you child was involved in a situation involving a ‘dooring’ you should speak to a lawyer who has experience in bike dooring cases and can advise you regarding potential defenses and coverage issues prior to speaking with the insurance carrier.
Chicago Bike Laws: Chicago Department of Transportation