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Recovering Damages If You Were Doored While Riding a Bike

One of the most frequent causes of injury to bicyclists is “dooring.” This occurs when a driver or passenger in a parked vehicle opens a door without warning while a bike is passing. The rider may swerve into traffic to avoid a collision and be hit by another vehicle, or the bike may hit the door, which can knock the rider to the ground or throw them into the air, with a resulting hard landing.

Bicyclists often suffer serious injuries in dooring accidents, especially because a rider has virtually no protection from an impact. Even with a helmet, a bicyclist who hits their head on the pavement or a hard object can receive a traumatic brain injury (TBI), neck or spinal cord damage or whiplash. Other severe harm may include internal bleeding, broken bones, organ injuries and nerve damage.

In California, a bicyclist injured in a dooring accident may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages. However, this requires showing that the car’s driver or passenger was negligent. Proving negligence can be difficult. Moreover, fault for an accident is sometimes shared among the people involved. If you or a loved one were hurt in a dooring incident, contact an attorney who has experience handling bicyclist injury cases.

In California, an injured biker seeking damages gets some help from state law. A motor vehicle statute makes it a violation for a driver or passenger “to open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic.” The law also prohibits leaving a door open on the traffic side for longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. A violator may be ticketed and fined, and more importantly, the violation can help a doored bicyclist prove negligence in a lawsuit.

Other facts and circumstances that can indicate negligence include whether the car was illegally parked and whether the person opened the door while engaged in another activity, such as talking on the phone or loading or unloading items.

In most California dooring cases, fault usually falls on the car’s driver or passenger. However, in some circumstances, the cyclist may be found partially to blame. For example, if you were riding erratically or in a lane where bikes were prohibited, a court could find that you shared in the fault. Fortunately, California law allows you to recover damages to the extent that another party was to blame. If you have damages of $100,000 and the court decides you were 20 percent at fault, you will receive 80 percent of the award, or $80,000.

At Patterson Law in Santa Barbara, we have handled California personal injury cases for more than three decades, including bicycle accidents. For a free consultation, call us at 888-479-4589, or contact us online.