Free Case Review. Available 24/7

Bicycle Dooring Accident

Philadelphia Bicycle Dooring Accident Attorney

Dooring accidents occur when a parked car’s door is suddenly opened into the path of an oncoming cyclist in the road or bike lane, causing a collision. The impact can lead to a range of injuries, from cuts and bruises to more severe traumas like broken bones and head injuries like traumatic brain injuries. In crowded urban environments like Philadelphia, the risk of dooring accidents is significantly heightened, making it essential for cyclists to remain vigilant and for motorists to exercise caution.

If you have been injured in a dooring accident, the skilled bicycle accident lawyers at PhillyLaw are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.

a woman opens her car door into the path of an oncoming cyclist, leading to a dooring accident and severe injuries.

What is a Dooring Accident?

A dooring accident occurs when a motorist or passenger opens their vehicle door into the path of an oncoming cyclist, causing a collision. This type of accident typically happens when parked cars line the streets, and those inside the vehicles fail to check for cyclists before opening their doors. The sudden obstruction can leave cyclists with little to no time to react, leading to severe injuries. Dooring accidents are particularly hazardous because they can result in cyclists being thrown into traffic, potentially causing further harm from oncoming vehicles. Recognizing the dangers of dooring accidents, many cities have enacted laws and public awareness campaigns to encourage safer practices for motorists and cyclists alike.

Common Causes of Dooring Bicycle Accidents

Several factors contribute to dooring accidents, many of which stem from a lack of awareness and attentiveness.

Distracted Drivers

A primary cause is the failure of motorists and passengers to check for approaching cyclists before opening their doors. This oversight is often due to distracted behavior, such as using mobile phones, conversing with passengers, or focusing on other tasks inside the vehicle.

Poor Visibility

Poor visibility can also play a significant role, especially during low light conditions or adverse weather, making it harder to spot cyclists.

Inadequate Biking Infrastructure

Additionally, inadequate infrastructure for cyclists, such as the absence of dedicated bike lanes or poorly designed roadways, can increase the likelihood of dooring incidents.

Lack of Awareness

Finally, lack of education and awareness about the dangers of dooring among both drivers and cyclists contributes to these preventable accidents.

a bicycle and helmet on a crosswalk after a bicycle accident in Pennsylvania.

How a Parked Car Can Prevent a Dooring Bicycle Accident

Preventing dooring accidents requires proactive steps from both motorists and cyclists. When it comes to parked cars, there are several measures that can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of dooring incidents:

  • Use the “Dutch Reach” Technique: One of the most effective methods is the “Dutch Reach.” This involves opening the car door with the hand farthest from the door, usually the right hand for the driver. This simple action forces the motorist to turn their body and naturally glance over their shoulder, thereby checking for oncoming cyclists before opening the door.

How to Do the Dutch Reach Technique While Opening Car Door:

  • Step 1: When you are ready to exit the vehicle, make a conscious decision to use your opposite hand to open the door. For drivers in the United States, this means using your right hand.
    • Step 2: Reach across your body with your right hand to grasp the door handle.
    • Step 3: As you extend your arm, your body will automatically pivot, prompting you to look over your left shoulder. This natural motion allows you to see any approaching cyclists or vehicles.
    • Step 4: Slowly open the door while continuing to check your surroundings to ensure the path is clear.
    • Step 5: Exit the vehicle safely, always being mindful of others on the road.
  • Check Mirrors and Blind Spots: Motorists should make it a habit to check their rearview and side mirrors as well as their blind spots for cyclists before opening their doors. This should be a part of the routine whenever exiting a vehicle, especially in areas with high bicycle traffic.
  • Park Close to the Curb: Whenever possible, park vehicles as close to the curb as legally permitted. This minimizes the space that cyclists need to navigate and reduces the risk of them being in the door zone.
  • Utilize Parking Sensors: Many modern vehicles come equipped with parking sensors or rear-view cameras. These tools can be used to detect movement near the vehicle, alerting passengers of approaching cyclists before they open the door.

By adopting these practices, motorists can play a critical role in ensuring the safety of cyclists and significantly reducing the occurrence of dooring accidents.

Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the concept of comparative negligence plays an essential role in personal injury cases, including dooring accidents. Comparative negligence refers to the assignment of fault to multiple parties involved in an accident. Under Pennsylvania law, this system allows injured parties to recover damages even if they are partially at fault, as long as their share of the blame does not exceed 50%.

How Comparative Negligence Affects Dooring Accident Claims

When a cyclist is injured in a dooring accident, determining fault is crucial. If it is established that the cyclist shares a portion of the responsibility—for instance, by not following traffic laws or riding negligently—their compensation will be reduced proportionally to their degree of fault. For example, if a cyclist is found to be 20% responsible for the accident, their recovery amount will be decreased by 20%. However, if the cyclist is found to be more than 50% at fault, they may be barred from recovering any damages.

Safety Measures for Cyclists To Avoid a Dooring Accident

While motorists have a significant role in preventing dooring accidents, cyclists can also take proactive measures to protect themselves. Here are some effective strategies cyclists can employ:

  • Ride Defensively: Always stay alert and anticipate potential hazards. Be particularly cautious when riding near parked vehicles, as car doors can open without any warning.
  • Maintain a Safe Distance: When possible, ride at least 3 to 4 feet away from parked cars to avoid the door zone. This distance can provide enough reaction time to avoid a suddenly opened door.
  • Use Bike Lanes When Available: Utilize dedicated bike lanes or paths designed to keep cyclists away from parked cars. These lanes often provide an extra layer of safety by distancing cyclists from vehicle doors.
  • Be Visible: Make yourself as visible as possible. Wear bright or reflective clothing, and use lights during low light conditions or at night to make it easier for others to see you.
  • Watch for Signs of Activity: Look inside parked vehicles for signs of activity, such as brake lights, a driver or passenger moving, or car doors slightly ajar. These can be indicators that a door is about to be opened.
  • Use Your Bell or Voice: If you notice someone in a parked car as you approach, use your bell or call out to alert them of your presence. This can prompt them to check for cyclists before opening their door.
  • Adapt Your Speed: Slow down when riding alongside parked cars, especially in areas where dooring accidents are common. Reduced speed allows for quicker stopping and maneuvering to avoid obstacles.
  • Take the Lane When Necessary: In situations where the bike lane is too close to parked cars or if there is no bike lane, cyclists can take the full lane to ensure they stay out of the car door zone. This might feel intimidating but is permissible and often safer in many jurisdictions.
  • Stay in Tune with Traffic Laws: Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and regulations regarding cyclist safety and lane usage. Knowledge of the rules can help inform your riding strategies and decision-making.

By implementing these practices, cyclists can significantly reduce the risk of being involved in dooring accidents and enhance their overall safety on the road.

An injured women is tended to by a man on the road after she was doored by a car while riding her bicycle.

What To Do if You Have Been in a Dooring Accident

If you have been involved in a dooring accident, there are several important steps to take to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights.

  1. Seek Medical Attention: Seek medical treatment immediately, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Some injuries may not be apparent right away and requiring a medical evaluation will document them for any future claims.
  2. Gather Evidence: Gather as much evidence as possible at the scene of the accident. Take photographs of the vehicle, any damage to your bicycle, and your injuries. If there are any witnesses, obtain their contact information as their statements may be crucial in supporting your case.
  3. Call 911: The responding officers will complete an accident report that will serve as an official record of the incident. Be sure to provide a detailed account of what happened, including time, location, and any other pertinent details.
  4. Call Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurance company about the accident to start the claims process. However, avoid giving any statements or accepting any settlements before consulting with an attorney.
  5. Contact a Bicycle Accident Lawyer at PhillyLaw: Our team can guide you through the legal process, ensuring that you receive fair compensation for your injuries, damages, and any other related expenses. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your case while you focus on your recovery.

How Do I Pay For My Bicycle Accident Attorney?

Paying for a bicycle accident attorney can be a concern for many victims, but fortunately, most personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not have to pay any upfront fees for their services. Instead, the attorney’s fee is a percentage of the settlement or judgment amount they secure for you. This arrangement ensures that you only pay if you win your case, and it also motivates your attorney to work diligently to obtain the best possible outcome. In addition to the contingency fee, some attorneys may charge for out-of-pocket expenses such as court fees, expert witness fees, and other costs associated with building your case.

How PhillyLaw Can Help Cyclists Seek Compensation

PhillyLaw is dedicated to helping bicycle riders who have been injured in dooring accidents seek the compensation they deserve in a personal injury claim. Our experienced team understands the unique challenges cyclists face and is committed to advocating for their rights. We offer comprehensive legal services tailored to the needs of injured cyclists, from thorough accident investigations to skillful negotiation with insurance companies. Trust PhillyLaw to provide the dedicated support and effective representation you need during this challenging time. Contact us today for a free consultation.