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Determining Liability for a Dooring Accident

Posted on May 1, 2024 in Bicycle Accidents

One of the many hazards that bicyclists in California face is dooring, or the possibility of a motor vehicle driver opening his or her car door into the path of a cyclist. Dooring can result in serious injuries and long-term disabilities. Understanding liability, or financial responsibility, for a dooring accident in California can help you protect your rights as a victim.

dooring accident liability

What Is Dooring? 

If a motor vehicle driver swings a car door open in front of an oncoming bicyclist, the biker may not have time to avoid running into the car door. This is known as a dooring accident, and it can cause significant injuries to the cyclist.

This type of bicycle accident can injure cyclists in numerous ways, such as:

  • Hitting the door at high speed and suffering injuries from blunt-force trauma.
  • Getting thrown over the handlebars of the bike and striking the road or getting pulled beneath another vehicle.
  • Striking the metal edge of the open door and sustaining severe lacerations.
  • Swerving to avoid an open door, crashing the bike or veering into traffic.

Dooring accidents can cause serious and catastrophic injuries, such as bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, road rash and soft-tissue injuries. Permanent scars, disfigurement, brain damage, paralysis and disability are all possible.

What Does California Law Say About Dooring? 

In California, the responsibility to prevent dooring accidents rests with motor vehicle drivers. California has a specific law pertaining to dooring. Vehicle Code 22517 states:

No person shall 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, 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.

Under this law, drivers have a duty to check for bicyclists before opening their car doors if they are parked in a place where the door opens into moving traffic or a bicycle lane. Failing to open a door in a prudent manner constitutes negligence and can make the driver responsible for a subsequent dooring accident.

Who Is Liable for a Dooring Accident in California?

Liability for a dooring accident will generally rest with the driver or person who opened his or her car door into the path of a cyclist. The driver is the party with the duty of care in this scenario, meaning an obligation to act in a manner that a reasonably prudent driver would in similar circumstances. This duty includes a specific obligation not to door cyclists under California law.

Proving a bicycle accident case against a driver for dooring requires clear and convincing evidence. Most of these cases are based on the theory of negligence, or the argument that the driver breached his or her duty of care and that this was the proximate or actual cause of the accident.

While available evidence varies from case to case, proving a door accident claim may involve a police report, witness statements, a reconstruction of the bicycle accident, photographs from the accident scene, an analysis of damage to the car and bike, and expert testimony. 

If you get injured in a dooring accident in California, consult with the Ontario bicycle accident lawyers at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP to discuss your legal rights. You may be eligible for financial compensation from the motor vehicle driver.