Who Is At Fault For An Open Car Door Accident?
The simple act of opening a car door may lead to somewhat of a financial setback if it damages an adjacent vehicle, but it could also result in far worse circumstances. Opening a car door without first checking to see if a bicyclist is approaching could cause serious or fatal injuries. Under certain circumstances, an injured bike rider may sue the individual who opened a car door in his or her path.
Michigan Treats Personal Injury and Property Damage Claims Differently
Because Michigan is a no-fault state, a car owner’s auto insurance will cover the damage to another vehicle regardless of which driver caused it. Personal injury claims, however, could turn out differently. A driver who causes severe physical harm to another individual, such as a bicyclist, may face a personal injury lawsuit.
When a bicyclist slams into an open car door, the collision could cause serious injuries. It could also knock the bike rider into the path of oncoming traffic. It may require filing a legal action against the vehicle owner to fully recover from the bodily harm suffered. The issue of extensive pain and suffering may also require consideration.
What Types of Injuries Could Bicyclists Suffer in Open Car Door Collisions?
Based on nationwide data, almost 500,000 emergency room visits each year reflect injuries that occurred while riding a bike; about 20,000 bike accidents result in hospital admissions. Collisions with stationary objects and falls are common causes of bicyclists’ injuries; in both sets of circumstances, an open car door could reflect the primary cause.
An accident that involves a driver opening a car door without looking and causing a bicyclist to crash into it is often referred to as a “dooring” or “getting doored.” Colliding with an open car door could cause a bicyclist to experience a range of injuries that include:
- Severe body lacerations
- Broken bones
- Sprains and dislocated joints
These injuries, however, do not take into account what could occur if slamming into the open door knocks the bicyclist into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Under such circumstances, the collision could lead to catastrophic injuries or become fatal.
Some of the more severe and potentially life-altering injuries that a bike rider could experience after getting doored include:
- Permanent disfigurement
- Spinal injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Internal bleeding
Has Michigan Passed Any Anti-Dooring Laws?
Although the majority of states have some form of a dooring law, Michigan has yet to enact one that specifically requires vehicle occupants who open car doors to first ensure it is reasonably safe to do so. Michigan law does, however, require drivers to operate their vehicles and conduct themselves in a reasonably safe way. Individuals who open car doors and cause bike crashes may find themselves at fault based on their negligent failure to remain mindful of their surroundings while on a public street.
Because the collection of nationwide crash statistics does not follow a standardized coding system that tracks doorings, it could remain difficult to accurately determine the role it plays across the entire country. Some cities, however, collect data regarding bicycle accidents related to open car doors. The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, determined that dooring was the cause behind 20% of its citywide bike crashes. Overall, getting doored occurs more often in urban rather than rural areas. Chicago, for example, reported almost 300 dooring accidents in a single year.
How Could the “Dutch Reach” Help Prevent Open Door Bike Accidents?
Sometimes referred to as “Twist and Look,” the bike safety routine called the “Dutch Reach” could make a significant difference in the number of bicycle accidents. The Michigan State Police website describes the method and notes that drivers should use this vehicle exiting routine to help ensure that car doors never swing open and cause accidents.
Introduced in the U.S. between 2016 and 2017, the Dutch Reach vehicle exiting method quickly gained the approval of a growing number of bike safety advocates. The simplicity of the approach adds to its effectiveness. All that a motorist needs to do is open the driver-side door using the right hand rather than the left. This forces a driver to twist his or her upper body to the left, which automatically places the side view mirror clearly in the line of sight. It also makes it much easier to look directly behind the vehicle.
Vehicle occupants exiting from the right-hand side should use their left hand to grasp the door handle. Basically, the Dutch Reach requires anyone exiting a vehicle to use the hand that is farthest from the door to open it. By following this routine, the door has a much lesser chance of swinging open into the path of an approaching bike. It also enables vehicle occupants on the right-hand side to see more of the area surrounding the car.
When May It Become Necessary To File a Lawsuit After an Open Car Door Accident?
In Michigan, a bicyclist who suffers harm in a vehicle collision may file a claim for no-fault insurance benefits. If neither the vehicle owner nor the bicyclist owns a no-fault policy, an injured bike rider may file a claim through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan. Filing through MACP could provide personal injury benefits in situations in which coverage through a no-fault policy remains unavailable.
In certain cases, it may become necessary for an injured bike rider to file a legal action against the at-fault vehicle driver. In addition to the harmful effect of slamming into an open car door, bicyclists could find themselves thrown into the direct path of oncoming traffic. The potentially catastrophic injuries could result in long-term or permanent disabilities, disfigurement, career loss and immense pain and suffering. The well-deserved amount of accident-recovery compensation could prove difficult or impossible to obtain from an insurance carrier.
What Steps Taken After a Bicycle-and-Vehicle Accident Could Prove Helpful When Seeking Compensation?
As in the case of any accident involving a motor vehicle, gathering and exchanging personal, vehicle and insurance information reflects an important and immediate first step. A bike rider may, however, suffer serious injuries in a vehicle collision; this could make it imperative that police arrive at the scene. It will also help ensure that a police report becomes available, which could prove vital when pursuing a legal action against an at-fault driver.
Obtaining medical records documenting any and all treatments, diagnostic procedures or prescriptions related to the accident could play a critical role in showing the full extent of the harm suffered. A bike rider involved in an open car door accident should seek medical attention as soon as possible after the collision even if it appears at first that no injuries occurred. Only proper testing will determine whether a serious and potentially severe medical condition will develop days or weeks after the accident.
Some of the most common diagnostic tests performed after a collision include X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. They can help diagnose serious issues such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage and internal bleeding. A bike rider’s ability to “walk away” after colliding with a vehicle does not necessarily mean that an accident-related and serious medical condition will not develop later.
An important step to take after colliding with a vehicle is to get qualified legal advice. Contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney at the Mike Morse Law Firm to learn how you could obtain the full amount of compensation your circumstances justify.