Know Your Rights: How bicycle ‘dooring’ accidents happen — and what to do next

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More and more people are drawn to riding their bikes these days, whether for transportation, fun, exercise or concern for the environment. In almost every instance, bikers get to their destination safely — with the added bonus of a feeling of accomplishment!

Unfortunately, cyclists can have their trips — and potentially their whole lives — turned upside down if a motorist carelessly swings open their car door.

These “dooring” accidents can lead to serious injuries and financial burdens. At Foster Wallace LLC, we’ve worked with several clients to help them get fair compensation following a bicycle “dooring” accident. Here’s what we’ve learned about what usually leads to these accidents — and what you should do if you’re involved in one.

How Dooring Accidents Happen

The unexpected opening of a car door can turn your ordinary bike ride into a painful emergency. Dooring accidents are often caused by:

  • Lack of Awareness and Attention: One of the primary reasons dooring accidents occur is a lack of awareness and attention from motorists. As drivers go about their own activities, such as checking their phones, adjusting the radio, or simply not paying sufficient attention, they may fail to notice an approaching cyclist. As you pedal alongside parked vehicles, their lack of vigilance becomes a hazard, as a sudden door opening can take you by surprise, leading to a collision and subsequent injuries.

  • Absence of Proper Checking: Motorists often neglect to perform proper checks before opening their car doors. Failing to utilize side mirrors or glance over their shoulder to ensure the coast is clear of cyclists can have dire consequences. This oversight can cause a motorist to inadvertently swing their door open into your path, leaving you with minimal time to react and evade the collision.

  • Sudden Stop and Exiting Passenger: In scenarios where a motorist abruptly stops by the side of the road or when passengers exit a vehicle, there is an increased likelihood of dooring accidents. The sudden cessation of movement can catch cyclists off guard. At the same time, passengers exiting from the rear can inadvertently open doors into the path of an oncoming cyclist, resulting in a collision.

  • Door Zone Design Flaw: Certain road designs and infrastructure contribute to the prevalence of dooring accidents. Bike lanes placed dangerously close to parked cars, within what is known as the “door zone,” heighten the risk of collisions. Inadequate road markings or signage to indicate safe cycling distances from parked vehicles can exacerbate the issue, leaving cyclists vulnerable to sudden door openings.

What to Do After a Dooring Accident

You couldn’t stop the dooring accident from happening, but you can control what happens next. After a Kansas City dooring accident, you can:

1. Prioritize Your Safety and Health

  • Check for injuries. Assess yourself for any immediate injuries and seek medical attention for yourself or anyone else injured in the accident.
  • Move to safety. If possible, move to a safe location to avoid further harm from traffic or other hazards.

2. Gather Information

  • Exchange details. Exchange contact and insurance information with the driver involved in the dooring incident. Also, gather contact information from any witnesses present.
  • Document the scene. Take photos of the accident scene, including the position of the vehicle, your bicycle, and any visible injuries. These photos can be valuable evidence later.

3. Contact the Authorities

  • Call the police. It’s essential to report the accident to the police, even if the injuries seem minor. A police report can serve as an official record of the incident.

4. Seek Medical Attention

  • See a doctor. Even if your injuries appear minor, seeking medical attention promptly is crucial. Some injuries, like concussions or internal injuries, might not manifest immediately.
  • Follow medical advice. Follow your doctor’s advice and attend all recommended follow-up appointments. Proper medical documentation can play a significant role in establishing the extent of your injuries.

5. Preserve Evidence

  • Keep records. Maintain a record of all medical bills, treatment receipts, and related expenses. These documents will be crucial when seeking compensation.
  • Journal your experience. Keep a journal detailing your pain, discomfort, and limitations from the accident. This can provide valuable insight into the impact of your injuries on your daily life.

6. Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

Reach out to an experienced Kansas City bicycle accident lawyer who specializes in bicycle dooring accidents. They can provide legal advice and guide you through the process. Your attorney will help you navigate insurance claims, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, file a lawsuit on your behalf.

Following these steps after a dooring accident can help ensure your safety, gather crucial evidence, and establish a solid foundation for seeking compensation for your injuries and damages.

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