Bicycle use as a means of commuting is on the rise, largely driven by the number of urban and near-suburb residents who commute to work via bicycle. This increase in bicycle commuting has been ongoing since the Census Bureau began collecting statistics in 2005. Naturally, as the number of people commuting by bicycle increases, so do traffic accidents that involve bicyclists. Among these accidents are what are called “dooring accidents,” which happen when an occupant of a parked car opens a door into the path of a passing bicyclist, who then runs into the open door. If you have been injured in a dooring accident in Georgia, you should contact the attorneys of Slappey & Sadd to protect your legal rights and find out whether you are entitled to compensation.Dooring Accidents Aren’t Common, but They are Potentially Serious
A German study found that dooring accidents make up just 3 percent of all bicycle accidents in Germany. However, the study concluded that such accidents occur needlessly, as the car involved is not moving at the time of the accident. The fault for such accidents lies entirely in the lack of attentiveness of the car's occupant opening the car door, while the bicyclist is the only one injured in most such accidents.
Dooring accidents are rarely fatal, but cyclists involved in dooring accidents often are ejected over the handlebars by the sudden stop such accidents involve. As a consequence, cyclists in such accidents can be severely injured, even if not fatally. And as bicycle use continues to increase, the likelihood of dooring accidents also increases, taking the risk of fatal dooring accidents up as well. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that bicycling accident fatalities increased 12.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, resulting in 818 biking deaths. Interestingly, injuries for bicyclists involved in traffic accidents declined in 2015, decreasing to roughly 45,000 nationwide from nearly 50,000 in 2014. However, one bicycling advocacy group argues that injury-causing accidents involving cyclists are significantly under-reported, with as few as 10 percent of such accidents actually being recorded by the police, meaning it is possible bicyclist injuries aren’t down at all. Indeed, this argument could apply to dooring accidents as well as accidents overall.Dooring Accidents are Much More Common in Urban Areas
In fact, even in the city deemed America's Best Bike City, more than 300 cases of dooring accidents were reported in 2015, a 50 percent increase from 2014. Chicago has made a serious effort to be a cyclist-friendly city, and yet dooring accidents are a problem for cyclists there. What of the cities that aren’t focused on being bike-friendly to the same level?
“Dooring” accidents seem to be more likely in urban areas, with some sources contending dooring accidents are among the more common of bicyclist-vehicle collisions, especially in urban areas. The City of Chicago found that between 2010 and 2012 dooring crashes constituted between 7.3 percent and 19.7 percent of all reported bicycle crashes. In Boston, the Boston Cyclist Safety Report concluded that dooring crashes were responsible for between 7 percent and 13 percent of all bicycle accidents in Boston from 2009 through 2012. One Australian study reported that dooring accidents were the cause of 17.6 percent of all bicyclist crashes involving automobiles.
On the other hand, North Carolina found that only a few dooring crashes occurred in the state from 2002 to 2012, amounting to only 20 accidents over that decade. While North Carolina is primarily rural, it has a number of major urban areas. Another study in Wisconsin that used the same accident definitions as the North Carolina study likewise found a low number of dooring accidents. It is worth noting that North Carolina and Wisconsin are more rural than Boston and Chicago. Studies focused on Charlotte and Madison exclusively might have yielded different results.Dooring Laws Seek to Address the Problem
In response to dooring accidents, 40 states have enacted “dooring” laws. In general, dooring laws require car occupants to exercise a degree of care when opening a car door. The car occupants are required to determine that it is safe to open the door and that opening the door will not interfere with traffic, including cyclists, and that the door not be opened for longer than necessary.
Such laws create a fairly bright line between what is and is not acceptable and legal with respect to opening a door into potential traffic. Because the car occupant under such laws must demonstrate that they exercised due caution in ensuring oncoming traffic would not be interfered with when they opened the door, the burden of proof shifts to the car occupant. Otherwise, the cyclist might be required to show that he could not have reasonably avoided the open door. This can be virtually impossible to prove, as the essence of a dooring accident is that a car door was opened without warning in front of a cyclist. It just makes sense to place the burden of proof on the car occupant to show that he checked for traffic before opening the door.
A number of cities have taken the problem seriously enough that they have paired their dooring law with a public awareness campaign. New York City has its LOOK! Campaign to encourage people to check for traffic, including cyclists, before they open a car door into potential traffic. Chicago likewise has a similar campaign aimed at public awareness, accompanied by increased fines for failing to check for traffic before opening a car door into traffic.
Dooring accidents have the potential to cause serious injuries. If you have been injured in such an accident, you should consider seeking legal advice regarding your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.Call Us Today to Speak With an Atlanta Bicycle Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in a bicycle accident, you should call an attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to significant compensation under Georgia law. To schedule a free case evaluation with a bicycle accident lawyer in Georgia, call Slappey & Sadd today at 404-255-6677 or contact us online.