In Pennsylvania, cyclists are prohibited from riding on sidewalks and so must often utilize streets alongside motor vehicles. While many drivers are careful to keep an eye out for bicyclists at all times, thousands of accidents still occur on a yearly basis. One increasingly common collision between motorists and cyclists is referred to as a dooring accident. These types of accidents occur when a driver is parked on the side of the road, does not see an approaching cyclist, and opens his or her door into the rider’s path. While some cyclists walk away from these encounters with a few scrapes and bruises, many sustain more serious injuries, including broken bones and head trauma. Fortunately, injured parties who can demonstrate that a driver was responsible for the accident can collect compensation for their losses, so if you were injured in a cycling accident, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can ensure that your interests are represented, whether in negotiations or in the courtroom.
In Pennsylvania, motorists are prohibited from opening their car doors unless and until they have determined that it is reasonably safe and that they can do so without interfering with the movement of traffic. Motorists are also prohibited from leaving car doors open on the side of the vehicle that is exposed to moving traffic for periods of time longer than are necessary to load or unload passengers. When motorists fail to comply with these laws, they put cyclists, who may have little time or room to swerve out of the way, at risk of sustaining serious injuries. Even cyclists traveling on a bike lane can be injured in this way, as many lanes run parallel to cars parked on the road.
Who is Liable?
Liability for dooring accidents depends on the unique facts of each case. However, car owners are usually held responsible, especially if they failed to check their blind spot or to assess their surroundings prior to opening the door. Bicyclists may also share liability if they failed to act reasonably when riding. For instance, if a cyclist were to suddenly dart out from between two cars before colliding with the door, he or she could also be held liable for behaving recklessly.
Dooring accidents can have serious consequences, especially if a cyclist was traveling at high speeds prior to the collision. For this reason, it is critical that both motorists and bicyclists take the following steps to avoid these types of encounters:
- Watch for parked cars and never assume that they are empty;
- Wear reflective clothing and equip bicycles with lights;
- Wear a helmet;
- Keep an eye out for cyclists when parking, especially bicyclists who seem distracted;
- Wait to open a car door until an approaching bicyclist has passed;
- Stay clear of the “door zone,” which extends three to four feet to the side of a parked vehicle; and
- Avoid routes with heavy traffic.
Although taking these precautions will not guarantee that a motorist or cyclist will not be involved in a dooring accident, it can go a long way towards decreasing their chances of injury.
Schedule a Meeting With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you were injured in a dooring accident in Philadelphia, please call van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin at 215-515-6892 to schedule a consultation with a skilled and compassionate personal injury attorney who can address your questions and concerns. We are prepared to help you today.