Dooring accidents occur when drivers and passengers suddenly open the door into a bike lane or sidewalk and cause a cyclist to run into it. This type of cycling accident may not sound that serious, but it can cause life-altering injuries to oncoming cyclists. That’s why many countries and cities are working to expand public knowledge of dooring accidents and how to avoid them. Below, the Chicago bicycle accident lawyers at Curcio Law Offices explain how you can protect cyclists in “America’s Best Bike City.”
Chicago personal injury lawyers at Curcio Law Offices have what it takes to successfully litigate all sorts of motor vehicle accident claims. We have decades of combined experience in fighting for justice for our clients. Allow us to do the same for you. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation with us today.
What is Dooring?
A dooring accident is one of many types of bike collisions in which a vehicle door opens into the path of other road users, such as cyclists. Vehicle doors that suddenly open into a bike path can create a sudden obstacle for cyclists, causing them to crash into the car doors. Dooring can also involve vehicle occupants or drivers suddenly opening their car doors into a bike lane, causing a cyclist to swerve into the road. This creates a huge risk of the cyclist getting hit by oncoming motor vehicles.
These types of bicycle accidents most commonly involve parallel parked cars. Bike lanes are often right next to parallel parking spots, which raises the risk of drivers and passengers opening the doors of the motor vehicle without checking for oncoming cyclists.
Most Common Causes of Dooring Accidents
The main cause of dooring accidents boils down to careless passenger and driver behavior. When you live in a large, busy city with lots of pedestrians and cyclists, you have to keep an eye out. Most motorists open their doors without checking the oncoming traffic of cyclists and pedestrians first. Just like you would check your rear view mirror or side mirror for another motor vehicle before switching lanes, you need to check your mirrors for cyclists too.
Another possible cause of a dooring accident is poor visibility. If it’s dark, rainy, or foggy, motorists and passengers may not be able to see an oncoming cyclist. That’s why it’s important for all cyclists to make themselves as visible as possible with lights and reflective gear.
How Many Bicycle Accidents Happen Every Year?
The National Safety Council claims that U.S. bike accident deaths have increased by 44% in the last decade. Meanwhile, the number of serious injuries from bike collisions have decreased by 39% in the last decade.
1,260 deaths occurred due to bicycle accidents in 2020 alone. The majority of these deaths (806) were caused by motor vehicles.
In Illinois specifically, just over 1,000 deaths from bicycle accidents occurred in 2019. In Chicago specifically, 141 cyclists were killed in 2019.
How Many Dooring Accidents Happen Every Year in Chicago?
Chicago, IL is often known as “America’s Best Bike City” due to the amount of new bike lanes in the city. This is a great thing because it can create less traffic in the bustling city. On the other hand, though, more cyclists can lead to more accidents. In fact, a local news report claims that there was a nearly 50% increase in 2015 bicycle dooring accidents in Chicago compared to the previous year. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) reported 302 collisions with vehicle doors just that year.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
Cyclists can suffer serious injuries from any type of bicycle accident because they’re essentially the most unprotected people on the roads, next to pedestrians of course. Generally, the cars in moving traffic are going to suffer the least amount of damage compared to a cyclist. Listed below are common types of serious injuries that cyclists may suffer.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Skull and face fractures
- Eye damage or vision loss
- Broken or missing teeth
- Spinal cord injuries
- Partial or complete paralysis
- Nerve damage
- Muscle sprains and strains (such as an intercostal muscle strain)
- Internal organ damage
- One or more amputations
- Permanent scarring, disability, and disfigurement
- Broken bones
- Joint dislocations
- Major bruising, lacerations, and road rash
- Internal bleeding
- Wrongful death
What To Do After a Bicycle Dooring Accident
Listed below are the steps you need to take after a dooring accident whether you’re the driver, passenger, or cyclist involved.
- Call 911: Both the police and EMTs will respond to the accident scene when you call 911. Opening a car door on an oncoming cyclist can lead to catastrophic injuries. The EMTs will provide immediate medical attention to the cyclist while police create an accident report and direct nearby traffic. If you’re the injured cyclist in the situation, you may need to obtain a copy of this report later.
- Exchange Information: Make sure to exchange information with the other party involved in the accident if you can. Again, if you’re the dooring victim, this can come in handy later if you want to sue the at-fault party. Be sure to exchange names, phone numbers, and insurance coverage information. You could even write down the names and phone numbers of nearby witnesses.
- Gather Evidence: If you’re able to, take pictures and videos of the accident scene, your injuries, car/bike damage, and any other relevant information. When you have a spare moment, write down your account of the accident. Our memory tends to be unreliable when major, traumatic events happen. We can easily misremember details or completely forget details altogether.
- Call a Chicago Bicycle Accident Lawyer: No matter your involvement in the dooring accident, you need strong legal representation on your side. Accidents like these tend to be physically, emotionally, and financially traumatic for the cyclists. They are often faced with thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages for which they may not receive full compensation through insurance coverage. Curcio Law Offices can protect your legal rights and ensure that you get the settlement you deserve.
Is Illinois an At-Fault State?
Yes, Illinois is one of 38 states that is an at-fault state. This means that the at-fault driver’s insurance company must cover the damages of everyone involved in the accident. Most of the time, this rule is applied to car accidents. But it’s also relevant in pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents too.
Illinois also follows the 51% rule, also known as modified comparative negligence. This means that if you are more than 51% at fault for an accident, you cannot recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, car damage, etc. If you are less than 51% at fault, the amount of compensation you receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Sometimes this rule comes into play in other types of bicycle accidents. For example, maybe a cyclist rode out into the middle of a busy road and got hit by oncoming traffic. In this scenario, the cyclist would likely share a portion of fault, because they are not supposed to be riding in the middle of a busy road. So their compensation would be reduced. But in the case of a dooring accident, drivers and passengers are generally 100% at fault. This means that they cannot recover any compensation from the accident.
Can I Sue for a Dooring Accident?
If you or someone you love has suffered a major injury or wrongful death from a bicycle dooring accident, then you can definitely sue the responsible party, especially if their insurance doesn’t cover all of the damages. The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Curcio Law Offices are the perfect team to have on your side during a tragedy like this. Not only can we help you obtain justice for your trauma, but we can help promote cycling safety in Chicago through one personal injury claim at a time.
Damages for a Bicycle Dooring Accident
Chicago personal injury lawyers at Curcio Law Offices can help you recover financial compensation for the following damages:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future physical therapy expenses
- Caregiving expenses if the accident results in long-term disability
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity if the level of disability prevents the victim from accomplishing all of their former job duties
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Counseling expenses
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses if the accident results in wrongful death
How to Avoid Dooring Accidents
Prevention is key for avoiding dooring accident injuries and deaths. There are steps that both cyclists and vehicle occupants can take to promote cycling safety.
If you’re a cyclist, do your best to put a safe distance between yourself and a door zone (the space that extends beyond a parked car). Make sure that you’re as visible as possible by attaching lights to your bike and by wearing reflective gear. Lastly, always ride in designated bike lanes.
If you’re a driver or a passenger, dooring accident prevention mostly falls on you. The most important step you need to take before opening your door on a busy street is to practice the “dutch reach.” Instead of using the hand that’s closest to the door handle (that’s the right hand for passengers), use your far hand to open the door. This forces you to look behind you and check if cyclists are riding past parked vehicles. Then slowly push your door open and exit the car facing oncoming traffic.
Many countries and cities are encouraging public education of the “dutch reach” in driver’s manuals, including the state of Illinois. That’s because in the past few years, many Illinois cities are becoming popular cycling spots, most notably Chicago.
You can also check your rear view mirror or your side mirror for passing bicycle riders. Or, if your car has it, check your blind spot monitors. Being careful and vigilant is the best way to save lives in this situation.
Call a Chicago Bicycle Accident Lawyer at Curcio Law Offices Today
If you or someone you love has suffered a catastrophic injury or wrongful death due to a dooring accident, you may have grounds to pursue financial compensation. The Chicago bicycle accident lawyers at Curcio Law Offices can carefully study the facts of your case and help you determine the best course of action. Call 312-321-1111 today to schedule a free consultation with our legal team.