What is Bicycle Dooring?
Navigating the busy streets of Boston by bicycle brings with it certain risks, one of which is the peril of a bicycle dooring accident. A Bicycle dooring accident occurs when a car door is opened, obstructing the path of an oncoming bike rider, who may or may not be in a bike lane. This can cause the bike accident victim to crash into the car door or be forced to swerve into oncoming traffic. Such incidents can result in severe injuries, including head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and even bicycle fatalities. This can result in expensive medical bills, lost wages, and permanent injuries for bike accident victims. In recent years, according to the Boston Cyclist Safety Report 2013, bicycle “dooring” was responsible for 11% of all bicycle collisions in the City of Boston.
Both drivers and passengers have a duty to ensure they don’t open car doors into the path of oncoming bicycle riders and should be aware of bike lanes. The Massachusetts driver’s manual advises drivers and passengers to use the ‘dutch reach’ technique when opening their car door. This technique advises that they use their right hand to open their car door and helps individuals check for oncoming cyclists.
Who Holds the Responsibility?
In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations or time for frame for filing a personal injury case against a negligent driver or passenger in a bicycle accident case is three years from the date of the accident.
Driver or Passenger Liability: Personal Injury claims for dooring injuries are typically directed against the negligent driver or passenger who opened the door. Such claims are generally covered by the vehicle’s insurance company. Proving negligence in bicycle dooring accidents requires demonstrating that the party at fault didn’t exercise the caution that a reasonable person would in similar circumstances, leading to the accident which caused harm.
Massachusetts law, outlined in M.G.L. c. 90, § 14, expressly prohibits dooring:
“No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Negligent drivers and car passengers can be cited and face fines up to $100. Whether they were cited will be indicated on the police report. Massachusetts does not recognize negligence per se in the context of traffic laws. However, Massachusetts courts will consider evidence, such as a traffic citation when determining whether the driver or passenger was negligent.
Injured by a Rideshare Passenger (Uber or Lyft)
A “dooring” accident caused by a Uber or Lyft passenger will raise some complex issues about who pays. Ideally, the rideshare vehicle’s insurance company will be responsible. However, these incidents are not always straight forward. In 2015 in the Fenway–Kenmore area of Boston (Suffolk County), an Uber passenger doored a cyclist while exiting his Uber. The passenger did not have a vehicle of his own, and thus did not have personal auto insurance. Uber’s insurer took the position that the passenger’s act of opening the car door didn’t equate to ‘use’ of a covered vehicle.
In such situations, the injured cyclist might resort to filing a claim against their own car insurance or a household family member’s car insurance policy. If these insurance policies don’t suffice, the injured cyclist may look to the negligent passenger’s homeowner’s insurance.
Depending on the facts of your case, your personal injury attorney may look to also bring a claim against the driver. For example, if the driver stopped and let the passenger off in a bike lane. [See M.G.L. c. 89, § 4D which establishes that its illegal to stand or park in a bike lane, unless turning.]
Bicycle accidents can lead to serious injuries and complicated legal scenarios. If you’ve been in a bicycle dooring accident and are injured, immediately seek medical attention. If you are able, make sure to take photographs of where the accident occurred and obtain the negligent driver, and if applicable, the passenger’s information. Its a good idea to contact bicycle accident lawyers who specialize in these types of cases. If you’re been involved in a bicycle accident in Massachusetts contact Gavagan Law, LLC for a free consultation of your legal rights to obtain the compensation you deserve in your personal injury claim. Call or fill out our contact form with your information.