Imagine you’re out for a casual bike ride on a quiet Sunday morning when, all of a sudden, the door of a parked car next to your path opens directly in front of you. You fly off your bike and hit your head on the pavement, causing a traumatic brain injury and fracturing your shoulder. Who is responsible for your injuries and losses? The driver of the car that opened the door? The owner of the car? The city or state government? Or no one at all?
This is just one of many legal questions surrounding dooring injuries. Read on to learn more about who is responsible for these types of injuries and what you can do if you’re injured in a dooring accident.
What Is a Dooring Injury, and How Does It Occur?
A “dooring” injury occurs when a cyclist is struck by a car door that is opened into their path. This can happen when a driver or passenger opens their door suddenly and without checking for oncoming traffic.
Dooring injuries are becoming increasingly common as more people take up cycling, and they can be extremely serious. In some cases, cyclists have been knocked unconscious, sustained serious or permanent injuries, or have even been killed by striking a car door.
If you are injured in a dooring accident, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and losses. To learn more about dooring injuries and your legal rights, speak to a personal injury lawyer today.
What Are the Most Common Dooring Injuries?
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Dooring accidents can cause severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI) depending on the seriousness of the impact and whether the cyclist suffers a direct blow to the head. For example, if you were cycling or riding a sport bike when you hit the open door, the impact could send you flying head first into the pavement. Your injuries are likely to be more severe if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
In many situations, you will have visible primary trauma, such as bleeding from open lacerations and abrasions. However, there is often secondary trauma, which can have long-term consequences. This can include neurological issues such as memory loss, chronic headaches, partial loss of vision, or seizures.
Fractures and Broken Bones
Depending on the nature of the impact and blunt force trauma, you may fracture one or more bones. Bone fractures are extremely painful and can require considerable medical treatment that may not even be successful. Once a fracture occurs, surgery to fix the bone and rehabilitation are sometimes necessary. A person may be unable to work or do routine daily activities for a while if a fracture occurs in a critical area or if the fracture is severe.
Neck and Back Injuries
Neck and back injuries are some of the most common and debilitating types of injuries that people can suffer. They can include everything from tendon and ligament damage to whiplash, disc injuries, fractured vertebrae, and even spinal cord damage resulting in paralysis. In many cases, disc injuries cause compression on the nerves in the spine, which can lead to radiating pain, numbness, and tingling down the arms or legs. Treatment for neck and back injuries often requires physical therapy, injections, and sometimes surgery. The pain and disability caused by a serious neck or back injury can be life-long and very substantial. If you have been involved in an accident that has left you with neck or back pain, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Internal Organ Damage
While they are not common, you may suffer internal organ damage from a dooring accident. If you slam on the open door with a significant impact on your abdomen, your internal organs may suffer damage. The same may happen if you get thrown off your bike onto a hard, rocky surface.
The worst thing about internal organ damage is that it is often not apparent. It may take several tests for your physician to diagnose your injuries. Some internal injuries may be fatal. For that reason, you need a comprehensive medical examination whenever you are involved in an accident.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by a Dooring Accident in Illinois?
In Illinois, the “dooring” law (625 ILCS 5/11-1407) prohibits motorists from opening their doors into oncoming traffic. This law is in place to protect bicyclists, pedestrians, and other motorists from being struck by an open door.
Legal protection for cyclists can also be found in the Chicago Municipal Code. The law states that motorists must “make every effort to avoid collision with any pedestrian or person operating a bicycle” (Section 90-40-160). In addition, according to Section 9-80-035, “no individual shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is fairly safe to do so, and may be done without causing an obstruction to the flow of other vehicles.”
Illinois civil law provides dooring victims a legal remedy to recover damages. The injury victim can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit seeking damages against the driver or passenger who opened the door (via the responsible insurance company).
Although the above statutes are designed to protect cyclists, the cyclist also has a duty to keep a proper lookout for objects in his or her path. Therefore, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who is at fault in a dooring accident. Drivers will claim that the cyclist was not paying attention or was riding too fast or too close to the parked car. You will be required to prove that the defendant’s negligence in opening the door is what caused your injuries for the court to award you compensation for your injuries.
If you have been injured in a dooring accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and options.
Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Lawsuit Resulting From a Dooring Accident
Generally speaking, you can recover both economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Economic damages are those that have a specific monetary value, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Non-economic damages are more subjective and include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. In some cases, punitive damages may also be available if the defendant’s actions were particularly reckless or intentional.
If you have been injured in a dooring accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your legal rights and options. They will also be able to determine the best course of action to take in order to maximize your chances of recovery.
How Can You Protect Yourself From a Dooring Injury?
Whenever you are using the road as a cyclist, there are three major suggestions to help avoid a dooring accident;
Yes, you probably love speed when cycling, riding, or even rollerblading, but spending decreases your ability to slow down if necessary. It is best to move at a pace that will allow you to safely brake or swerve to avoid crashing into a door that opens in front of you.
Distracted riders make up a significant portion of dooring accidents. Any time you are on the road, focus on where you are headed. Avoid using your phone or turning to stare at something on either side or behind you.
Be Hyper-Aware and Cautious
Lastly, you can never be too cautious while using the road. Keep an eye out for any cars driving ahead of you, and maintain a reasonable distance from both traveling and parked vehicles that will allow you to swerve away if you have to. Notice when parked vehicles have people inside to anticipate when someone may suddenly open a door.
What Should You Do if You Are Injured in a Dooring Accident?
No matter how careful you are, dooring accidents are sometimes inevitable. If you ever find yourself involved in one, here are some things you should do, to the best of your ability.
- Take photos and/or videos of the vehicles, debris, and location of the accident.
- Call the authorities to request police and emergency medical services to the scene.
- Take note of any statements or admissions made by the other driver, such as, “sorry, I didn’t see you”.
- Exchange contact and insurance information with the driver, even if the police have taken their information.
- If there are any witnesses to the accident in other vehicles that stopped or who were at the scene at the time of the accident, make sure to get their names and contact information.
- Take note of any visible cameras in the area.
- Do not leave the scene until after police have completed their investigation and you have been evaluated by emergency medical services.
- Seek immediate medical treatment. Sometimes, injuries take a day or two to become obvious after an accident. But if you’re in any kind of pain after an accident, you shouldn’t put off going to the ER or an urgent care center to get checked out. Having the accident and your injuries documented right away is also very important for your personal injury case.
Seek The Assistance of an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
The first step before engaging the liable party is to hire an excellent personal injury lawyer. Discuss your options with them and let them take the necessary legal actions on your behalf.
At Drake & Collopy, P.C., our team of personal injury lawyers has decades of experience handling dooring accident claims. We know what it takes to build a strong case, and we will not stop until you get the justice you or your loved one deserve. Contact us for a free consultation to get the process going today.