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“Dooring” Presents a Potentially Deadly Danger to California Bicyclists

motorcycle dooring accidents

As bicycling for both transportation and recreation has grown in popularity, there are more opportunities for accidents to occur. One of the significant hazards faced by bicyclists in towns and cities in California is “dooring.” This occurs when a cyclist is riding on a street alongside a row of parked cars and a car door unexpectedly swings open into the bike’s path. The cyclist hits the door and might be thrown to the ground or into moving traffic. Either way, a serious or even fatal injury can result. 

A tragic example of a dooring accident occurred in late 2023, when film producer Robert George, while cycling on North Edgemont Street in East Hollywood, collided with a car door and was flung by the impact into the roadway, where a second car hit him. He died of traumatic head injuries at a hospital an hour later.

Acknowledging the dangers to bicyclists, the California Vehicle Code provides that opening a car door on the side next to traffic is illegal unless it is reasonably safe to do so and unless it can be done without interfering with traffic. It is also illegal to leave a car door open on the traffic side longer than necessary to load or unload passengers or cargo.

Despite the law, dooring remains a real hazard for cyclists. A dooring collision may result in injuries ranging from minor scrapes to life-threatening harm. They can include the following:

  • Traumatic head injuries, such as those suffered by George in the East Hollywood accident
  • Broken bones and fractures, affecting limbs, ribs and even the spine
  • Severe abrasions and lacerations from contact with pavement
  • Soft tissue injuries such as muscle strains, ligament tears and whiplash 
  • Internal bleeding and organ damage

Some of these injuries can cause long-term pain and complications or, in the worst case, death.

A bicyclist injured in a dooring accident has the right to seek monetary compensation from the people responsible. California law applies a rule of pure comparative negligence, which apportions liability in an accident based on percentage of fault.

In most cases, the driver who opened the door or who left it open too long can be held liable for the cyclist’s injuries. A passenger can likewise be liable for such conduct. Their violation of the law and failure to exercise due care constitute negligence. 

If a dooring collision causes the bicyclist to be thrown into traffic, as in the East Hollywood accident, the driver of a vehicle that hits the bicyclist may be partially liable to the extent of their own negligence.

If you are involved in a dooring accident, you should call 911 and seek immediate medical care. Then contact a skilled bicycle accident attorney about the financial compensation you may be entitled to recover. 

Pulverman & Pulverman, LLP in Santa Barbara represents bicyclists injured due to the negligence of others. Call us at 805.259.3581 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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