For bicyclists, the threat that someone will fail to look before opening their car door into the bike lane is a serious one. Some studies have found that “getting doored” accounts for as much as 80 percent of incidents between bikes and cars.
As a lawyer and a cyclist, I know firsthand how serious this threat can be. I also know that there are laws meant to protect cyclists, and there are strategies that cyclists can use to help protect their interests if they have been doored.
What does Minnesota law say about dooring?
Minnesota Statute 169.315 says that “no person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.” What does this mean for cyclists? It means that the law protects them.
Bicyclists who wish to take legal action after being doored can work with their lawyers to show that the driver wasn’t just negligent in opening the door, but that the person actually violated the law. The legal argument then changes. If your lawyer were just trying to prove that the driver was negligent, fault might be a big issue in the case. Was the driver at fault? Were you partially at fault? If your lawyer shows that the driver violated a statute, negligence is presumed as a matter of law. The driver is presumed to have caused the accident because he or she violated the statute.
Of course, not every dooring case leads to a lawsuit, and the facts are almost never identical. The legal strategy used by your attorney will be unique to your case.
What can I do if I’ve been doored?
If you have been doored and are only somewhat hurt, it may be tempting just to pick up your bike and limp home. Don’t do this. Call the police and wait for them to arrive at the scene. If it turns out that you are hurt badly or if the damage to your bike is extensive, the police report will help you get compensation.
Accept medical treatment at the scene. If you don’t feel like you need medical treatment, it is still best to go see your doctor to get checked out later that day. Sometimes seemingly-small injuries turn out to be large ones. And if you do end up taking legal action, the other side may use your failure to seek treatment against you. They’ll claim that your injuries could not have been that severe because you didn’t need to see a doctor.
While you’re at the scene, you’ll want to obtain the driver’s information and the contact information of any witnesses. The driver might want to negotiate with you. Don’t negotiate at that time because it’s likely that you’re not thinking clearly. Just collect evidence and wait for the police.
Preserving evidence is critical. Take pictures with your phone. You’ll want to document the place of the accident, the road conditions, the damage to your bike and the car door, and your own injuries. Many people want to get their bike’s fixed right away, but it’s a good idea to make sure that you have properly documented the damage before that evidence is erased by repairs.
Finally, talk with a lawyer to get an opinion. Lawyers usually offer free consultations in bike accident cases, and there is no obligation to hire that person once you have consulted with them, so you don’t have anything to lose by getting legal help. Talking with a lawyer can help you properly navigate insurance matters after you’ve been doored, and it can also give you peace of mind: You’ve been hurt by someone else’s failure to look out for you, but there is a way forward.
Attorney Daniel J. Brazil of The Law Offices of Daniel J. Brazil is an experienced personal injury attorney with offices located in Uptown. He has a passion for the outdoors, especially cycling and climbing. Learn more about Dan and his practice by following him on Twitter (@LawDanielBrazil and #MplsBikeAttorney).