A very common accident involving cyclists is where the cyclist is filtering through traffic or overtaking vehicles including parked vehicles when a driver or passenger opens a car door directly into the path of the cyclist.

A very common accident involving cyclists is where the cyclist is filtering through traffic or overtaking vehicles including parked vehicles when a driver or passenger opens a car door directly into the path of the cyclist.

Such momentary lapses of concentration by a car driver can have catastrophic consequences such as occurred in 2002 when a cyclist called Sam Harding was killed when a car driver parked his car next to a bus lane which was also used by cyclists and opened his door killing a passing cyclist.

The cyclist was actually killed by a bus that was following him that could not avoid colliding with him once he had been thrown from his cycle.

So what does the law say about opening a car door?

Rule 239 of the Highway Code states that motorists “MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic”.

As a matter of law the Highway Code is good practice however a breach of it does not render the offender liable for criminal prosecution.

Society has however recognised that there is such an obvious danger opening a car door that Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 has been introduced to cover the situation.

Section 42 says that it is a road traffic offence to open any door of a vehicle on a road “so as to injure or endanger any person”.

This offence is punishable with a fine of up to £1,000.00 and it is to be remembered that the offence is not just limited to drivers of vehicles but also passengers.  That means that a passenger emerging from be found guilty of that offence should he injure a cyclist who is undertaking that stationary vehicle.

So how does this affect a cyclist who is injured and seeks to claim?

cycling--accident-claims

If a cyclist is injured when a car door is opened into his path then he will have a claim for any loss or injury sustained in that accident.  The car driver or the emerging passenger owes a duty of care to the cyclist and will have breached that duty by opening the door without taking adequate precautions.  In some foreign countries it is even advised by the Government that when opening a car door you should use the opposite hand in order to force you to turn to view traffic coming from the rear.

In any event cyclists injured by a car door will have a claim against the driver’s insurance.  It can be more complicated if the accident was caused by a passenger emerging from the vehicle unless the driver had some control over that passenger such as in the case of a taxi driver.

Because there has been a clear breach of the Highway Code and Road Traffic Law a Judge in a Civil Court would be likely to make an award in favour of the cyclist.  Quite often Defendant insurance companies seek to reduce the amount of compensation they pay for injured cyclists by alleging that they have been guilty or have contributed to the accident by riding too close to the parked vehicle.

A leading case of Burridge v Airwork Limited.  Is a case that involved a cyclist who was thrown from his cycle when a driver in a works vehicle opened a door directly into his path.  The Defendant insurance company argued that the cyclist was obviously passing too close to the vehicle and failed to take account of the fact that a driver could emerge.  Basically the argument was that he should have ridden his cycle leaving sufficient distance to avoid any door that was opened.  The Court carefully considered this argument and dismissed it because it was thought this would place too high a burden on cyclists to always predict that somebody could emerge from a vehicle.

Cyclist Injured by Car Door

Is this a common problem

Latest Government figures produced in 2011 show that 594 cyclists reported being injured after hitting or trying to swerve a car door which is a dramatic increase from 468 from the previous report in 2009.

It is considered that this figure is the tip of the iceberg as many such incidents will go unreported but in any event it shows that it is a serious issue facing cyclists particularly on busy city streets.

Lampkin Cycle Accident Team Advice

We act for many cyclists who have been injured in “dooring” accidents often sustaining catastrophic injuries being thrown into the path of oncoming or following vehicles.  We will use the advice given by the Highway Code, the law in relation to Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and reported cases to pursue a maximum recovery of loss, damage and compensation on behalf of any cyclist injured when a car door is opened.  If this has happened to you the law is on your side and we will help you every step of the way to prove your case.

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