“Dooring” is a serious and common danger for bicyclists in South Florida. It occurs when a person exiting a motor vehicle opens the door into the travel path of a cyclist, resulting in the impossible decision to either crash into the door or swerve into moving traffic.
The Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm know that in these situations, proving negligence is fairly straightforward. That’s because F.S. 316.2005 points the blame squarely at those who open-and-close doors into lanes of traffic.
Specifically, the statute says no person should open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it’s reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.
Further, it is also against the law to keep a side door open in a traffic lane longer than is necessary to load or unload passengers.
Violation of this statute is a non-criminal traffic infraction. However, if it results in serious injury or death to a bicyclist, it can be the solid basis of a negligence lawsuit brought by a victim and their lawyer. In many of these matters, the question is not whether the vehicle occupant was negligent, but rather how much should the injured cyclist be compensated.Dangers of Dooring Bicyclists
Although “dooring” might not seem as dangerous as a collision with a moving vehicle, the reality is dooring accidents result in serious injuries and fatalities.
Although the City of Fort Lauderdale hasn’t recorded statistics on this phenomenon, but several other large cities have.
For instance, Chicago studied dooring crashes between 2010 and 2012 and learned they comprise between 7 and 20 percent of all reported bicycle accidents. Boston too looked at the problem, and discovered between 7 percent and 13 percent of all its reported bicycle crashes involved dooring. Another study in Australia revealed nearly 18 percent of all bicycle-car interactions involved dooring.
In all, 40 of 50 states have laws against dooring, according to The American League of Bicyclists. Half the states that don’t have dooring laws are in the South, so Florida is somewhat unique in this respect, at least regionally.Florida Dooring Statute
F.S. 316.2005 is clear in that it assigns liability to one party over another in a situation some might see as merely an unfortunate accident.
The truth of the matter is, the occupant of the vehicle has the power to avoid this scenario, and it’s therefore the vehicle occupant who is legally responsible. Of course, bicyclists who can avoid a vehicle door resting wide open in their path should do so if they can safely. In too many situations, though, there is moving traffic next to them or the cyclist lacks the reaction time when a door opens just ahead of them.
This kind of statute is particularly important in urban cities – like Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach – because it establishes a reason for people in cars to look before they get out.
It should be noted that the term “bicyclists” is not specifically mentioned in Florida’s dooring statute. Rather, the law is written to protect “other traffic,” which can be taken to include cyclists, who according to F.S. 316.2065 have the same rights to the road as any other motorist. Additionally, enforcement of the law is reportedly quite low.
Even in states that don’t have this kind of law, civil liability is still a possibility. However, the statute makes the question of responsibility straightforward for a victim's lawyer to establish.
Fort Lauderdale in recent years has made it a priority to begin installing “sharrows,” which according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration are intended to prevent dooring. Sharrows – shared lane markings – means the lane is intended to be shared.
Some bicycle enthusiasts indicate they are not as safe as dedicated bicycle lanes, but the city hopes the move will encourage drivers to be more cognizant of cyclists on those roads, which could also help drive down dooring incidents. They are generally used on roads that don’t have heavy traffic and have speeds of 35 mph or less.Liability for Dooring
In many dooring injury cases, liability is clear, unless the facts of the case are contested. In these situations, witness statements, physical evidence and accident reconstruction will be vital. Any video footage of the incident could be essential.
More often, we’re dealing with the question of damages. That is, how much should the at-fault driver be required to pay. First and foremost, cyclists often can rely on PIP benefits. That stands for personal injury protection, and per F.S. 627.736, a bicyclist hit by a car could obtain PIP benefits via his or her own auto insurance policy OR through the policy of the driver involved.
If injuries substantial or fatal, the cyclist/ survivors could pursue damages under the driver’s bodily injury liability policy. If that amount was not sufficient, the cyclist could pursue a claim with his/ her own auto insurance company, or else explore the liability of other third parties (i.e., vehicle/ bicycle manufacturers, municipality in charge of road maintenance or other vehicles).
If you are injured in a Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident, our dooring accident attorneys can help you weigh your legal options.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or (954) 761-3641.