By Matt Lalande in Bicycle Accidents on May 21, 2021
Despite dooring being a major cause of bicycle accidents in Ontario’s urban cities, many drivers on the road are not inclined to look out for cyclists when exiting their vehicles and act carelessly when parking. A cyclist can no doubt suffer terrible injuries or wrongful death if involved in a dooring accident with a parked car or truck in the roadway or parking lot.
Dooring accidents happen when a vehicle occupant opens their door into the pathway of a cyclist. In most dooring bicycle accidents, cyclist is thrown over the door and suffers catastrophic injuries.
Dooring bicycle accidents are normally caused by a negligent driver or passenger who is distracted, inattentive or not watching the roadway when exiting.
Dooring bicycle accidents are more of an issue in urban cities and downtown, such as in the Hamilton, that have on-street parking and drop-off or pickup zones, but could happen even on a quiet residential street or in a parking lot.
This type of accident is usually caused by a negligent driver or passenger who is distracted, inattentive or not watching the roadway when exiting.
It is difficult to determine exactly how many bicycle accidents and serious injuries are attributed to dooring because the Ontario Ministry of Transportation does not classify dooring as a collision, and therefore these numbers are not regularly reported alongside other types of bicycle accidents. However, what we do know is that in Toronto alone, dooring incidents increased by 58% in the three-year period between 2014 and 2016. Within that time frame, there were 516 reported dooring incidents reported to the Toronto Police Service (information courtesy of Cycle Toronto).
Of course, dooring is its own cause of tragic bicycle accidents, but there are certain factors that increase the chances of a dooring bicycle accident and contribute to the increase in these incidents. These factors include, but are not limited to:
Dooring bicycle accidents can cause severe, life-changing injuries and even possible death. There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, a car door is heavy. Usually, doors are made with reinforced steel or metal and can weigh up to 200 pounds depending on the make and model of the car. Even the lighter removable doors on a Jeep Wrangler can weigh 70 pounds each. Secondly, unless they are out for a leisurely bike ride, a cyclist is usually traveling at a comparable speed to a motor vehicle and does not expect a parked car to suddenly open its door, so they don’t have time to reduce their speed.
The heavy weight of the door combined with the impact of the cyclist’s speed can lead to severe damage on impact. Cyclists are not protected by any equipment other than a helmet, and a human body is no match for a heavy metal door. Further, the impact of the collision could send the cyclist directly in the path of another vehicle travelling down the road in the next lane over or in oncoming traffic.
Another reason dooring bicycle accidents are particularly dangerous is the fact that a cyclist may potentially be inclined to swerve around a door they see being opened – sometimes right into a moving vehicle in the next lane over. On a busy street in a high-traffic zone, such as downtown Hamilton, this could cause an even more dangerous collision or the cyclist could be struck or run over by an oncoming vehicle.
Even if the driver of a vehicle does not seriously injure the cyclist, the act is illegal and they can still be charged. Under Section 165 of the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario, which states that no person shall:
(a) open the door of a motor vehicle on a highway without first taking due precautions to ensure that his or her act will not interfere with the movement of or endanger any other person or vehicle; or
(b) leave a door of a motor vehicle on a highway open on the side of the vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than is necessary to load or unload passengers. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 165.
As of 2015, the penalty for dooring a cyclist is $365 and three demerit points.
Drivers can follow a set of safety precautions in order to learn to share the road safely and prevent dooring injuries to an unsuspecting cyclist. Some of these precautions include:
The Dutch Reach is a technique taught in European driver’s education programs (due to the popularity of cycling in European cities) and is recommended for all drivers in preventing dooring incidents. Essentially, drivers should use the opposite arm to open their vehicle door before exiting, which forces the driver to swivel and view the traffic behind them. This way, the driver will automatically scan for any cyclists coming toward the area.
For bicyclists, the following safety precautions can help reduce the risk of becoming the victim of a dooring bicycle accident:
Bicycle accidents can be especially dangerous for bicyclists due to the obvious difference in size and protection ebtwene the two. Dooring injuries can be extremely devastating and severe, and in some cases it can lead to wrongful death. Potential injuries that a cyclist could suffer after surviving a dooring incident may include:
At the scene of the accident, it’s always natural to be in shock and forget to take precautions to prepare yourself for a future personal injury claim against the driver of the car. Fortunately, when dooring occurs, it’s extremely difficult for anyone in the car to drive away before you can obtain their information.
Even if you are able to get up and walk away from the scene of the accident, it’s entirely possible that you will be faced with further extensive injuries, both physically and psychologically. Sometimes “invisible injuries” such as post-traumatic stress disorder, head or brain injuries, and chronic pain don’t present symptoms until a few days after the incident. For this reason, always make sure you collect as much information as possible and do not make firm conclusions about your injuries in the police report.
In the unfortunate event that you are doored and are able to retain consciousness or a sound mind, stay at the scene and call the police regardless of whether you feel injured or not. Collect information from any witnesses in the area, any drivers involved, and take photographs if you can.
If you don’t have car insurance, you can file a personal injury claim for accident benefits against the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. While dooring isn’t reported as a motor vehicle collision, it is still considered a motor vehicle accident in the eyes of personal injury law, and you have the right to sue for damages such as pain and suffering, lost income, medical and rehabilitation costs, and more.
Remember – you choice of legal representation is important because the amount of knowledge and skill your bicycle accident lawyer has will no doubt determine your chances of success and the amount of compensation you recover. If you have been hurt in a bicycle accident, the law in Ontario allows you to recover enough compensation to cover the costs of being made “whole again”. We always say that the concept of a bicycle accident victim being made whole simply means that he or she deserves to compensated financially to be put in the place he or she was in the day before their accident.
Matt Lalande is a bicycle accident lawyer who has worked extensively with victims of many types of bicycle accidents cases across Ontario since 2003. He has assisted victims and their families recover financial support to aid the recovery process while holding negligent drivers accountable for their actions. Over the years, he has represented victims in bicycle accidents who have suffered from broken bones, neck fractures, head injuries and ongoing psychological issues.
If you or a loved one has been severely injured in a bicycle accident anywhere in Ontario, book a free consultation and tell us about your situation. Our bicycle accident lawyers only represent victims, not insurance companies, and we never ask our clients for upfront fees. Talking to us is free, with no obligation to retain our services, and we are able to accommodate your preferred method of communication – whether you’d like to meet us in person or virtually via video chat.
Call us today no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Hamilton/GTA/Niagara area at 905-333-8888 to book your consultation. You can also schedule a call back using our online contact form if you prefer. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can start the healing process and get to work on your case.