OPEN CAR DOOR IS HIT: WHO IS LIABLE ?
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One fear many of us have is opening our car door on the street-side of the vehicle and the door being hit by an oncoming vehicle. But who is actually liable when an open car door is hit in Florida? Florida’s laws surrounding an accident of this nature tend to place liability on the person who opened the car door rather than the individual who struck the car door. However, there are occasions where the opposite may ring true.
The expert car accident attorneys at Calandro Law in Riverview, Florida can help you prove liability after an accident where an open car door is hit. Let’s take a closer look at how these types of accidents can happen and how fault is determined after the collision.
WHAT IS AN OPEN CAR DOOR ACCIDENT?
An open car door accident is exactly what it sounds like: an accident where an open car door is hit. Open car door accidents most commonly happen when a person is exiting their vehicle on the street-side and they fail to check for an oncoming vehicle before opening their car door. These accidents can involve any type of vehicle striking the open door, such as a car, motorcycle, truck, moped, or bicycle.
HOW FAULT IS DETERMINED WHEN AN OPEN CAR DOOR IS HIT?
The important thing to realize in a car accident where an open car door is hit is that the person who opened the car door is almost always at fault. One of the main reasons for this is that the person opening the car door is typically parked and not moving. This means they have time and the obligation to check their surroundings for any oncoming cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, or other vehicles that could collide with their door as it is open. Contrary to this, the person that strikes the open door usually has very limited time to react to the situation before impact.
Ultimately, fault in any type of car accident will be determined based on negligence. If you hire a car accident attorney from Calandro Law to represent you in an open car door accident, they will work to prove that you have been injured and suffered damages due to the negligent actions of the other party involved. Your attorney will look to collect evidence on your behalf that supports your claim following the collision.
IMPORTANT EVIDENCE TO COLLECT AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
Whether you were the party that opened the car door that was struck or the party that struck the open door, evidence gathering can begin immediately at the scene of the accident. This evidence can play a key role in successfully pursuing an accident claim, even if you do not choose to hire an attorney to represent you.
Important evidence to gather when an open car door is hit includes:
- Photos and videos of the scene of the accident
- Copies of a police report, witness statements, and accounts from each party involved
- Contact and insurance information from any party involved in the accident
- Contact information for any witnesses and first responders
- Detailed records for medical evaluations, treatment, bills, and recommended future treatments
- Records of any property damage
- Records of any other therapies or treatments you may need
THE ROLE OF NEGLIGENCE IN AN OPEN CAR DOOR ACCIDENT
Negligence will play a big part in how fault is determined in a car accident. The party that is deemed to have been negligent in their actions leading up to the accident will typically carry the liability for the collision. Comparative negligence laws in Florida will sometimes play a role when both parties have some degree of fault for the accident.
The four key factors to look at when determining if a driver was responsible for an accident are:
- Duty of Care: The at-fault party had a duty of care to the other party or parties involved.
- Negligence: There was a breach of the responsible party’s duty of care leading to the collision.
- Cause: The negligent or purposeful actions of the at-fault party caused the accident.
- Damages: There was injury, financial loss, or other damage suffered by the victim.
WHEN IS THE PERSON WHO OPENED THE CAR DOOR AT FAULT?
As mentioned above, the person who opens the car door will almost always be assigned some degree of fault for this type of accident. This is because the person opening the door has an obligation to check their surroundings before doing so. They have more opportunities to identify oncoming vehicles before they open the door. On the other hand, a person heading down the road may not realize there is a person in a parked vehicle that is about to open the door until it is too late for them to avoid the collision.
The party that is opening the car door has the following duties of care to other people on the road:
- Not to open the car door until they have a reasonably safe amount of time to do so without impeding the movement of other traffic on the road.
- Not to leave a car door open onto an area of moving traffic for more time than is safe and necessary to load or unload the driver or passengers.
WHEN DOES THE PERSON WHO HIT THE OPEN DOOR HAVE LIABILITY?
When an open car door is hit, the person who struck the car door does not often have enough time to anticipate and avoid the impact. This is why the party that struck the open door is not usually held liable for the accident. However, there are some scenarios where the person that hit the open door may be partially responsible for the accident.
The party that struck the open car door may have some fault in the accident if it can be shown that they had the time and opportunity to avoid the collision through evasive maneuvers. A car accident attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to show that the person who struck your car had a reasonable chance to avoid the collision.
The party that struck the open car door may also have some or all of the fault in a collision if they were:
- Driving too fast relative to the speed limit or road conditions
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Texting or distracted by their phone while driving
- Falling asleep behind the wheel
WHO HAS FAULT WHEN A BICYCLE STRIKES AN OPEN CAR DOOR?
One of the most common types of accidents where an open car door is hit is an accident involving a bicyclist striking the door. This type of accident happens so often it has earned its own name: A dooring accident. These types of accidents can lead to serious injuries for the bicyclist, but who ultimately has fault for such an accident?
The same liability laws apply to dooring accidents as apply to accidents where other types of vehicles strike an open car door. However, there are some things bicyclists should be aware of in the event of hitting an open car door.
UNDERSTANDING THE DOOR ZONE
The door zone is considered to be the area within the width of a fully opened car door of a car parked parallel to the roadway. This is considered a dangerous area for bicyclists to ride within. Typically, the door zone extends around 3-5 feet from the car depending on the length and size of the door.
Bicyclists on the road should do their best to stay outside the door zone of parallel parked cars along the road, at least 5 feet. This is considered riding within the safe zone. It may not always be possible to ride within the safe zone though. These factors can be taken into account when determining fault after an open car door is hit by a bicyclist.
BIKE LANES VS NO BIKE LANES
The unfortunate reality is that bike riders often have a high risk of being doored by an opening car door whether there is a bike lane or not. Bike lanes tend to be narrow and are often placed very close to parallel parking spots, placing the bike rider within the door zone. When a car door opens in front of them, they may not have room within the bike lane to avoid the door if they cannot stop in time.
On the other hand, bicyclists are encouraged to ride close to the inside curb when there is no bike lane on the road. This also forces bike riders to often ride within the door zone, especially on roads with heavy traffic. These situations can often be dangerous for bike riders and they need to be extra vigilant when passing parallel parked cars along the road.
FAULT WHEN AN OPEN CAR DOOR IS HIT PULLING INTO A PARKING SPACE
Open car door accidents are also known to happen when cars are pulling into parking spaces. This is most commonly a parking lot accident where an individual is opening their door to exit a vehicle as another driver is pulling into the spot. Comparative negligence will often be used to determine what degree of fault each party had in the accident. Unlike other open car door accidents, the person pulling into the parking spot will usually have a higher percentage of fault for the accident because they should be moving at a very slow speed when pulling into the space. This should allow them plenty of time to see the danger and stop before striking the car door.