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Many Manhattan bicyclists don’t know the technicalities, but they do know about what is often referred to as the dangerous “door zone.” The “door zone” is next to a parked car of about three to four feet, where a door could swing open. “Doorings” are known to cause serious and sometimes fatal injuries to bicyclists throughout New York City. When one of these all-too-common accidents occurs, a common question follows, “who is responsible?”
Although it may appear as though the person who opens a door in the bicyclist’s path should be held responsible, it is not always the case. An injured cyclist still needs to prove that the passenger in the vehicle was negligent. Insurance companies are not known for writing checks immediately after they become aware of a claim based on the alleged wrongdoing or negligence of their insured.
Our experienced bike accident attorneys are familiar with the issues presented with these cases and can help you recover the compensation you’re entitled to following your bicycle accident. Call us now at 212-240-9465 to schedule your free, no obligation in-office consultation today and see how we can help get the Wheels of Justice spinning for you!
Proving Liability for Dooring Accidents in Manhattan
The law in New York City states that bicyclists are typically required to ride in designated bicycle lanes or stay on the right side of the road. This means that any bicyclist riding in Manhattan will likely pass hundreds or more parked cars during an average cycling trip.
Prior to opening the door of their automobile, an operator or passenger should ensure that they are not opening their door into oncoming traffic, and this includes bicycles traveling down the street. In most cases, the individual opening the door is liable for any injuries or damage that occurs if a cyclist is “doored.”
Notwithstanding, an injured cyclist must establish that the motorist or passenger was careless or reckless. Legally, this is known as proving that the other party was “negligent.” To prove this, the injured cyclist must demonstrate four elements: duty, breach, causation, and harm.
NYC Laws Regarding Opening Doors into Moving Traffic
NY VTL §1214 reads:
“No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”
Under Section 1214 of the Vehicle and Traffic law, no person should open a vehicle’s door on the side of moving traffic without ensuring that it is reasonably safe to do so and without interfering with oncoming traffic. Furthermore, no person is permitted to leave a door open in traffic longer than reasonably necessary to unload or load passengers.
New York City also has specific laws in place to restrict the conduct of passengers and drivers. NYCRR-Section 4-12(c) prohibits anyone from getting out of their car or another vehicle in a manner that will interfere with the right of way of any approaching vehicle, including a bicycle.
Any cyclist in New York City is familiar with the thousands of cabs on the streets, picking up and discharging passengers. Sometimes this is done while the vehicle is double-parked.
The law further addresses taxis under NYCRR-Section 4-11, which states that any taxi driver must not pick up or discharge their passenger in a manner that will obstruct traffic. Additionally, the taxi operator must leave at least 10 feet available to oncoming traffic if stopped in any area that prohibits stopping or when stopped in a bike lane. If a motorist or passenger is cited for violating one of these laws after a “dooring” accident, it may serve as compelling evidence that the person’s actions were negligent.
Pure Comparative Negligence and Bicyclists’ Actions
New York follows the law of pure comparative negligence. Under this rule, an injured bicyclist’s compensatory damages can be reduced if their conduct contributed to the accident. While in most cases, responsibility will rest with the person who opened the door, there are situations where a cyclist’s conduct could have partially caused the accident. For instance, if the cyclist knew that a car was parked, the brake lights were on and they saw the door opening, but proceeded on and tried to maneuver around it, they may be found to be at least partially to blame.
Damages Available Following a “Doored” Accident in New York
Injured bicyclists are entitled to seek compensation if they were injured because someone opened a vehicle door in their path. Typically, damages are broken down into different categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are pecuniary losses and your out-of-pocket expenses. For example, an injured bicyclist should recover any monies spent on medical treatment such as physical therapy or surgery, and the costs of prescription medications that were paid. Furthermore, if you were injured by a car door that swung open, you may be able to recover any income you lost from work while you were healing.
Non-economic damages encompass emotional distress, pain and suffering, and mental suffering. These types of damages are less concrete and more subjective in nature.
Fighting for You
Bicycling is a great way to get around Manhattan and is also many times more affordable than other modes of transportation. But bicycle dooring poses significant risks to cyclists throughout New York City and it is preventable. If you have been injured in a bicycle dooring accident, contact the Law Office of Michael J. Redenburg, Esq. P.C. today at 212-240-9465 and schedule your free, in-office, no obligation consultation today.