Am I at fault if I open my car door and hit a bicyclist? What if I don’t see the bicyclist?

Driving in DC isn’t easy, especially in spring and summer. Road construction causes detours while tourists cause congestion. Good parking spots are few and far between. If you can’t find on-street parking, you may have to pay $20 or more to park in a crowded parking garage.

When you finally find parking, you breathe a sigh of relief. The last thing on your mind is bicycles. But spring and summer are also bicycle season. If you don’t look out for bicyclists, you could cause a serious accident simply by opening your door.

When a driver or passenger opens a door into a biker’s lane of travel, there is little time for the biker to react. The bicyclist can try to brake or swerve, but this can be difficult when traffic is heavy. It can be impossible if the biker was close to the vehicle. The biker may have no choice except to crash into the door.

These types of crashes are called “dooring” accidents. “Dooring” accidents are often very painful and can cause serious injury and even death. Drivers have a responsibility to watch out for bicyclists.

Washington, DC traffic law states that no person (driver or passenger) shall open a vehicle door unless it is safe to do so and the door can be opened safely and without interfering with the movement of traffic, including the movement of bicyclists and pedestrians. This means that you would be at fault for the accident. The bicyclist has the right to seek damages for his injuries and property damage from your insurance company. If your insurance company won’t pay, you may be taken to court.

Lewis and Tompkins represents injured bicyclists in the Washington DC metro area. If you have been injured in a dooring accident, we urge you to contact our office to learn about your rights. There is no charge for the consultation.

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