Can a cyclist make a claim if he is hit by a motorist opening a car door?
Sometimes referred to as "dooring", there are more than 600 reported incidences per year in which cyclists are hit by a car door opening across their path. At least 15% of these collisions result in serious injury, and as cycling becomes more popular and traffic levels increase, the frequency of these accidents is also likely to increase.
"Dooring" is recognised to be a serious problem, and more so in busy city streets where cyclists filter through traffic or must overtake stationary vehicles.
Are there any specific laws that apply to "dooring"?
All road users have a duty of care to each other, and in this case motor vehicle drivers - including cars and lorries - have a duty of care to look out for approaching cyclists before opening the vehicle's door.
The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 section 105 state that "No person shall open, or cause or permit to be opened, any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person".
The legislation includes the passengers in a vehicle as well as the driver.
How much duty of care does the cyclist have for his own safety?
As a cyclist you should always be vigilant of other road users, looking ahead for occupants of parked vehicles who may be alighting. But with a myriad of other hazards to be aware of, foreseeing when or where a person may emerge from a vehicle is not always possible.
You should also try to maintain a safe distance from parked vehicles. However this is not always practical in areas of traffic congestion. If you have been "doored" the insurance company of the driver who caused your injuries may allege that you were cycling too close to the parked vehicle - and so could not avoid the accident.
It will use this argument to seek a reduction in your compensation award, stating that your negligence contributed to your injuries. However in a case where this was argued, the Court dismissed it, saying it was too high a burden on cyclists to predict when somebody might open a door.
How should I make a claim?
If you have had an accident due to someone opening a car door in front of you, then you may bring a claim for any injuries or other losses sustained by their negligence.
Regardless of whether it was the vehicle's driver or one of the passengers who opened the door, the claim will be bought against the driver's insurance. You may wish to claim for general damages for your pain and suffering and loss of amenity.
Loss of amenity means any lifestyle limitations that your injuries have caused. For example, if as a result of your cycling accident you have broken several fingers and can no longer play the piano as you used to, the Court will attribute a financial value to the loss of this hobby.
You can also claim for special damages, which are economic losses, including loss of any earnings, the cost of travel to appointments and medical assessments, the cost of any treatment - such as physiotherapy. You will need to provide evidence or receipts to recover these costs.