Cyclists in Chicago Are Getting Doored. A Lot.
"Dooring" accidents, which occur when drivers /passengers open their doors into the path of a cyclist riding on the road, are one of the most common causes of injuries to the cyclists represented by our bicycle accident firm. If you're a cyclist in Chicago who isn't familiar with dooring, then consider yourself lucky. These types of accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, from major bone fractures to horrific lacerations, and as a bike injury lawyer, I've seen it all in my years of practice here in the city. In fact, it has been reported by the state of Illinois that over 80% of dooring incidents end up causing an injury to the cyclist. These are serious incidents that almost always have a substantially negative impact on the life of any cyclist unlucky enough to get doored.
DNA Info recently reported that dooring incidents in the City of Chicago increased by 50% in 2015 over 2014 (the article notes how perplexing it is that 2015 info was just released). The increase could have come from a raw increase in the number of doorings, or simply in the number of reported dooring incidents, though it is likely that both factors contributed to the increase. Either way, it is important for cyclists in Chicago to understand how often these accidents occur in the city, how significant the resulting injuries can be, and the difficulties one can encounter when attempting to seek compensation for injuries caused by dooring accidents.
The first thing to note is that the act of "dooring" is illegal in the city of Chicago, and carries a hefty $1,000 fine for any driver/passenger who is ticketed for it. The specific ordinances can be found in the Chicago Municipal Code. Section 9-8-035 of the Code states:
"No person shall open the door of a 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."
And section 9-4-025 establishes the penalty for carelessly opening a car door in the manner above:
"(2) Any person who violates Section 9-80-035 of this Code, when such violation causes a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle, shall be subject to a fine of $1,000.00 for each offense."
So essentially, if you're riding along on any Chicago road and someone swings their door open directly in front of you, causing you and/or your bike to collide with the door, they should, under the law, be given a ticket by the police officers called to the scene and required to pay a $1,000 fine.
One would imagine that with this kind of serious enforcement in the City of Chicago, it would be relatively easy for a cyclist to obtain compensation for their injuries from the dooring driver's insurance company after such a collision. After all, the driver got a ticket, and it was clearly their fault, right?
Well the answer, similar to that of most legal questions, is that it depends. In our experience, sometimes an officer will arrive on the scene, investigate the dooring incident, and write up a report without giving the motorist or passenger a dooring ticket, often without explanation. Sometimes they conclude, in spite of all common sense to the contrary, that the incident was the cyclist's fault, and that the driver doesn't deserve a ticket. Other times, they will conclude that the driver was at fault, but for some unexplained reason will fail to issue the driver a ticket. We've seen all kinds of different police reports related to dooring incidents, and there doesn't seem to be any discernible pattern to them.
Similarly, auto insurance companies react in different ways when a claim for bodily injury is made against a dooring driver/passenger by an injured cyclist. In our experience, auto insurance companies will often, at least at first, listen to their driver's version of the story and stick with it, no matter how improbable it may sound. For example, we've had auto insurance companies deny claims made on behalf of injured cyclist clients on the basis that their driver told them that they had looked in the bike lane before opening their door, not seen anyone, and then opened the door, which the cyclist then slammed into some significant amount of time later, meaning that it was the cyclist, rather than the driver, who wasn't being careful.
Sometimes, like in a recent case our law firm was working on, the insurance company will deny the claim even though their insured driver was ticketed and plead guilty to the dooring charge, in an attempt to shift the blame to the cyclist. As long as the driver maintains that he/she isn't at fault, or that the door had been open for long enough, that's all it takes for the insurance company to deny a claim, particularly when the cyclist doesn't have legal representation.
On the basis of the driver's goofy story in this case (why would a cyclist continue full speed into the pathway of an open metal door?), the insurance company denied the claim, and without legal representation, our client would have simply been out of luck and stuck with medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages. Once the claim is denied, the only option to recover anything is to file a lawsuit, and that is what we did in this particular case. The opposing attorney realized how ridiculous the driver's story was, as well as the legal consequences of a guilty plea, and ended up making a strong settlement offer on the claim very early in the litigation process.
This is why victims of Chicago dooring accidents should get in touch with a local bike injury lawyer as soon as possible. The insurance companies do not owe you any kind of duty to be honest and fair in their claims analysis, and sometimes it is necessary for a bike injury attorney to step in and make it right. If you've been doored, please call us now at (872) 588-0727 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.