Drivers of cars are supposed to look outside to make sure that nobody will be struck when they open their doors into traffic. Unfortunately, they do not always check, and serious injuries can result to people in smaller vehicles. If you are a motorcyclist injured in an open door accident, you may be able to hold the driver responsible. At The Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC, our California motorcycle accident lawyers may be able to help you recover damages after an accident caused by a careless motorist or passenger.
Open Door Accidents and Related Legal Claims
After being struck by an open car door, you should call the police to the scene and get the names and numbers of witnesses. If possible, have them stay at the scene to give statements to the police about what happened. Life-changing injuries, such as amputation, paralysis, a traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord damage, may be experienced by a motorcyclist who crashes into a door that opens suddenly.
There are a number of reasons why open door accidents can happen. The most common is that a driver or a passenger simply did not look to see whether anybody was coming before opening the door of a car. The driver or passenger may be held liable for negligence. You will need to show that the driver owed a duty of care, breached this duty, and caused injuries, and actual damages resulted.
However, in other cases, it is the positioning of a car that results in an open door accident. For example, if someone parks illegally, such that it is hard for a motorcyclist to see the open door, it might be possible to hold that person accountable for negligence.
When a driver is driving in the course and scope of employment and fails to check before opening a door into a motorcyclist, the employer may be held vicariously liable. Vicarious liability means that the employer may be responsible only if the driver is found negligent.
There sometimes is a bias against motorcyclists. If you were hit by an open door, you should not assume that the driver’s insurer will automatically pay you. Instead, the insurance adjuster on the case is likely to look for ways in which you were at fault. For example, they might look at whether you were speeding, such that the driver could not see you. They might look at whether you had looked away before colliding with the door, such that you did not move away even though you had an opportunity to do so.
Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, your damages may be reduced by your percentage of fault. This means that the jury will assess what your total damages are based on the evidence that you present, and it will also assess the evidence presented by the defendant about your fault for the accident. It will assign a percentage of fault to anyone alleged to be at fault for the accident. Your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if your damages are $300,000, but you are found 50% at fault, you will only be able to recover $150,000. On the other hand, if you are found 10% at fault, you will be able to recover $270,000.
The analysis becomes more complicated, however, if there are multiple parties responsible for an open door accident. In California, you can hold parties jointly and severally liable for economic damages but not for noneconomic damages. Thus, for example, if a driver on the street swerves and forces you to hit an opening door of a parked car, and the driver on the street, the driver in the car, and their employer are to blame for the open door accident, you can hold them each responsible for the full amount of economic damages. However, each one is only responsible for a share of the noneconomic damages proportionate to their own fault.