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Bicycling is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation for getting around crowded and congested New York City streets, and the City itself is promoting the goal of tripling the number of riders by 2017 over 2007 levels; ridership has already more than doubled in number since 2007. While part of this goal includes constructing more bike lanes, cyclists continue to compete with cars, cabs, buses and trucks for road space, with the cyclist being the most vulnerable to serious personal injury or wrongful death in a collision.
One of the common dangers bicyclists face is the prospect of being “doored.” This happens when an occupant of a parked vehicle opens the door on the driver’s side into traffic, and a cyclist who was approaching the vehicle collides with the open door. This type of accident can cause serious damage to the rider, who may flip over the bike and suffer serious injuries including spinal injury or traumatic brain injury.
New York’s Vehicle & Traffic Law section 1214 covers the topic of opening and closing vehicle doors. This law states that, “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.” If it is found that the vehicle occupant violated V&T section 1214, then establishing liability of the occupant for the cyclist’s injuries is much more likely. The vehicle occupant may still have a defense, however, that the cyclist was not paying attention and contributed to the accident by his or her own contributory negligence. While a bicycle rider’s comparative negligence may reduce the amount of a jury verdict, it will not stand in the way of recovering for the vehicle occupant’s own comparative negligence.
Just as an occupant could open a door into traffic negligently and injure an oncoming cyclist, a car driver or passenger could step out into traffic and be struck by an oncoming vehicle due to the negligence of the driver of the oncoming vehicle. Here again, whether the vehicle occupant violated V&T section 1214 in opening the door will be a dominant factor in establishing or challenging the issue of liability for the accident.
These types of cases raise a host of legal issues, including insurance coverage and vicarious liability when the accident is caused by a passenger rather than the vehicle’s owner, including taxicab passengers. There are also different statutes to apply, as well as common law principles such as contributory negligence. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer may be necessary to sort through the facts and applicable laws and help you obtain the compensation you need for your recovery. If you have been injured in a New York City traffic accident as a bicyclist, pedestrian, or vehicle occupant, contact a new york car door bicycle accident attorney of Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.