By: Adrian Carranza
With more and more cyclists on Toronto’s streets, the city has witnessed a surge in dooring collisions. “Dooring” is when an individual in a parked car strikes a cyclist by opening a car door. Dooring has the potential to cause serious life-altering injuries and even death.
So how can a cyclist be compensated if they are victims of a dooring incident? Although cyclists are not required to have insurance, if you do not have car insurance and you are hurt by Dooring, an insurance claim can be made under the driver’s insurance policy. To make it easier, write down the driver’s name and contact information, the driver’s insurer and policy number, and contact details of any witnesses to the dooring incident. Additionally, take a picture of the bike and the car at the scene, if possible. After doing so, file a self-collision report regarding the dooring accident at a collision reporting centre.
If you are injured as a result of Dooring, and you require medical benefits, such as physiotherapy, or reimbursement for medication and/or psychological treatment, an accident benefits claim may be filed to the driver’s insurer. If your injuries are serious and permanent, or you have sustained income losses, you may also be eligible to receive compensation through a negligence lawsuit for pain and suffering and economic losses.
According to the Toronto Police Service, there were 209 reported Dooring collisions in 2016, a number which has steadily risen since 2014. However, Dooring may very well be higher than what has been reported because in 2011 dooring was removed from motor vehicle accident reports. Nonetheless, of the 209 Dooring incidents in 2016, roughly 30% led to tickets or warnings. In Ontario, the fine for dooring a cyclist is $365 plus three demerit points under Section 165 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA).
Cycle Toronto, a not-for-profit organization that promotes safe and vibrant cycling in the city, notes that Dooring has increased 58.3% between 2014 and 2016. Not surprisingly, Dooring has been the most prevalent between the months of May and October, in which warmer weather conditions permit an increase in the number of cyclists on Toronto’s streets.
While it is difficult to pinpoint the root cause of Dooring, it is worth noting that a large portion of dooring incidents happen on streets with operational streetcars and on-street parking. Not surprisingly, streets with bike lanes have showed lower incident rates, while streets with protected bike lanes have presented even lower occurrences.
Drivers can do their part in making roads safer for cyclists by applying the “Dutch Reach”, a method in which individuals open car doors with the opposite hand of the side they are on and glance over that shoulder to check that all is clear. Therefore, if you are descending the vehicle from the driver’s side, the door must be opened with the right hand. Conversely, if you are getting out from the passenger side, open with your left. As for bike riders, it is important to ride at least one metre from parked vehicles, so as to avoid riding in the door zone. Don’t forget to consult with a lawyer if you have sustained personal injuries to explore your entitlements under the law.