Open Car Door Motorcycle Accidents

January 2, 2024
By Michael Padway

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On a sunny morning in 2018, a mother and her young daughter went out for a ride in their moped. As they cruised down the street, the driver’s door of a parked car on their right suddenly opened, sending both mother and daughter tumbling to the road.

Within seconds of falling, the two were run over by another moped behind them that didn’t have time to slow down. The mother was critically injured with a ruptured spleen. The 5-year-old daughter, unfortunately, did not survive.

While the incident happened in Taiwan, this scenario is familiar to many motorcycle riders, and one of the first lessons in motorcycle safety school. And yet, motorcycle accidents caused by open car doors frequently occur, especially in urban environments with dense street parking.

Top Causes of Open Car Door Motorcycle Accidents

Negligence is the defining factor in nearly all cases of motorcycle accidents caused by open vehicle doors. Some common reasons include:

  • Failure to check mirrors before exiting the vehicle.
  • Being parked in a corner and not anticipating the appearance of a turning motorcycle.
  • Illegal parking or rush unloading on the street, where motorcycle riders don’t typically expect a door to be opened.
  • A person who is distracted or multi-tasking (using phone, or talking to another passenger).
  • Poor visibility due to weather or nighttime conditions.
  • Failing to account for road hazards, such as potholes or obstructions that can force motorcycles to edge closer to the side of the road.

In addition, a study of driver behavior while opening car doors found the following observations:

  • In areas with larger lane spaces and low traffic, drivers are less cautious and opened doors directly without noticing vehicles approaching from the rear.
  • Only half of the drivers in the study noted rear traffic before opening the door.

Places Where Car Door Motorcycle Accidents Frequently Happen

Motorcycle riders should exercise caution in these areas to reduce the likelihood of a sudden car door accident:

City streets with curbside parking – The combination of tight spaces and hectic drivers rushing to work can be catastrophic for riders.

Narrow roads with parallel parking – Less space to maneuver in case of inattentive drivers.

Urban congestion – In heavy traffic, passengers may not wait for a curbside dropoff and exit in the middle of the road. In addition, the popularity of ridesharing means that this phenomenon is not limited to taxis anymore, and riders should also be wary of Uber and Lyft vehicles.

Places with a lot of foot traffic – There is a heavier concentration of passengers alighting at malls, hotels, airports, subway stations, and commercial buildings, and they may forget to exercise caution while rushing to their appointment.

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Injuries That Can be Caused by Open Door Accidents

While cyclists are more likely to be caught in an open car door accident, motorcycle riders tend to suffer worse injuries and damage due to their greater speed and higher inertial mass.

In addition, today’s passenger vehicles have reinforced doors for increased side-impact safety. This means that riders who collide with the open door of a modern car can suffer greater injuries compared to older models.

Possible injuries include:

  • Concussion, skull fracture, or traumatic brain injury from falling
  • Whiplash, neck injury, or spinal injury
  • Broken facial structure, scarring or disfigurement
  • Cuts and lacerations from impact with the door and glass
  • Road rash from sliding 
  • Internal organ damage or internal hemorrhage
  • Broken bones, limbs or amputation

One study of motorcycle collision cases found that riders caught in a car door accident have lower levels of injury severity and shorter hospitalization length compared to other types of motorcycle accidents. However, it also noted that “this may be because deceased victims are unable to participate” in the study. 

In fact, since open car door accidents frequently happen in busy urban environments, riders that collide with an open door have a greater risk of being run over by other vehicles.

How to Minimize the Chances of an Open Door Accident

While the responsibility of avoiding car door accidents lies with car occupants, riders should also take preventive measures to avoid falling victim to an open door.

  1. Exercise caution in areas with street parking, parallel parking, or lots of alighting passengers.
  2. Keep an eye out for illegally parked vehicles, hazard lights, or idling cars that may contain someone about to step out.
  3. Wear reflective, luminous or highly visible clothing to stand out in busy urban areas and during low light periods.
  4. Avoid veering too close to the side when rounding a corner or avoiding road hazards.
  5. Slow down in stopped traffic, and flash your headlights while passing non-moving vehicles.
  6. Reduce speed in inclement weather when visibility is lower and passengers are more likely to dash out of their vehicles to avoid the rain.
  7. Keep sufficient distance from cabs or vehicles that veer to the side and may be dropping someone off.

An open door motorcycle accident is dangerous not only due to the initial impact, but because it can result in being run-over and causing other chain reactions. If you have the misfortune of being involved in a car door collision, you may suffer extensive injuries and damage to your bike, loss of income for months, and recurring suffering such as chronic pain and emotional trauma.

In case of a car door accident, seek professional advice from a dedicated motorcycle accident lawyer. They help you claim compensation, negotiate a settlement, and deal with the insurance company so you can focus on getting your life back in order. Don’t close the door on your riding passion just because of an open door accident.

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Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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