Case and Point - cyclists overtaking parked cars

LLB

Guest
A website I moderate on has just had a thread posted up by a regular member after a car driver opened a door on him as he was cycling up the road this evening - he went over the bars, he is going to be sore in the morning (got a witness though :eek: ).

Anyway, the site has a couple of very knowledgeable people on there and this was the answer from the sites resident legal eagle. You may find it useful if faced with the same situation.

May be worthy of a sticky !

There is the specific offence of negligent opening of a door, and it fits right in with this recent case involving the former Villa Goalkeeper John Burridge.

The cyclist, Mr John Burridge, the former Aston Villa, Wolves, Crystal Palace and QPR goalkeeper, was cycling along the road when a minibus overtook him. The road concerned was a busy road and Mr Burridge was keeping well over to the side of the road. The driver of the minibus apparently heard some noise and decided to pull over. It was suggested that a door might not be properly shut or that there might be some other problem that needed to be investigated. He pulled over and stopped. There was no suggestion that the minibus driver should not have pulled over. He did not cut up the cyclist, although he must have stopped and parked quite sharply after passing Mr Burridge. The cyclist continued and began to overtake the parked minibus. As he did so the driver opened his door. Mr Burridge was knocked from his cycle into the road and was then struck by another vehicle coming up from behind him.

The Trial

In evidence, the minibus driver claimed to have looked into his rear view mirrors and not seen Mr Burridge, but the trial judge rejected the driver's evidence and found as a fact that the minibus driver without warning had immediately opened the door of the minibus. The trial judge found that the minibus driver was negligent. Any suggestion that Mr Burridge was to blame for the accident was rejected.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this would be the end of the matter. Unfortunately, Mr Burridge had suffered severe injuries and a lot of money was at stake. Insurers are in the business of making profits and the less they pay out to thevictims of accidents, the more profit they make. If they could persuade the Court of Appeal to find that Mr Burridge was partly to blame they would save themselves a lot of money. They decided to appeal.

The Appeal

The insurers argued that Mr Burridge should have anticipated that where a vehicle has just pulled up it is reasonably foreseeable that a door may be opened in the path of the cyclist and therefore that Mr Burridge should have taken action to avoid that possibility. It was argued that a cyclist in these circumstances should swerve away from or ride clear of the vehicle or stop. The insurers argued that Mr Burridge was one third to blame for the accident.

The Judgment

The Court of Appeal accepted that it is reasonably foreseeable that a driver might open his door without looking. However, one has to ask what a cyclist should do as he approaches a parked vehicle. To say that all cyclists who ride into opening car doors are to blame partly for the collision is to put too high a standard of care on the cyclist. If the cyclist gives a wider berth to the vehicle he is passing on the off chance that the door will be opened, he increases the risk that he will be hit by another vehicle coming up from behind. As to the suggestion that Mr Burridge should have stopped, in the words of the Court of Appeal this is "not practical bicycling". The insurers appeal was dismissed and Mr Burridge won his case 100%. The insurers had to pay the legal costs of the appeal, and will have to pay Mr Burridge damages without any deduction.
 

dondare

Über Member
Location
London
That's good but I doubt that we can rely on it. Is anyone aware of any specific cases where a cyclist has been doored and not received full compensation?
 

Pete

Guest
Good result for Mr. Burridge, but I agree with Dondare, don't expect a favourable outcome every time! 'Dooring' is a grey area, legal-wise. Partly, I believe, because attributing liability is not straightforward. What if a passenger opens the door? What if the driver was not present at the time? What if the passenger is a child?

Far better to prepare for the worst and ride defensively to avoid such encounters. I appreciate that the case above was rather an exception, but, in general, if you have the space and traffic permits, ride well away from parked cars in primary position. Glance into every car as you pass it: can you see a human figure? Won't cover every possibility I know, but this sort of caution could save your life one day...
 

Pete

Guest
I suppose the 'special circumstances' of this case are the fact that the minibus pulled up on the left sharply, just after overtaking the cyclist. It is explicitly stated that the driver did not cut up the cyclist: I'm not so sure that this doesn't amount to 'cutting up'. Anyway this forced the cyclist, either to screech to a halt himself, or to make a sudden unplanned manoeuvre to overtake the minibus, in a short space. Hence he wouldn't have had a chance to position himself more safely for the overtake. Hence he couldn't be done for contributory negligence. Hence it's the minibus driver's fault.

In more normal cases the cyclist may have had plenty of time to see the parked vehicle ahead, and to plan his overtake accordingly. In such cases, he may yet be held to account.

Anyway, as Andy said, much rather not be doored at all, than be a cripple fighting it out in the courts!
 
This is a difficult issue as it differs in definition and context.

The statement (more or less) is that getting out of a car after it has juststopped is logical and therefore should be considered as an outcome and allowed for.

Passing a line of stationary parked cars is another issue.
 
The onus on the driver is to check before opening the door.

From the current HC " stop as close as you can to the side
do not stop too close to a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge, remember, they may need more room to get in or out
you MUST switch off the engine, headlights and fog lights
you MUST apply the handbrake before leaving the vehicle
you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door
it is safer for your passengers (especially children) to get out of the vehicle on the side next to the kerb
lock your vehicle.
Laws CSDPA sect 21, CUR reg 98,105 & 107, RVLR reg 27 & RTA 1988 sect 42

It a legal requirement to check. "Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements,....Such rules are identified by the use of the words MUST / MUST NOT." Given that the court did not believe the drivers evidence, then there is no contributory negligence in this or similar cases of peremptory door opening. Taking this a little further, how far out would a cyclist have to deviate to avoid a flung-open door? My car door (drivers) fully opens to a distance 1 metre from the bodywork. This is a medium 5 seater. Add a margin for error: say 1.5 metres clearance required. Is this feasible in urban streets? I'd say the onus is fully on the driver to ensure the doors are not opened if unsafe to do so.
 

Tony

New Member
Location
Surrey
Two things here: responsibility for checking before opening doors, and self-preservation in not riding too close. I was nearly doored in Mallorca recently---I thought I was far enough out, but Merc sports cars have extremely wide doors.
Missed it by a gnat's todger. I should know better.
 

spen666

Guru
[quote name='dondare][b]That's good but I doubt that we can rely on it.[/b'] Is anyone aware of any specific cases where a cyclist has been doored and not received full compensation?[/quote]

why not?[/b]
 

spen666

Guru
Pete said:
Good result for Mr. Burridge, but I agree with Dondare, don't expect a favourable outcome every time! 'Dooring' is a grey area, legal-wise. Partly, I believe, because attributing liability is not straightforward. What if a passenger opens the door? What if the driver was not present at the time? What if the passenger is a child?
...

None of the situations you quote affects the basic liability.


The only question is whether there may be an issue of contributory negligence on the part of the cyclist IF he was riding too close to a parked car.


If it is a child, then the child is liable and the adult responsible for supervising the child may also be liable
 

Licramite

Über Member
Location
wiltshire
of course its not only cyclists who get doored.
in cardiff several years ago I was driving past parked cars, nobhead opens his drivers door and leans in to get his briefcase, which saved his life , or least his legs. - I took his door right off. I had no chance to even brake !
for insurance it was enterly his fault.
 
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