Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 10th, 2009 at 11:26 am
According to the WWeek, Kristin Ragnarsson alleges in the lawsuit that she was riding eastbound on SE Stark just past the intersection of SE 28th when a woman in a car opened a door in her path. Ragnarsson seeks over $12,000 in medical bills and up to $100,000 for pain and suffering.
In Oregon, there is a law (ORS 811.490) that specifically prohibits opening a car door unless it is “reasonably safe to do so.” Local bike lawyer Ray Thomas has written an article on this topic where he states that, “Fortunately, this is one of those areas where the law is on the side of the bicycle rider.”
“Fortunately, this is one of those areas where the law is on the side of the bicycle rider.”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer and bicycle legal expert
However, as anyone who has taken a bike-related traffic incident to court can attest, there’s the law and then there’s a judge and jury. Thomas says in his experience with dooring cases, “the motorist is primarily at fault,” almost every time, but that doesn’t mean the bike rider can expect to receive full judgment in their favor.
In part because the judge and jury are likely to be unfamiliar with what it’s like to ride on city streets, they often side with the motor vehicle operator’s point of view. That point of view, Thomas writes, often turns into the person in the car blaming the bike operator for going too fast and/or not paying close enough attention to avoid the door. That being known, Thomas has this advice:
“It is essential in every case that the bicyclist carefully remember and reconstruct the scene of the accident to demonstrate that there was not enough time to take necessary evasive action in order to avoid hitting the door.”
Of course, if you were riding way too fast and weren’t paying attention, you probably shouldn’t take the incident to court to begin with.