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Liability in open car door accidents

In New York, car accidents and pedestrian injuries can occur even when a car is not moving. Pedestrians, particularly bicyclists, face the risks of cars and trucks striking them in crosswalks and city streets. New York, however, recognizes the danger of dooring or the opening of car doors in an unsafe manner.

The state of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law prohibits a motorist or passenger from opening a car door on the side available to traffic until it is reasonably safe. Car occupants cannot leave a door open longer than is necessary to load or unload passengers.

Injured persons may use this law to file a private legal action and prove negligence as a matter of law. In one case, a bicyclist could sue a motorist who opened a car door and struck a bicyclist on the shoulder and his lower leg. The defendant, in fact, looked in her rearview mirror before opening the door.

However, proving this negligence does not make the defendant fully liable. Another vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist must also use reasonable care to avoid an accident or have their compensation lowered.

Opening a car door in violation of this law can also block the successful prosecution of a lawsuit. For example, a motorist could not sue when her car door struck a passing vehicle as she was leaving the vehicle. Although she claimed that she looked in her rearview mirror before leaving the vehicle, the court found that she opened her car door adjacent to traffic when it was not reasonably safe and she should have seen the vehicle that was traveling on the street.

Auto accident victims should seek legal assistance to help determine liability for injuries and to ascertain whether any laws were violated. Legal advice can help victims obtain compensation and protect their rights.

Source: New York Courts, “Williams v. Persaud, 19 AD3d 686 (2d Dept. 2005)” and Justia USLaw, “Villa v Leandrou, 932 N.Y.S.2d 764 (Sup. Ct. Queens Co. 2011)“.