What to do if you get Doored! Illustration by Leo Garcia
From Transportation Alternatives Magazine, Jan/Feb 1998

Read more legal advice articles for cyclists.

Getting hit by a car or doored is a fairly common experience for city cyclists and pedestrians. More than 17,000 cyclists and pedestrians seek medical care after being struck each year; and this number is just the tip of the iceberg, as many incidents are not reported. Unfortunately, even in serious crashes, many victims fail to get the motorist’s name and other critical information, either because they are so relieved to be alive or so befogged they simply want to be left alone.

Don’t be one of the unfortunates. Follow these instructions if you are hit or doored. Print it out and carry it with you while riding.

Being struck by a car or doored produces a massive adrenaline rush that can mask serious injuries during the minutes after the crash. You may think you’re OK, only to discover later that you have broken ribs or need stitches. Many serious injuries to knees and backs only become apparent after hours have passed and swelling has set in. Do not hesitate to call EMS or visit an emergency room. Medical bills can be paid for by the motorist’s No-Fault insurance. You may bring a claim in Small Claims Court for damage to your bicycle totaling less than $2,000. If the occurred while you were on the job you must file a claim for Workers’ Compensation through your employer.

Criminal law is very lenient on drivers who injure or kill cyclists. As a result, one of the few tools available to change motorist behavior and increase respect for cyclists is civil, or tort, law. While the press likes to make a big deal of crazy lawsuits, the fact is that civil law offers one of the few avenues of redress that cyclists and pedestrians have available if they are injured by motorists. If nothing else, lawsuits force insurance companies to work harder to reduce dangerous driving. Thus, Transportation Alternatives strongly encourages any cyclist or pedestrian struck by a car to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after being hit. Personal injury lawyers will represent you without charging up-front fees. (They make their money by taking a share of any settlement you receive from the motorist’s insurance company.) Personal injury lawyers like the ones advertising in Transportation Alternatives Magazine are experts and your best friend if you are hit. Use them.

Clip the checklist below and keep it in your wallet. When your brain stops working after a crash, pull it out and follow its instructions. Don’t be embarrassed about making the motorist stay. It may take awhile for the cops to come. If the motorist leaves the scene, he or she is guilty of hit and run, which is a serious crime.

The "Doored" Checklist