Drivers May Be Liable When A "Near Miss" Causes Injury
To horseshoes and hand grenades I would add bicycling in traffic to the list of activities in which close may be enough to do damage. While riding a bike, coming close to physical contact with a vehicle, i.e. a car door, may be enough to cause a crash and serious injury.
In a video making its way around the internet a terrified London cyclist is seen nearly being run down after trying to avoid a car door. Check it out:
Even if the cyclist did not come into contact with the door (it is not clear from the video whether he did or did not), he was not “almost doored.”
He was doored.
A driver may be responsible for the harm caused by his or her negligent driving even if there is no actual contact. However, the lack of contact between car and bicycle can create evidence problems. When there is no contact it may be more challenging to prove that the driver’s conduct actually caused the bicyclist’s injury. Proving a causal connection between the driver’s bad action and the injury sustained by the cyclist is a vital part of every bicycle injury case. Inevitably the driver will assert that (1) he or she did nothing wrong, and (2) the bicyclist overreacted and crashed on their own. Furthermore, the burden of proving the casual connection between the driver’s conduct and the harm is a burden borne by the injury victim. With evidence like the above video there can be no question regarding the dooring motorist’s fault.
Near misses that cause harm do not only arise from doorings. Our law firm has successfully represented several bicyclists who sustained serious injuries from a variety of near miss scenarios. One particular case from a couple years ago is representative. Our client and his friend were participating in an organized ride. The route took them through a downtown area in a central Illinois city. They were on a road with one lane of travel in each direction with no shoulder or parking on either side when our client heard his friend yell, “Truck!” He looked to see a semi tractor trailer bearing down on them. It did not look like it was going to stop so the two pushed as close to the curb as possible. The truck passed them at about 35 mph within 18 inches, in violation of Illinois’ three foot passing law. Somehow, while the two cyclists were attempting to get out of the way of the passing semi, they ran into one another causing our client to fall and break his leg. There was no contact between the cyclists and the truck. After filing a lawsuit, we argued that but for the driver’s bad conduct the cyclist would not have fallen and become injured. This proven persuasive and the case resolved for a substantial sum.