A-Philly-bike-laneI recently had a letter from a young cyclist seeking my advice after a “dooring” incident. Through no fault of her own, she was struck by a car door while on her bicycle. She decided not to press charges or seek medical attention and now the car owner’s insurance company wants her to pay for damage to the car door that struck her. Seems outrageous, doesn’t it!?! I wanted to share her letter here, along with my reply about this unfortunate situation:

Dear Jim,

On February 5, I was involved in a “dooring” accident on my bike. I filed a police report, but then I decided that I wouldn’t press charges because it wasn’t worth the hassle. Today (March 27), I received a letter in the mail from the insurance company of the car’s owner (who was not the driver who caused the accident) that I am expected to pay $500 to cover the deductible for damages to the vehicle.

This is a sum up of the accident:

I turned left at a green light onto a main arterial in Philly. A Mercedes was double parked over the bike lane, and someone was loading things into the trunk of the car, also standing in the bike lane. My boyfriend passed the car on the left on his bike first, and then as I passed the car on the left, a man in the driver’s side opened the door. I struck the outer edge of the door frame with my bike and fell into the street. My front wheel is damaged, and I had such extensive bruising and muscle pain in my right arm that I had to miss two days of work (I stock at a grocery store and model). We filed a police report, and I took pictures of my bruise in case I needed anything, but I don’t have health insurance, so I refused transport to a hospital.

Now I’m expected to pay $500 in damages for the door of the car that hit me? It says that it seems I was in the wrong, which makes no sense to me.

I need some help. Is there anything you can do or advice you can give me before I call the insurance company?

Thanks in advance – R.

And here is my response:

All I can say is “that stinks.”  Actually my words were much stronger than that but I didn’t want to offend you!  J

The bottom line is that I think it was a mistake to NOT press charges because those charges would have been the leverage you need to nip this nonsense in the bud.  I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad—I only mention it for future reference.  Pressing charges IS a hassle but at least doing so helps to demonstrate that it was the other party, not you, who was at fault.

So, let’s forget the past and talk about what you can do now…..   You should go talk to the insurance company and explain in detail exactly what you have told me.  Tell them that you have no intention of paying their insured’s deductible because the accident was their insured’s fault, NOT yours.

Tell them that in the event they pursue this any further, we will bring a counter-claim for your personal injuries and damages (in PA, you have a two-year time limit for pursuing an injury claim).

This should be enough to make them go away.  If they persist, just keep telling them that you will not voluntarily pay them a single penny and if they expect to get a penny they will just have to sue you.  Ninety-nine percent of the time they will not risk taking any further legal action against you…..

Sorry about your difficulties but I hope this basic advice helps.

I hope my advice to R. helps other readers out there as well. Thanks for reading, and ride safely.

– Jim


James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Tel: (607) 733-8866
Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll Free: 1-800-943-3529
Email: jreed@zifflaw.com
Web: www.zifflaw.com

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