Yesterday, the Virginia General Assembly passed SB 117, a bill that makes it illegal to open the door of a parked car on the side of adjacent moving traffic unless it is “reasonably safe” to do so. A violation of SB 117 carries a $50 fine. The measure passed the House of Delegates on a 70-25 vote Monday. The Senate approved it 24-16 last month. The Dooring Bill will now be sent to Governor McAuliffe for signature.
This is an important measure because, if signed, it will allow personal injury attorneys to bring a negligence per se claim against motorists for dooring cyclists. Negligence per se is a doctrine that allows hurt cyclists to base a personal injury claim against motorists on a statutory violation. To establish negligence per se, a plaintiff must prove: (1) that the defendant violated a statute that was enacted for public safety; (2) that the plaintiff belongs to the class of persons for whose benefit the statute was enacted; (3) the harm suffered was of the type against which the statute was designed to protect; and (4) that the statutory violation was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Halterman v. Radisson Hotel Corp., 259 Va. 171, 176-177 (2000).
Because of the Dooring Bill, Virginia cyclists will now be able to sue motorists without having to prove regular negligence. Unlike ordinary negligence, a plaintiff alleging negligence per se need not prove that a reasonable person should have acted differently — the conduct is automatically considered negligent, and the focus of the suit will be over whether it proximately caused damage to the plaintiff.
The Dooring Bill brings Virginia law in line with the law of other jurisdictions. For example in D.C., Title 18 (2214.4) prohibits opening a car door into traffic unless it can be done safely. That law has been on the books since 1997.
If you have been hurt in a dooring bike accident, contact Peter Anderson at 202-768-9609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.