Vehicle Code 22517 in California
California Vehicle Code section 22517 states: “No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic.”
What Types of Accidents Can Result From Opening a Car Door Without Taking Proper Caution?
When a parked car on the side of the road opens its door haphazardly, there are 2 types of accidents that typically occur as a result. It will either be the case that:
- The driver on the road collides with the opened door OR
- The driver swerves to avoid the opened door and crashes into another car.
Who Is Liable for the Damages When Someone Crashes Due to an Opened Car Door?
CVC section 22517 clearly states that the person who opens the door without taking proper caution is liable for the damages caused by it. However, it is common practice for insurance companies to give partial liability to both parties, especially in door opening accidents. For example, an insurance company would likely declare partial liability if the person who opened their door could prove that they did so while the other driver was a significant distance away.
Just because the law supports the position of the party that crashed due to an open door, it does not mean that drivers shouldn’t take caution when driving alongside parked cars. While the law assesses fault to someone who opens their door haphazardly, the person who does so will almost certainly argue that they did so safely, leaving enough time for other drivers to take precautions.
What Should I Do if I Am Involved in a Vehicle Accident Involving a Car Door?
First, you should find a safe place to pull over, or if it is unsafe, then leave the scene and find a safe place to exchange information with the other driver.
It is required by law that all drivers exchange license and insurance information when they are involved in an accident. If any of the involved parties try to leave without doing so (hit and run), you should try to take a picture or make a note of their license plate, so liability and damages can be fairly assessed.
While not required by law, it is always a good idea to call the police to the scene unless the accident is extremely minor. This will help create a more accurate narrative of what happened in the accident. You should also take pictures of the vehicles involved, so the property damage can be properly assessed.
While you could open up a claim with your insurance provider yourself, it is recommended that you seek attorney representation and let them handle the process for you. Insurance companies will often ask you several questions in order to get your unprepared answers and use them to minimize the amount they need to pay you in the future. It is paramount that you seek high-quality legal representation in order to protect you from being taken advantage of.