Look, or It Might Cost You: Insurance Pays $800,000 to Doored Cyclist

Watch your door!
Look before opening your door.

While the Chicago Police Department issued no citation to the driver who doored Bridgid Mullen on Southport Avenue in April, 2010, she will be compensated for her injuries. Mullen has now received an $800,000 settlement from the driver’s insurance company, reports the Lincoln Park Patch.

Mullen was biking to work on Southport when she was doored. She broke her left arm and suffered permanent nerve damage, according to the Patch.

Attorney Matt Siporin represented Mullen in court. He said that the police didn’t issue a citation to the driver and failed to even properly identify the victim as a cyclist in the crash report. “The only mention of dooring,” Siporin said, “is that, ‘In summary, pedestrian was riding southbound when Unit 2 opened door causing pedestrian to hit car door.'”

Bicyclists are ubiquitous in this part of Lakeview, a major shopping and restaurant area. And the driver had biked on that street, knew there was a bike lane there, and was parked for several minutes before opening the car door. But according to Siporin, the defendant told the court she “didn’t have to turn my head and look.”

It’s possible, but not certain, that the driver’s insurance premiums will rise. Even if the driver doesn’t personally incur higher costs, the payout is so large that the insurance company will definitely take notice. “Every company is different,” said Siporin. “When an insurance company pays out this kind of money, it would impact rates as a whole, for all their customers. Whether it directly impacts just this driver may not be the case. The insurance company needs to recoup this money somehow.”

Siporin said his firm, the Law Offices of Richard Pullano, is representing a couple of other cyclists. “There are a lot of new bike lanes going in, especially near our offices [in the Loop] and where I live in River North, and people are not as cognizant that there are so many more bicyclists on the road,” he said.

  • From personal experience it seems as though a lot of people are not really looking when they open their doors. This is why I am always looking for people’s heads on the drivers side of cars while riding. I’d personally rather remain healthy than get doored but $800K sounds like a good start in the movement to help drivers recognize to look before they open.

  • Anonymous

    Few people look before they open their doors which is why I ride well outside the door zone (5′) and avoid routes where I can’t do that comfortably like the plague.

    I used to look for heads in the windows, but it’s not very effective. Too much glare, too many vehicles with tinted windows, and vehicles with pillars that block your view. For example, of the five cars in the photo above I can only see whether there’s a driver in the first car and that’s too late to react. Plus if I’m staring at each car I’m not able to see and react to other street dangers.

  • jonathan smith

    Nice post. I know one thing that whenever a person buys a bike or any vehicle, he/she should get the vehicle insurance immediately so that if there is any damage, then he/she do not need to face any problem regarding the damage.

  • oldguyonabike

    +1 on avoiding bad cycling routes, ladyfleur. Uber-defensive riding seems to be the only solution.

  • Anonymous

    Uber-defensive riding is what we need to do when our cities don’t give us adequate places to ride and instead favor driving.

    It’s not that hard to create a properly wide, well-marked bike lane. The street in the picture seems wide enough. It’s also not that hard to ticket car users who open doors without looking, especially when they injure someone.


The Obscure Traffic Law That Punishes Cyclists for Getting Doored

Keith Griffith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and arts critic. Last October, while the dregs of Superstorm Sandy drifted over Chicago, Lilly was lying in the trauma unit at Northwestern Memorial. (For anonymity, she that asked we only use her nickname.) She’d been doored on Lincoln Avenue on her morning bike commute, and now doctors were swarming around […]