On October 2nd of 2015, after years and years of cycling mostly without incident, it finally happened – I finally got doored. I have to say, as much as it was awful, I was also lucky. For one, I’m a pretty adept cyclist, so rather than falling over into traffic, I was able to maneuver pretty well post door collision. For two, there was no streetcar coming at the time, and the parking spot in front of the car that doored me was empty, so I didn’t immediately careen into another vehicle, or get smoked by a giant train… which would have led to a much more devastating outcome. I don’t really like to think about it. Despite the fact that my injuries weren’t life-threatening, I WAS injured, and dealing with the police, the driver, and the insurance system in the hours, days, and months that followed was so disheartening and frustrating. For these reasons, I’d like to share what I learned, so that hopefully if you are ever doored (but hopefully you’re not) that you are better prepared to deal with the fallout. Keep in mind that some of this advice might only apply specifically to Ontario, where my accident happened.
- Even if you don’t feel injured, you might be injured. ALWAYS GET THE DRIVER’S INFORMATION. ALWAYS.
Getting in an accident floods your system with adrenaline, making you believe that you are more ok than you actually are. You might feel alright in the moment, but chances are injuries will settle into your body as time passes. Superficial injuries are easy to spot, but it could be days before you really start to feel deeper tissue injuries.
In my case, the driver who doored me refused to give me her information. Despite her protests, I took photos of both her and her car (including licence plates); without this information, the police wouldn’t have been able to file a report.
- If you would like the driver who doored you to be ticketed, a police officer must be called to the scene.
Right after the accident happened, I called the non-emergency line for the Toronto Police Department. They asked me if I was in danger, and I told them that I was not, so they instructed me to go to the nearest police station to file a report. Upon arriving, I was told that the driver could not get ticketed for dooring, since no police officer was called to the scene. I was furious. The driver was on her cell phone, and barely looked up from texting when I hit her door. In fact, she proceeded to tell me about how stressful her morning was. I most definitely wanted her to be ticketed. Had I known about this rule, I would have insisted that a police officer come to the scene of the accident.
- File a police report.
Again, even if you don’t think that you’re going to pursue any action at the time of the incident, you might change your mind later. And you won’t be able to without a police report. FURTHER, if you want the powers that be to have accurate information about how many cyclists are hurt on the road, YOU NEED TO FILE A CLAIM. The more cyclists that file reports when they are injured, the more accurate the information that government officials have will be when they consider driving laws, infrastructure, and other policies that affect cyclists. By filing a report about getting doored, you are hopefully helping to reduce the chance of other cyclists getting doored in the future.
- The police officer who files your accident report is REQUIRED to give you the insurance information of the person who doored you.
I spent MONTHS trying to track down this information. I was initially told that I either had to file a form for 100 dollars to get the info in something like ten days, or I could get it in over a month for 35 dollars. I spoke to at least 3 police officers about this, and none of them could give me the correct information about how to proceed. Every one of them was condescending and dismissive.
Finally, after a particularly harrowing experience, I tweeted at the TPD. Within 24 hours I was on the phone with an officer from their public relations department. The next day, I had the information that I needed to begin talking to the driver’s insurance company. Getting this info took three months, and it should have been given to me the day I was hit.
- Go and see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident.
If you have serious injuries, obviously call 911 and go to the hospital. If your injuries are not life threatening, and you’re still mobile, make sure to go and see a doctor for an assessment as soon as possible after the accident. A doctor’s immediate assessment will play a huge role in any insurance claims that you might choose to file against the person who doored you. Even if you “feel fine”, just go get assessed. A few hours now will lead to much less distress if you decide to pursue claims in the future.
- Be clear with the insurance company about your intention.
I spent two months going back and forth with the insurance company before I found out that they had referred me to the wrong department. I had been working with the department dealing with lawsuits, and what I wanted was to file an Accident Benefits Claim.
If your injuries are less serious like mine, and you’re just seeking coverage for rehabilitation therapy, then you file an Accident Benefits Claim. If your injuries are quite serious, and you missed work etc, you might want to file a lawsuit on top of your Accident Benefits Claim.
At any rate, it only took a few days to file the Accident Benefits Claim once they transferred me to the right person. This mix up delayed my treatment by several months.
- Even if your injuries don’t seem serious, GET TREATMENT.
A little whiplash or sprain might not seem like a big deal now, but these are the types of injuries that really settle into your body and come back to haunt you when you get old. A little shoulder ache now can turn into chronic shoulder pain and disability in your old age. If you are doored, you are entitled to receive physiotherapy treatment. Take the treatment that you are entitled to! When I was doored, I got some pretty serious whiplash in my shoulder, and sprained my ankle. In the months after the accident, I experienced daily pain, especially if I engaged in physical activity. Now, after two months of visiting a physiotherapist and RMT on a regular basis, I’m getting pretty close to recovery. I still experience pain if I push myself too hard physically, but it has improved a great deal.
- Get back out there.
Since getting doored, I worry a lot more while cycling. I flinch. I brace myself for another hit. I’ve always been cautious, but I find myself being almost too cautious since the accident. It took a while to get back out biking in traffic, but I know that the only way to feel comfortable again is to just keep getting out on the road over and over until it feels normal again. Keep biking. Keep asserting my right to be on the road. And keep making space for other cyclists to take to the roads too.