Case Study: The Dangers Rideshares Present to Cyclists
A normal commute turned dangerous — and life changing — for a Bay Area Bicycle Law client in May 2017 when riding southbound on 2nd Street in San Francisco.
As the cyclist approached an intersection, an Uber driver stopped at a red light to drop-off a rider, who opened their door into the cyclist’s path and caused a collision that cost the cyclist more than $100,000 in medical bills, two months worth of pay, and full use of their left index finger.
The cyclist severed their finger in the accident, forcing doctors to perform a partial amputation.
The entire incident could have been avoided had the Uber driver simply obeyed traffic laws and pulled to the curb instead of letting the rider out into the street where the passenger door swung open into the cyclist’s right of way.
The incident, commonly called a “dooring,” happens often in the Bay Area. At the time of the accident, nearly 17% of reported bicycle accidents in San Francisco were doorings, according to SFMTA’s collision report. Now, doorings make up the majority of bicycle accidents in the region and much of BABL’s clientele.
Rideshare companies need to be more vigilant about following traffic laws to ensure greater safety for cyclists. Doorings are a common problem for the companies, even prompting both Lyft and Uber to adopt tools to remind riders to check before opening their doo. But these companies need to take more responsibility for doorings, including by training drivers to make proper stops to decrease the likelihood of injuring cyclists.
Doorings can cause extreme injuries
More often than not, these accidents result in injuries. Commonly, cyclists face collar bone fractures and concussions – sometimes leading to lifelong traumatic brain injury. In some cases, injuries can lead to the loss of limbs.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says signs of a collarbone fracture, in addition to severe pain, may include:
- Sagging of the shoulder, downward and forward
- Inability to lift the arm due to pain
- A “grinding” sensation when you try to lift the arm
- A deformity or bump over the bump
- Bruising, swelling or tenderness around the collarbone area
It can take months for a broken bone to heal and result in hefty medical bills. In this client’s case, the accident led to a severed finger. Immediately following the accident, doctors confirmed a complete traumatic metacarpophalangeal amputation. The cyclist then underwent occupational therapy to desensitize the hand and learn to live life as a partial amputee.
The cyclist says they had to relearn nearly every daily task in their life. Until you don’t have your entire left index finger it’s nearly impossible to know how much it is relied upon. Typing becomes difficult. Opening jars is a process. Cooking presents new challenges. Even styling one’s hair or buttoning buttons has to be relearned.
After an accident that leads to an amputation, a cyclist has a long road of recovery ahead of them, which often includes:
- Paramedics at the scene and an ambulance to an emergency room
- Surgeries to either try to save the limb or amputate it
- Post-surgery recovery in the hospital
- Fittings and re-fittings of a prosthesis
- A possible job change
- The certainty of a lifestyle change
The case settled for a bit under $800,000, but the cyclist’s life was forever altered. Many of their favorite activities — like cycling and playing guitar — have been significantly modified due to the injury.
Damages after rideshare accidents
A personal injury case can help recover many of the costs associated with a life-changing accident caused by a careless or negligent driver.
Along with other damages, those are likely to include:
- Past medical bills and medical bills reasonably expected to be received in the future
- Past lost earnings and lost earnings reasonably expected to be lost in the future
- Permanent disability
- Permanent disfigurement
- Past pain and suffering and pain and suffering reasonably expected to be endured in the future
- Loss of a normal life
For the cyclist on 2nd Street, the injury is permanent and returning to their previous life isn’t viable. For instance, playing guitar is also out of the question. The index finger is crucial to being able to press strings to the fretboard. Without an index finger they cannot form chord shapes like they once did and trying to use the index finger is too painful to be able to play. After playing for over 10 years the client hung up the guitar for good.
In California, law dictates that a person has two years from their initial accident to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries. If a governmental agency is involved, however, there may be tighter time limits, so it’s important to seek out a legal expert as soon as possible.
Contact Bay Area Bicycle Law as early as you can to ensure the best outcome for your case if you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident with a rideshare company or suffered serious injuries from a driver. We offer free consultations and don’t take a single penny until the case is settled. To speak to an expert now, call (415) 466-3104.