Question: I was pulling into a parking space at the grocery store when the driver in the next parking spot threw open her door, causing me to hit it with my front fender. There is minor damage to both vehicles. Who is at fault? She says it is my fault for hitting her door, and I say she shouldn't have opened the door while I was parking next to her. She made a claim against my insurance policy. What should I do? Answer: I would recommend you make a claim against the other party's car insurance policy. That way, with claims made by each driver against the other's liability coverages, the insurance companies involved will investigate and determine where fault lies and settle the claims based on that. Keep in mind that the insurance companies' determination and division of fault may differ. Parking lot accidents typically are he-said-she-said incidents -- each driver has his or her own view of what happened and where fault should lie. For minor incidents like this, police usually won't even come to write up a report, but leave you to exchange information and decide on your own about filing claims. Without seeing the cars and the damage, we're unable to assign blame. We can, however, see how it would appear that the party opening the door would be the one to bear the majority of fault. As the person pulling into the parking spot, you can't be sure when a person is going to open their door while the other party should be aware enough of her surroundings to check for an incoming car before opening her door. Luckily for you, the law is normally in your favor with regards to when a person should open a door. You didn't mention where you live, but it should be easy for you to look into what state law says about opening a car door.
For example, Texas transportation code section 545.418 says that a person may not:
- open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic, unless the door may be opened in reasonable safety without interfering with the movement of other traffic; or
- leave a door on the side of a vehicle next to moving traffic open for longer than is necessary to load or unload a passenger.