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Reconstructing bicycle accidents: What experts look for

Collisions between cars and cyclists rarely end well for the latter. Investigating these accidents involves different challenges than car vs. car collisions. In many ways, it can be more difficult to determine what happened. The vast size differential between cars and bikes makes it harder to retrace the bicycle's movements leading up to the collision. Reconstructing these accidents may require digging deep to uncover all relevant evidence.

Insurance adjusters and accident reconstruction experts may examine a wide range of evidence, including:

  • The scene itself: If the collision took place at an intersection (as many do), was there a crosswalk? A bicycle lane? A visual obstruction? Perhaps a traffic camera captured the entire accident.
  • The bicycle and its rider: The size, weight and maneuverability of the bicycle are important factors. So, too, are characteristics of the rider - including weight, build and skill level.
  • Damage to the bike: In many serious accidents, the bicycle ends up mangled beyond recognition. However, the bike itself can still provide valuable clues about what happened.
  • Damage to the vehicle: Dents in the hood, loose bumpers or even shattered windshields can help establish the site, direction and force of the impact.
  • Damage to gear: The biker's helmet is a critical piece of evidence. Likewise, it's important to comb through every piece of gear - goggles, shoes, gloves and any bicycle attachments - with a detailed eye.
  • Witness statements: As with all traffic accidents, witness statements play a key role in reconstructing what happened (and who was at fault). The sooner witnesses are questioned, the better, since their memory of the incident will still be fresh. However, witnesses sometimes forget details in the adrenaline rush of the immediate aftermath. Following up with them later, after they've had time to calm down, is another crucial step in the investigation process.

As you can see, numerous pieces of evidence can help shed light on what happened in a car-bike collision. It takes a skilled investigator to put all the pieces together and form a complete picture of what happened.

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