When there is dispute about the facts of a crash, sometimes it is necessary to “reconstruct” the scene and the events leading up to impact.
But a bicycle accident is different than a collision involving two vehicles. Accident reconstruction may be more important and more difficult in these cases, especially when the bike rider is killed or suffers major injuries.
How is a bike accident different than a typical car accident?
When two-vehicles collide, there are many clues to what happened: the position of the vehicles, the skid marks, the debris field, and the damage to each vehicle. Many cars have a “black box” that records speed, air bag deployment and other valuable data.
Those clues are not as clear in a car-versus-bike accident. The resting positions of the motor vehicle and the bicycle are less helpful. It’s harder to estimate the speed of the bike. There may or may not be debris such as broken headlights. A bike has no data recorder. Often there are no skid marks.
The primary physical evidence will be the injuries, damage to the bike and helmet, the area of impact on the car, skid marks or scrape marks, and the vehicle’s event data recorder. Other factors can come into play when trying to determine what happened and why. Was the victim a bike messenger or experienced cyclist? Were they trying to avoid an accident or regain control of the bike? Was the bike turning or crossing? Riding with traffic or against? Was the car turning or going straight?
How does accident reconstruction work?
Law enforcement personnel will take photos and record basic data. They will file a report based on their own observations at the scene and statements of the parties and any witnesses. However, a police report is not scientific. It is admissible in court, but it is rebuttable and subject to hearsay exclusions. In a severe crash, the State Police or NYPD may conduct a more thorough accident investigation to reconstruct the events.
Personal injury firms often work with accident reconstruction specialists. These are independent professionals who can serve as expert witnesses in depositions or trial. The reconstructionist will visit the crash to take measurements and photograph the site from multiple angles. They will obtain any other data such as traffic camera, security camera and black box downloads. They may have an actual person pose as the bicyclist to try to replicate the victim’s speed, direction and position at the moment of impact.
The reconstruction may consist of calculations and a written opinion of how the accident played out. As necessary, the reconstructionist may develop a 3-D illustration of their analysis to convince the insurance adjuster, defense team or a jury that the automobile driver was at fault for the accident.