How Important are Photos at the Scene of a Bike Crash?

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson: Hi it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy, welcome to our program. So how important are photographs after a bike crash? This came up this this week at a bike meeting that I was a bike club meeting that I attended where we had a speaker and I wanna point out really three important things to keep in mind when you are riding and you come across perhaps someone that's been involved in a bike crash. I'm going to dispel some of the myths about the importance of why those photographs that you have an opportunity to take should be taken.

First off we had an engineer who spoke at the Freewheelers meeting in Orlando last week and it was interesting because one of his case studies that he used was about a very serious crash that occurred down in Central Florida involving unfortunately the death of a cyclist, but he pointed out something and that is that the vehicle involved which is a commercial vehicle and he got called within a an hour of the crash and he was on the scene while the police were still there. You know that just doesn't happen for the injured cyclist. When you get involved in a crash with a commercial vehicle they typically have access to investigators and engineers and what have you that are available to them and they're gonna get someone there at the earliest opportunity. The person the cyclist may not be in the position to hire a lawyer for days or sometimes even weeks after a crash and so it's critically important when you have an opportunity to kinda capture what's going on at the scene of a crash before all the stuff gets moved out of the way and where it was originally at the time that something went wrong.

So the first thing that I'd like to talk about is sorta the timing of it all. I have been involved in so many cases in which it would have been so much more helpful if we had someone who was there and many times there's cyclists standing along by the side wanting to stay out of the way, not wanting to assert themselves and get in the way of things with their phones but not taking photographs and I think probably it just doesn't occur to many of us that how critically important those photographs could be 'cause you're right there at the time that things happen and everything's in its place as it was at the time of the crash.

It's so important in any kind of a crash particular a bike crash, the same thing applies in a car accident to preserve the physical evidence that was there at the scene like where was the bike? Where are the marks on the road? Where was the gear that came from the bike? Where was the water bottle and the computer? And where'd they land on the road at the time? This debris field and the pattern of how the debris is left on the road is critically important in trying to put together exactly what happened.

Where was the bike positioned? Was it on its left? Was it on its right? How was it laying in the road or was it even on the road? You know marks and scuffs and all the things that are kinda left behind when these kind of collisions occur are all critically important in trying to put together exactly what happened. I've talked in the past about a case we had up in Clearwater where that debris field completely reversed the finding of the police officer so that it came around entirely in my client's favor because they had the opportunity someone had taken photographs of the scene as it existed right after the crash. You know tire tracks and wheel tracks even through the sand next to the road, all those things can be critically important.

So why I was talking to some people at the meeting and they had been involved as witnesses in a crash that had occurred and unbeknownst to them, people were actually taking the bike ended up in that case off the road, and people were pulling the bike back up on the road and it's like no no no leave everything as it is so that it can be photographed where it was found you know, don't start kind of accumulating the evidence before it's been photographed and located.

So the timing is important to do it soon, the preserving the evidence at the scene is critically important and making sure that you're not moving things out of the way, maybe trying to be helpful but actually kind of messing up if you would the debris field which may be critical in sort of piecing together what had happened.

The second thing to keep in mind, I think most of us believe that when the police roll up to a bike crash or any crash scene for instance, they are gonna do a confident thorough investigation and you simply can't rely on that. I had someone in the office yesterday who was involved in a car crash, pretty significant impact and there was an eyewitness to the crash, the police officer told her there was an eyewitness to the crash, but he forgot to get her name. This happens all the time, people are there and they move on, they drive away, and the police officer never records their name and it never appears in the police report and the person that's hurt of course never has the opportunity to find out who they were.

So when you're standing there on your arrive at a bike crash or it happens in a group that you're involved in, get the tag number of the vehicles that are there, you know get the witness identification, what's their name and what's their phone number? Jot it down, write it down, make a note of it on your phone because it may be the only time to capture that information and people may believe, the witnesses may believe it was so obvious to them what happened, they leave thinking well it's a clear cut case, you know that the driver did something wrong, but it may not be that clear cut if the driver later denies it then there's no independent witness to kind of refute what they're saying.

So don't assume that the police are going to do what you and I would believe is a really good thorough investigation. I'm amazed at some of the shoddy work quite frankly that some of the police reports come across our desks in both bike cases and in car crash cases. So you can do a lot to help identify this stuff.

So remember I think it'd be so cool you know to think about if we were to unleash into the cycling world an army of people who are alert to the fact that when they come upon a crash take a photograph. The worst that'll happen is it'll never be used, you know the person may not need it, maybe the police did take photographs. You know the police generally on most routine cases where someone has not died and a death case, they're gonna call out the homicide unit and they're very thorough and they're gonna photograph, they have a crime scene investigator, they'll photograph everything, they'll measure everything. I'd be shocked if in a homicide case that you don't have really really thorough well done investigation 'cause it's the best of the best of that agency, but in a routine crash where it's unclear how serious the injury may be, person going to the hospital, they may not go to the hospital, they become serious later you know, they didn't realize at the time, they're not taking photographs, they're not documenting where things were found, they're not locating pieces of evidence that may be laying around, they're doing the general walkthrough, determine who was at fault, write it up and go on on to the next accident scene.

So I think it'd be very cool and very helpful and quite transformational to unleash into the cycling world an army of us who are aware of the need to take photographs, who can actually just document what they see when you ride up to the scene. I don't want us to get in the way of the police, we're not telling them what to do, we're just observing and photographing from a relative position of safety without interfering with what they're doing or moving this stuff around so that it's different than what it was when you arrived there.

So I think you know bear in mind like the worst case scenario is your photographs may never be used but the best case scenario is your photographs may make the difference between someone who's been horribly injured or injured in a way that they've got a lot of medical expenses and their ability to get those paid and their ability not to and that photograph that you see what you saw there at the scene can make the critical difference in many situations so I though it's just something that we ought to keep in mind. Hopefully we're never gonna be in that situation. You know I've ridden for eight years I've never come across the scene of a bike crash like that. So but I mean many people do 'cause when you're on a group ride and something happens you got eight or 10 or 15 people standing around who have a lot of opportunity to capture what happened.

So remember you know we're here and committed to helping the cycling community. Not only as safety advocates to help us ride safely and make sure that we give you the best opportunity to get home, enjoy your ride, think about things that will keep you alert and on your toes and make us better safer riders, but you know when a crash occurs and someone needs a lawyer, they been injured and need a lawyer, I wanna be your advocate, we'll be there for you every step of the way, we'll get your bike replaced, we'll help you with your recovery, we're just a phone call away and we're committed to Florida cyclists and Florida cycling so that's our program for the day, hope you enjoyed it if I can help you in any way just give us a call, I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy, be safe, bye.

Have You Been Injured In A Bicycle Accident?

If you've been hurt in a Florida bicycle accident you should speak with an experienced bicycle injury lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

Jim Dodson
Connect with me
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.