As a witness, you have the power and responsibility of determining the outcome of a crash especially in situations with disputed liability (driver vs. cyclist). However, when suddenly encountering a crash, many people (expectedly) panic and often forget some key things you can do to help the situation. Here are some things to be aware of.
Get the cyclist off the road
Most crashes happen on roads where cars are present – ensure that the cyclist is safe from oncoming traffic. If the cyclist is not safe to move by yourself, quickly get help and create a barrier between oncoming cars and the cyclist. When moving, try to be as careful as possible.
Depending on the magnitude of the crash, the cyclist may not be in any shape to take photos of the situation. As the witness, you can help by making observations and taking photos that may later help in resolving a case.
The cyclist may be able to get up and may feel that they do not need to leave in an ambulance. See the section on “Post Crash” and communicate things that will help the cyclist such as leaving in an ambulance.
Witnessing a crash can be traumatic, in high stress situations, we tend to forget details. Write down everything you saw that happened to ensure you have the facts right in the event there is a liability dispute.
Let the police and paramedics, not the cyclist, decide if the cyclist is okay to go home or must go to the hospital.
Advocate for the cyclist
Take a look at the police report and make sure that the facts are written down correctly. A lot of times police will cite that the cyclist was at fault even if they were not, because the paperwork is easier (terrible, but sadly it does happen).