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What is Black Box Data and How Does it Relate to My Truck Accident Recovery?

Wed 17 Jan, 2024 / by / Truck Accidents

If you have been in a truck accident, it can be devastating. On top of the critical injuries that are often associated with truck accidents, the cases can be incredibly nuanced for even the most seasoned truck accident attorney. They greatly differ from car accidents. One of the reasons that they are so complicated is proving that the truck driver or trucking company was liable. This is shown by collecting data relevant to the crash that supports your case. A piece of information that can be crucial to truck accidents is “black box data.” Many do not understand why black box data is so critical to proving their case, but here is why that is.

Proving Liability

In order to recover damages, you must show that the truck driver was at fault and/or the trucking company knew or should have known about the truck driver’s behavior that contributed to the crash. For instance, the truck driver may be held liable if he failed to signal. The trucking company may be held liable if they knew that the truck driver they employed was a reckless driver. Liability is demonstrated through evidence. The more evidence you have that the truck driver or company was liable for the accident that resulted in injury to you, the stronger your case is. This means that if the case goes in front of a jury or it settles before that point, you will have more ammunition to show that the truck driver or trucking company was at fault and is responsible for the damages that you sustained.

What is Black Box Data?

You may be familiar with the concept of a black box from airplanes. Black boxes are also known as “event data recorders” (EDRs) or electronic control modules (ECMs). They can help unravel how an accident occurred, giving insight into what the truck driver was doing or what was going on with the truck itself before an accident or near accident. 

Black boxes became pretty commonplace in the nineties, with most trucks manufactured since then having a black box integrated into the engine. Black boxes will store data about the truck’s physical properties when that truck is involved in an accident or a near accident. In addition to the black box in the truck, many trucking companies also have satellite tracking equipment for trip records to monitor the truck fleet.

What Information Can It Capture?

The black box captures what was happening at or around the time of the crash. It can tell us the exact time of the accident, the truck’s speed, route traveled, GPS location, whether brakes were applied and when, whether the driver accelerated, whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt if cruise control was on, whether airbags were deployed if there was a defective truck part, and even the length of time driving at the time the crash occurred.

How Does Black Box Data Help My Case?

Since black box data is taken as objective, factual information, a judge or jury will strongly consider what the black box data says. The information can help show what caused the accident. For instance, if the truck driver had been on a route for a considerable amount of time before the accident, it could lend itself to the theory that the driver was tired and fatigued, thereby causing the accident. This is not only helpful in showing that the truck driver was liable, but it can also implicate the trucking company. Oftentimes, a trucker will drive for a company, which can also be held liable for the injuries that you have sustained. If they knew that the truck driver was driving beyond what he should have, then the company could be held liable for not keeping people safe. 

Can I Prove My Case Without the Black Box Data?

Yes, it is possible to prove that you were injured and the truck driver was at fault without having the black box data. Sometimes, data is (unintentionally or intentionally) destroyed. However, you will then have to rely on eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, and whatever other evidence you can get to show that the truck driver or trucking company was liable. However, if you do not have eyewitness testimony, or the physical data is inconclusive, you will really wish that you had the black box data.

How Do I Get This Information?

It is important that you act quickly to get the information. This is because data is generally recorded for thirty days before it is recorded over; this is not uniform, however, with older model trucks’ black boxes recording over at an earlier interval. Additionally, this information could be deleted intentionally by someone who does not want you to view it. 

The truck driver or trucking company will likely not hand this over without a request, especially if the information can hold them liable. Like any business, they are concerned about their bottom line and do not want to pay out for a claim of damages if they can avoid it. Your attorney will need to submit a written request or potentially a court order that prevents evidence spoliation. In other words, with this order, the trucking company will be told not to do anything to destroy the data or face severe consequences.

The information contained in the black box should be downloaded in the presence of an expert, if possible. This person can ensure that there are no problems with the download that might result in the evidence getting deleted.

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney

You deserve every penny as you make your recovery from the devastating truck accident that you were involved in. Do not leave money on the table or, worse, have your case dismissed just because you retained ineffective counsel. Experienced truck accident attorneys will shepherd you through these dark times and get you back on your feet.