Why Is the Black Box Important in Truck Accidents?
Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2022 at 11:34 pm
It isn’t just airplanes that have black boxes these days. Today, cars and trucks have an event data recorder (EDR) embedded under their dashboards, recording all the details of the vehicle’s speed, braking, direction of travel, and more.
If you are involved in an accident with a big rig, the black box data can be essential to your case. But your time to obtain the information is limited, so you need to have someone who can get it quickly and ask the right questions right away.
What Is a Black Box?
The event data recorder (EDR) or black box, is an electronic device attached to the truck’s onboard computer. It records a number of data points about the truck’s driving performance, including:
- Hours of service and driving hours
- Miles driven per day and in total
- Average speed and rate of acceleration
- Direction of travel
- Engine performance
- Braking patterns
The black box data can be downloaded and presented as evidence in court or for insurance purposes. It can also be used for crash reconstruction, and to corroborate the driver’s or other witness testimony following an accident.
How Do I Get the Data?
Just like the driver’s written log, the data in the black box is documentary evidence and needs to be provided after an accident. Unlike the written log, neither you nor the driver can just put it in the copy machine and make a copy. This will be when you need an attorney, who can obtain the services of a professional who can download the information if the company will not provide it.
The black box is a small computer with a limited hard drive. It does not have a lot of space to store information, so it constantly overwrites data. The maximum time it can save data is about thirty days. This means that after an accident, you have about that long to request the black box data before it will be overwritten in the normal course of time. Some older models rewrite the data much more frequently than that.
There is currently no legal requirement for trucking companies to preserve their black box data. You will need to send them a notification that you want that information from them, or your attorney will need to do so.
How Can This Help My Case?
Accidents involving big rigs are especially destructive to cars and the people in them. If you have been seriously injured, you may not be clear on what happened during the accident. It may not be immediately obvious who was at fault in the tangle of metal and plastic on the road. The data from the black box can help your attorney and the insurance company determine:
- The direction of travel. The black box information will show which way the truck was traveling at the time of impact. This can be important if it is unclear who had the right of way or who may have been in the roadway.
- The speed of the truck at the time of the impact. If the driver claims that they were traveling at the speed limit, were braking, or were stopped at a light, the black box data can verify whether they were or not.
- Maintenance issues. Many big rig cases hinge on maintenance problems such as faulty brakes or transmission. The black box tracks the maintenance of the truck and can pinpoint the last time the vehicle was in for service.
- Driver fatigue. Because the data is kept automatically, it provides an accurate record of how many hours the driver is on the road. Tired drivers are a major cause of accidents, and the black box prevents the fudging of records.
How We Can Help
Because the black box is an automatic record kept by computer, it cannot be altered or tampered with. Because of this, trucking companies are very reluctant to surrender the data unless they are forced to.
Currently, there is no legal requirement that truckers or companies preserve the data following an accident. The black boxes overwrite their data about every 30 days. Even if they are not at fault, the company has no reason to give the victim in an accident this information, unless someone requires them to.
That’s where we come in. At Abel Law Firm, our attorneys will communicate with the trucking company immediately after your accident, letting them know we want the black box data right away. If necessary, we can contact a private data company for you, and have the information downloaded by professionals.
If you’ve been injured in a big-rig accident, you need someone on your side to get this data for you. Contact Abel Law Firm at (405) 239-7046 to speak with a truck accident attorney and let us get started right away.