Truck accidents can cause devastating damage and injuries. Often, truck accident victims may not know how or what went wrong leading to the crash. The severity of the injuries can make recalling the details of the accident and the events leading up to it a challenge.
Fortunately, there is a piece of equipment aboard most commercial vehicles such as semis, tractor trailers, and 18 wheelers. Black boxes, also known as electronic logging devices, electronic control modules, and event data recorders, can provide law enforcement, victims, and insurance companies with some valuable insight into what was happening in the moments before a truck accident occurred. In the event of a truck accident, a truck accident lawyer can also use the data from black boxes as evidence to support their client’s case in court.
What Does a Black Box on a Truck Record?
Most people associate the term black box with an airplane’s black box used to retrieve vital information before a plane crash. A truck’s black box works similarly by providing a small window into the happenings within a large truck’s systems before and after a truck accident. However, the term black box in relation to truck accidents is interchangeable for several types of devices, all of which provide different data about the truck’s operations.
ELECTRONIC LOGGING DEVICES
This piece of equipment keeps track of the driving time of truck drivers operating a commercial truck on the road. The FMCSA requires that most trucks have an ELD in operation when used for commerce. ELD measures solely drive time. The device links to the engine of a commercial truck to record when the truck is in use and operating on the roads.
The purpose of these devices is to maintain and provide accurate records of truck operator drive time to ensure that companies and drivers remain within hours of service rules established to promote safe commercial driving on the roads.
ELECTRONIC CONTROL MODULES
The electronic control module is a computer integrated into the truck that keeps tabs on the system functions and equipment of the commercial truck. ECMs are also part of most everyday vehicles. The system has sensors that can run diagnostic checks and record and alert a driver if something is amiss within the truck’s system and capabilities. Some ECMs have built-in capabilities that also serve as event data recorders and record critical time frames in the moments leading up to an accident.
EVENT DATA RECORDERS
The function of an event data recorder serves to catch a short glimpse of what is happening in a truck or other equipped vehicle in short increments. EDRs are part of some electronic control modules used in commercial trucking. The EDR can record information for a short time frame, often a matter of seconds and rarely more than 30 seconds at a time.
The data from the EDR will record the speed the vehicle was traveling, if and when the brakes engaged, whether cruise control is on, if seat belts were in use, and if airbags deployed during a collision. An EDR does not always record continuously; it can take a triggering event to initiate the system to save and record an event. Common events that can trigger an EDR are when the airbag deploys or when there is a sudden braking event or a sudden and drastic drop in speed.
How Can the Information From a Black Box Help a Truck Accident Victim?
While the black box device within a truck can gather various data points, you may wonder how this information can help a truck accident victim when filing an insurance claim or lawsuit for damages. When a victim suffers injuries in a truck accident, and they believe it is the fault of a truck driver, they will need to prove their claim against the insurance company and in court if the case goes to a trial.
Proving a truck driver is to blame for a collision with a passenger vehicle may be challenging, depending on the circumstances. There may be instances where it is unclear what led a truck driver to lose control of the truck and crash with other vehicles on the roadways. The data within a black box can shed some light on what was going on in the truck’s cabin right before the crash occurred.
Truck Black Box Data as Evidence
Truck drivers have a negative reputation for driving aggressively and, in some cases, recklessly on the roads with passenger vehicles. Whether it is because of the pressures of the job or personal behaviors and actions they take behind the wheel, many actions can cause truck accidents and harm to others due to a collision with a large truck.
A truck accident victim, as the plaintiff in a case, must prove who is to blame for the crash and who is primarily at fault. Insurance companies or the court will look at all possible evidence, including black box data, if available, to determine fault. Black box data can give insight if a driver was speeding, possibly distracted, or if a malfunction in the vehicle may have led to the truck driver losing control.
Additionally, black box data from an electronic logging device can show whether a driver complies with hours of service rules and rest requirements. If a driver is driving beyond the maximum hour rules, they may suffer from fatigue and, in turn, be more likely to cause an accident. Furthermore, if a trucking company is responsible for demanding or encouraging drivers to violate those rules, they may also be liable to a victim for their damages.
What Other Evidence Can Support a Truck Accident Victim’s Claim for Damages?
A truck’s black box data can help a victim prove their claim and case, but additional evidence can provide more context and a clearer picture of the moments leading to the crash and the aftermath. Truck accident victims will want the best evidence available to prove who is at fault for the accident, the extent of injuries, and the damages they incur after the fact.
While you cannot easily track down all of the evidence available to prove what led to the accident, a truck accident attorney can. To recover damages, you must show that the driver or another party acted negligently and caused the truck accident. You must then prove how you suffered impacts from the accident.
Evidence, a truck accident victim, may use to support a claim for truck accident damages includes:
- Photographs or videos
- Witness statements
- Police report
- Expert analysis or testimony
- Data recordings from truck equipment
- Medical reports and records
- Employment records
- Truck maintenance and inspection records
- Truck driver history
Is It Easy to Get Access to a Truck’s Black Box Data After a Crash?
Following a truck crash, it may become apparent that the information in the black box could be critical to a victim’s case. A truck accident victim’s case could depend on the information within the device and prove the negligent actions of a truck driver leading to the collision.
However, to access the vital data on a truck’s black box, you almost always need to hire a truck accident attorney to subpoena it from a trucking company.
Who Has Access and Control Over a Truck’s Black Box?
A truck’s black box belongs to the owner of the truck. If the truck driver owns the truck themselves, they are the party in control of the device, and if the trucking company owns the truck, which is the most likely scenario, they control access to the device and its data.
A truck accident victim can run into problems if the parties with access to the device do not take action to preserve its information. The reality is that depending on the circumstances of the crash, a trucker or truck company may not feel compelled to share the potentially incriminating evidence contained within the device.
Unless a victim acts quickly through their lawyer to retrieve the device and preserve the information on it, the trucking company could tamper with or erase the evidence. Contacting a truck accident lawyer quickly after a truck accident can help a victim preserve this evidence before the trucking company loses or destroys it.
How Much Information Does a Truck’s Black Box Store?
Black box devices such as the event data recorder store only a small amount of data that comprises seconds leading up to and following a crash. However, the information recorded and saved within a black box will not remain there forever.
Depending on the technology used within the truck and the age of the commercial vehicle, the information can remain for just days until up to one month before it is deleted. Additionally, some actions could lead the device to delete critical information.
For example, continuing to use a truck after an accident could cause a loss of information within the device as it will begin to record new events. Although this is uncommon in cases where a truck sustains severe damage in a crash, it may happen if it only incurs minor damage. A truck accident lawyer representing a victim after a crash can move quickly to track down the evidence and take the appropriate legal actions to compel a truck company to prevent the loss of the evidence within a black box relating to the accident causing your injuries and damages.
Why Does a Truck Accident Victim Need a Lawyer After a Truck Accident?
A truck accident lawyer offers peace of mind after a truck crash. An attorney representing you in a truck accident claim can help you find the best evidence available to prove your case, including possible evidence within a truck’s black box. This is not something that a victim can do on their own, and an attorney’s guidance through the process to preserve all evidence can make a great difference in the possible outcome of your case.
Trucking companies and their insurer do not want to willingly turn over evidence that will make them liable for a victim’s injuries and costly damages. They will do everything possible to avoid handing over this critical evidence, especially when the truck driver’s actions likely led to a crash. However, a lawyer on your behalf can change that by compelling the appropriate parties under the law to collect and save the data relating to the truck accident within the black box and other truck equipment and technology.
How Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help With a Truck Accident Claim and Case?
Hiring a truck accident lawyer after an accident will not only help you preserve evidence but will help you as you move forward in a claim. Truck accident attorneys understand what it takes to fight back the insurance companies and truck companies when a negligent truck accident occurs.
A truck accident attorney can help with:
- The investigation of the truck accident
- Retrieval of evidence to prove fault and damages
- Interviewing witnesses and experts that can help your case
- Communicating with insurers, truck companies, and interested parties about your claim
- Negotiating a settlement that seeks the maximum compensation possible
- Preparing the case for court if a trial should become necessary
- Keeping you informed of all matters relating to your claim and case
If you or a loved one are a truck accident victim, contact a Las Vegas personal injury law firm for help preserving black box evidence and to discuss your legal options for compensation.