What Do Lawyers Do With A “Black Box” In A Truck Accident Case

Thousands of large trucks travel American highways to ship freight to communities nationwide every day. In some cases, they weigh up to 40 tons fully loaded, while large commercial trucks are 20 to 30 times the weight and size of an average passenger car. The trucks’ incredible weight and size put other motorists at considerable risk in the event of a truck accident. Miami truck accident lawyers understand that large commercial truck accidents are generally catastrophic in nature, leading to permanent disabilities and sometimes death. 


Statistics on Truck Accidents

Around 141,000 large trucks get involved in fatal or injury-causing accidents over a two-year period, as stated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. A 2015 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that nearly 4,000 people die annually in large truck accidents in the United States. Unfortunately, the number has steadily grown over the past decade. Some of the most common reasons for commercial truck accidents are the following:

  • Driver distraction or inattention
  • Excessive speed
  • Loss of control of the truck
  • Mechanical and vehicle failure
  • Overloaded or improperly loaded freight
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Fatigued driving
  • Drunk or intoxicated driving

The vast majority of truck accidents are entirely preventable. Electronic control modules (ECMs) and event data recorders (EDRs), which are known as a truck’s black box, can reveal how a truck accident occurs. These devices are similar to an airplane’s black box since they show what happened before, during, and after a crash. The black box data might prove that the trucking company is liable for any damages incurred due to the accident. 


The Role of a Black Box in Truck Accident Cases

Black boxes record information about the trucks’ status, storing data about the truck, the journey it was on at the time of the accident, and the location directly before the collision occurred. Some models can record data regularly and store it for extended periods, while others can only keep data from the few minutes leading up to the detection of an accident. 

The recovered digital data from a black box can then be used by accident investigators, law enforcement, lawyers, and insurance companies to learn more about the accident. Such information can be critical in building a case for a liability lawsuit. 

In fact, black box data is critical in the event of a truck accident due to the electronic information it contains. While black boxes are not required by law, most trucks have them as part of their engine component system, which could be the key to finding the answer to what occurred in the accident. The records can provide you and your truck accident lawyer with an essential piece of the puzzle, helping you with your trucker personal injury claims. Moreover, it could prove the negligence of the truck driver or trucking company if the driver was speeding, lost control of the truck, or failed to brake at a stop sign.


What Information Does a Black Box Store?

Data that can be obtained from a black box depends on the engine manufacturer, but it can include any of the following:

  • Sudden accelerations and decelerations
  • Use of cruise control
  • Tire pressure
  • Airbag deployment
  • Engine oil levels
  • Whether or not the truck driver was wearing a seatbelt
  • The speed of the truck immediately before the accident
  • Whether or not the brakes were applied and at what point
  • The frequency at which the truck driver drove under or over a particular speed limit
  • Number of hard stops and the rotations per minute between stops
  • Daily or monthly truck activity logs
  • GPS location and information
  • Number of times a truck was involved in a collision and the time interval between the accidents
  • When the steering wheel turned at any given time

Black box data can also uncover other causes for a truck accident. Fault codes, maintenance logs, or sensor data can show that a crash was caused by the failure to perform recommended or required maintenance on the truck. Additionally, a black box can reveal crucial communication between the truck driver and the trucking company that can shed some light on the cause of the accident. For example, emails that reveal the truck driver experienced mechanical problems, was tired, or had other issues on a delivery that resulted in a crash could be valuable evidence in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. 

Usage data can be compared to a trucker’s logbook to check whether the driver violated hours of service rules regarding the hours spent on the road without a break. If one of these reasons caused the truck accident, the black box could prove that the trucking company is liable for any losses and damages.


How Can A Lawyer Obtain Black Box Data?

Most black boxes store data for about 30 days before that information is overwritten, but others record information for a much shorter time. It could be possible for the trucking company to intentionally erase data related to a truck accident, choosing to destroy evidence that may be damaging to them in a civil suit. 

Because trucking companies possess the black boxes, they also have complete control over the information they contain. So they may not be eager to turn any black box information over to lawyers or investigators, especially if their truck driver was at fault. Like any business, trucking companies operate on profits, so they want to avoid any financial responsibility for a truck accident to protect their profit margins.

You cannot rule out the possibility of the black box being intentionally or accidentally erased. That’s why it is vital to recover this data as soon as possible after the accident. This may require your personal injury lawyer to compel the trucking company to hand over black box data. The lawyer can send an evidence preservation letter to the trucking company on your behalf. The letter’s purpose is to inform the company of your intentions to file a lawsuit and to direct them not to destroy any information pertinent to the case. The truck accident lawyer will send the letter immediately and could hire an electronic expert to avoid issues or loss of evidence when data is being downloaded from the EDR. 

Another option is for the personal injury lawyer to agree with the trucking company about when, how, and where the information will be downloaded. Suppose the trucking company refuses to cooperate and turn over the information. In that case, the lawyer must file an immediate lawsuit and request a temporary restraining order to prevent the trucking company from destroying any evidence. 


How a Truck’s Black Box Can Support Your Claim

The most critical aspect of a Florida truck accident claim is determining who was at fault for the accident. If the truck accident and your resulting injuries occurred due to the truck driver’s negligence, you would have to prove it to get the compensation you are entitled to. Along with black box data, eyewitness testimonies, physical evidence, and accident scene reconstruction can indicate a truck driver or trucking company’s liability in an accident. This is vital to recovering compensation for the losses and damages you sustained due to your crash. 

Medical expenses, long-term nursing care, physical therapy, and loss of wages can quickly add up. That’s why the negligent party must be held responsible for your monetary damages and the expenses of replacing or repairing your vehicle.

Using the data from a truck’s EDR to prove liability starts with turning the data over to reconstruction experts. They can look at the changes in velocity, speed, steering inputs, acceleration and braking inputs, or other information to determine what the truck was doing in the moments that led up to the accident. 

Once the accident reconstruction experts use the data to set a report or prepare an animation showing how the accident occurred, the result can be used in various ways to prove your right to financial compensation. For starters, you can use the reconstruction to show that the trucking companies’ accident reports have inaccuracies or were not based on verifiable data. Alternatively, your personal injury lawyer can question the truck driver about their actions before the crash. If the driver’s testimony contradicts the black box data, you can show that the driver is not credible. 

While it’s true that filing a personal injury claim cannot restore your physical health or reverse the damage done, a court victory can help you and your family recover financial compensation for the injuries you sustained. So, suppose you were injured in a truck accident and you consider filing a claim against the at-fault party. In that case, black box data can hold the irrefutable evidence you and your legal team need to build a solid case and receive the compensation you deserve.