How can a commercial truck “black box” help my accident case?

While many people are familiar with the concept of an airplane’s flight data recorder or “black box” that captures data in case of an accident, fewer are aware that such devices exist for commercial trucks and semis, too. These devices can prove invaluable to police investigators and to victims seeking compensation from injury or death that resulted from a truck crash.

ECM and EDR Devices in Commercial Trucks

In semis and other commercial vehicles, the “black box” is actually a device that’s known either as an Electronic Control Module (ECM) or an Event Data Recorder(EDR). Since the 1990s, most trucks have computer-controlled engines that are managed by an ECM, an essential piece of engine hardware that monitors critical information about the vehicle’s performance.

In addition to monitoring engine performance in real time and controlling engine operation, an ECM may function as an EDR or have an EDR unit attached, which allows technicians to recover “black box” data for routine diagnostics and truck maintenance, typically including data such as:

  • Average speed.
  • Whether the truck has exceeded the speed limit, and for how long.
  • Cruise control usage.
  • How long the truck has been driving.
  • Sudden stops or hard braking events.
  • GPS coordinate location.
  • Distance traveled.
  • Time in operation.
  • Airbag deployment.
  • Seatbelt use.

Other factors may be monitored as well, depending on the capabilities of the specific black box unit. This can include monitoring tire pressure, following distance to other vehicles, and even emails between the driver and the trucking company. All of this information can be of great use to your attorney to prove that the truck driver was responsible for the accident, so if it’s available, it should definitely be sought out.

How to Secure Black Box Data After an Accident

Not every truck has a black box recorder, and there is no government regulation that requires companies to install one. However, many transport and trucking companies do prefer to have a black box recorder that captures a lot of information, as it gives the company more detailed data about vehicle performance—and how their employees are behaving on the road. There may also be additional valuable data available from systems installed in the cab, such as an electronic dispatch unit.

Your attorney should find out whether a black box (and in-cab data unit, too) is installed, and attempt to get the data from it for your case. Law enforcement agencies are most likely to be able to obtain this data fastest for their investigation and may choose to share it with you, if you or your attorney asks. There is no legal requirement that trucking companies give this data to the victim of an accident, though. The company may not be willing to share it with you without a legal fight, either, as it could expose them to liability for the accident, so you and your attorney may have to do some legwork to ensure access to it.

A company may also negligently—or even intentionally, in some cases—delete the data. The act of restarting the engine and driving the truck off the scene can result in the black box data being cleared. If the accident is severe, the truck should be towed away, even if it is technically capable of driving, in order to preserve evidence. Ask that the data be preserved at the scene, and follow this up with a written request as soon as you can.

Many black box units may save data for only thirty days or less, so acting fast is essential. A protective order may be required in order to ensure the data is saved, and a subpoena may be necessary to obtain it. Your attorney can help you with all the legal steps required to preserve and collect the information needed to supplement your legal case.

Seek Legal Help After a Truck Accident

Because of the time-sensitive nature of black box data, you should not delay in seeking legal assistance. Seek the services of a personal injury attorney with extensive experience handling commercial or semi-truck crashes. An experienced truck accident lawyer will know the best way to obtain and preserve the information that you need for your case, and can help you pursue compensation for your injuries, including medical bills and rehabilitation costs, vehicle repair or replacement, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Are you in need of a personal injury attorney in Texas who knows how to handle an accident with a truck? Wayne Wright LLP would like to hear from you today. We have offices conveniently located in several locations, including San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, and El Paso, and we proudly serve clients from all across the state. Call, email, or live chat with us to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation about your case today.

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