Can Black Box Data from a Truck Help You Injury Claim?

Injures that result from a truck accident can be very severe and sometimes catastrophic. The sheer mass of a commercial truck presents a unique risk to the average commuter with the potential to cause a life-changing injury. As a result, medical costs can easily reach monumental proportions. That is why it is important to maintain a thorough record of evidence to support your truck accident injury claim. Relevant evidence includes photographs, police reports, and truck maintenance records. However, some of the most crucial evidence might come from a small computer called an Electronic Control Module (ECM) or Event Data Recorder (EDR) which acts like an airplane’s “black box” by recording detailed information about the truck’s operations. This article discusses how this little black box can benefit your truck accident claim.

What Is an ECM?

Since the 1990s, trucks have used ECMs to record data about how a truck is being operated. The ECM can typically hold up to 30 days worth of data. As the ECM records new data, older data gets pushed out and cannot be recovered easily if at all. Older ECM units have a smaller capacity for data storage. Therefore, immediate action is imperative if you want to preserve black box data after an accident.

An ECM typically records data about a truck's operational properties including:

  • Driving speed;
  • Engine revolutions per minute (RPM);
  • How often the truck was driven;
  • What time of day the truck was operating; and
  • The duration for which a truck was driving faster than 65 miles per hour.

How Can an ECM Help My Case?

Although ECM’s were initially used to address fraudulent warranty claims for fictitious defects involving truck engines, an ECM’s ability to record a plethora of information has made it a crucial piece of evidence for truck accident lawsuits. When other sources of evidence regarding the exact cause of an accident are scarce, a truck’s black box can mean the difference between a winning and a losing injury claim.

The black box’s data can help pinpoint the truck’s speed, RPM, and brake application during the moment immediately preceding an accident. For example, black box data has the ability to illuminate details about whether the truck driver was driving over the legal speed limit up until the moment of impact in a crash.

How to Retrieve Black Box Information

Today, 17 states have passed laws to protect truck black box data from being used in a lawsuit by classifying such data as property of the company that owns the truck. As a result, truck companies have the right to destroy the data after an accident unless a court issues an injunction to preserve its data. Older versions of the black box have limited recording capacities. As a result, data on these black boxes are at risk of being overwritten by newer data.

Conversely, some states prohibit the destruction of black box data if it becomes the focus of a civil lawsuit. Some insurance companies specify the preservation of black box information as a condition for issuing a policy and affording coverage for the truck. Sometimes a truck company will download the black box’s data onto their computer servers.

Due to the ephemeral nature of a truck’s black box data, it is necessary to consult an attorney to ensure a black box’s contents are preserved and made accessible during the discovery phase of the litigation process. This is especially true when seeking a court order to protect a black box’s valuable information from being overwritten or otherwise destroyed by the truck company.

Skilled Advocacy from a Santa Clarita Truck Accident Attorney

Truck accident cases can be complicated, due to the potential severity of the injuries involved and the likelihood that liability may implicate the interests of outside parties such as insurance companies and vehicle manufacturers. As a result, you should retain the professional services of a Santa Claritapersonal injury lawyer for legal counsel. At the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser, we have over 20 years of experience in personal injury litigation, including truck accident cases. We are dedicated to advocating for your legal right to receive compensation for your injuries.

To schedule a free case evaluation with our experienced truck accident attorney, call (661) 441-3446 or contact us online today.


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