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How Important is Black Box Data After a Truck Accident?

After you’ve been injured in a truck accident, one of the first things you’ll need to do is preserve the truck’s black box data as soon as possible. To do this, you’ll need the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer. The black box contains important digital information that can be lost or deleted if it is not preserved quickly. But, obtaining that information won’t be easy. It takes a lawyer with specific knowledge and experience to obtain the electronic data from the trucking company and to analyze and interpret it.

In this post, the truck accident lawyers at Munley Law explain what a black box is, how it can help your case, and why you need a lawyer who knows what to do with it.

What is a Commercial Truck’s Black Box?

Truck Accident Lawyer Dan Munley examines the wreckage of a truck accidentMost commercial vehicles (including tractor trailers and large trucks as well as trains and airplanes) are equipped with a “black box.” This technology also exists on many newer passenger vehicles. The black box is also referred to as an electronic data recorder, event data recorder (EDR), or the onboard computer for the vehicle.

You may have heard media mentions of the “black box” after a train derailment or plane crash. In the investigation that follows a major transportation accident, the black box contains important data that can help investigators piece together how the accident happened and who was to blame. The same is true in a truck accident case.

What Does the Black Box Capture?

The truck’s black box or electronic data recorder essentially captures a digital snapshot of what was happening in and around the truck at the time of the crash. The EDR can take a timestamp of the crash itself, and record other important details.

A truck’s electronic data recorder can capture information including the truck’s speed, GPS location, route traveled, and length of time driving at the time of a crash event. It can also record whether the brakes were applied and when, whether and how much the driver accelerated, whether a seat belt was in use, whether cruise control was in use, and whether the airbags deployed. Event data recorders also capture the number of events or crashes the truck was involved in.

What Else Captures the Truck Driver’s Information?

Another type of data recorder found onboard large trucks and tractor trailers is an electronic logging device or ELD. This device is designed to monitor compliance with federally mandated Hours of Service rules. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration‘s hours of service regulations are intended to reduce the number of crashes caused by fatigued truckers by enforcing mandatory rest breaks and limiting the number of consecutive hours a driver can spend behind the wheel.

Drowsy driving is dangerous for truckers and the driving public alike, but many truckers face pressure to make deliveries on time. And, if truckers aren’t driving, they’re not getting paid.

An electronic logging device tracks engine hours, miles traveled, and other information in order to ensure that truck drivers do not exceed the maximum number of hours behind the wheel without a safety break. These devices might be attached to the truck itself or on mobile devices like a tablet or smartphone.

Why is the Black Box Important in a Truck Accident Case?

To win any personal injury case, there are certain elements you must prove. It is not enough to show that you were hurt in an accident that was not your fault. You must be able to prove:

  • Duty – The defendant owed you a duty of care. In a truck accident case, it is assumed that the defendant driver owed a duty to all others on the road to operate their vehicle safely and to follow the rules of the road.
  • Breach – You must show that the defendant breached their duty by failing to drive with a reasonable degree of care based on the circumstances. That might mean the defendant driver was speeding, falling asleep at the wheel, driving too fast for weather conditions, or some other negligent behavior. This is where the black box data becomes critically important.
  • Causation – You must show that you became injured as a direct result of the defendant’s action or inaction.
  • Damages – Finally, you must prove that you suffered damages as a result of your injuries. In other words, not only were you injured, but you experienced significant physical pain, mental anguish, and financial losses as a result.

A Truck’s Black Box Data Can Be Time-Sensitive

It is also important to know that the data recorded by the black box is only held for a certain period of time. Some systems preserve data for 30 days, others may save it for only a few days. For this reason, it is crucial that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Vital information can be lost or intentionally destroyed if your lawyer does not mobilize to preserve it right away.

How  Black Box Data Can Help Your Case

The information contained in an electronic data recorder or black box can help you prove your side of the story. This black box data is evidence that can be used to prove the cause of a truck accident.

Black box data becomes all the more important in cases wherein the truck driver or trucking company denies liability. Information obtained from an electronic data recorder can prove not only that the truck driver acted with negligence but also that the trucking company knew or should have known about their employee’s behavior.

Black Box Data and Truck Accident Examples

Perhaps you were struck by a tractor trailer that crossed the median on a highway because the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. Black box data contained in the trucker’s electronic logging device could indicate whether the trucker was in violation of the maximum hours of service and was negligent by refusing to take mandatory rest breaks.

Falsified log books can also indicate negligence on the part of the trucker’s employer. If the trucking company condoned their drivers falsifying logs and exceeding hours of service, they can be held liable, too.

Or, consider a situation where a passenger vehicle is rear-ended by a tractor trailer in traffic. The truck driver claims he tried to stop in time to avoid hitting the car in front of him. The event data recorder will show whether or not the trucker ever applied the brakes at the time of the crash, and how fast the truck was traveling at the time of impact. If the driver didn’t brake before the crash, the driver may have been distracted or drowsy.

In addition to the black box, other types of electronic data can prove crucial to your case. This might include dashcam footage and/or cell phone records. Your lawyer can formally request the truck driver’s cell phone records that will show whether he/she was sending a text message, making a phone call, or watching a video at the time of the crash.

How To Get A Truck’s Black Box Data

Caroline Munley speaking with paralegal in her office

Making use of a truck’s black box is a multi-step process.

First, your truck accident attorney will need to obtain the data from the transportation company. Often, trucking companies won’t hand over this data without a written request or court order to prevent spoliation of evidence. An evidence preservation letter will instruct the trucking company not to destroy any information relevant to the accident.

Upon receipt of this letter, the trucking company is on notice that a lawsuit will soon follow. Failure to produce the requested evidence can result in penalties and civil action.

Next, your truck accident lawyer will need to extract, download, and analyze the data contained in the black box. Depending on the type of EDR on board the vehicle, your legal team may need to consult with technology experts.

Finally, your personal injury attorney will need to use this information to build your case. It is not enough to merely obtain the black box data; you will need highly skilled advocates in your corner who know how to use it to your best advantage.

Finding a Truck Accident Lawyer Who Knows How to Obtain Black Box Evidence

When you’ve been hurt in a commercial truck accident, you’ll have hundreds if not thousands of qualified personal injury law firms to choose from. However, truck accidents are different. Any accident case involving a large truck – whether you are a truck driver or a motorist in a passenger vehicle – will require an attorney with extensive experience litigating commercial truck cases.

Unlike regular car accidents, truck accidents often involve multiple defendants, some of whom are trucking companies and other commercial entities. Truck accidents also require in-depth knowledge of state and federal transportation and common carrier laws. Truck accidents are also highly technical, and require the necessary resources to hire top experts and engineers.

If you were hurt in a crash involving a truck, you need a very specific type of injury lawyer: a truck accident lawyer.

Many law firms claim to accept truck cases, but they don’t have the experience or case results to back up their claims. Munley Law does. No law firm in the U.S. can match our track record or achievements when it comes to truck accident cases.

Contact the Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers at Munley Law

When choosing a law firm to handle your truck case, consider the following factors:

  • Experience – A truck crash is not a car crash. To win a truck accident case, experience counts. The attorneys at Munley Law have been winning truck cases for decades. We have won multimillion-dollar settlements in negotiations, and have won numerous jury verdicts at trial. Some law firms will settle for less than you deserve rather than risk losing a case in court. The team at Munley Law thrives in the courtroom, and are prepared to go to trial if necessary.
  • Results – The fact is that not all law firms have the same track record. It takes skills and extensive resources to get a significant settlement or verdict. When you’ve suffered a serious loss or injury, you’ll need an attorney who will fight to get you the maximum amount of compensation.
  • Expertise – Truck accidents and commercial vehicle crashes are complex and highly specialized. It is important to trust your case with a lawyer who has extensive knowledge pertinent to your case. The truck accident lawyers at Munley Law are regarded by other attorneys nationwide as truck accident experts. We frequently travel around the U.S. to educate other lawyers on how to handle truck accident cases – including how to obtain black box data. We are among the first lawyers in Pennsylvania to earn board certification in truck accident law, and the first law firm in the country with two lawyers who have been elected Chair of the American Association of Justice Trucking Litigation Group.

After decades of experience with tractor trailer and large truck accident cases, we know that obtaining event data recorders and black box data is of the utmost urgency.

Trucking companies will have aggressive defense firms on their side. The sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can get started. Contact Munley Law today for a free, private consultation with an experienced truck accident attorney. There is no fee for our services unless we win your case. We invest all the necessary time and resources into building your case; if we don’t win, you owe us nothing.

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