While many Americans are aware of black boxes in aircraft that can record flight data to help determine the cause of a crash, few may know that many commercial trucks feature black boxes as well. Most black boxes feature fireproof materials and multiple safeguards that allow them to survive even catastrophic crashes.
Black boxes record different types of vehicle data including speed, direction of travel, electrical interference, any disturbances to the vehicle’s systems, impacts, fuel consumption, and countless other variables that may contribute to crashes. Investigators often rely on black boxes to determine how catastrophic vehicle accidents happen when no one survives to offer a statement. They can also play a significant role in litigation for a commercial truck accident.
Black Boxes Help Prove Liability for Trucking Accidents
Modern tractor-trailers manufactured since the 1990s feature electronic control modules (ECMs) built into their engines. ECMs function very similarly to the black boxes found in commercial airliners and can help determine the cause of an accident. Commercial truck black boxes typically record and store data for a specified amount of time, usually 30 days. The black boxes can track a truck’s gas mileage, average RPMs, time spent traveling at high speeds, overall speed, idling time, airbag deployment, hard stops, GPS coordinates, and many other variables.
Truck manufacturers originally designed ECMs to discourage fraudulent warranty claims but ECMs have recently been more valuable as evidence in truck accident claims to help determine liability. Trucking companies can compare ECM data to driver logs to help with these investigations, and it’s important for injured claimants in truck accidents to secure legal representation as soon as possible. An attorney can help ensure a trucking company preserves potentially crucial black box data for use in a future lawsuit.
Most states generally uphold that the data contained in an ECM is the property of the vehicle’s owner. If a trucking company owns a truck involved in an accident, the trucking company technically has the right to destroy the ECM data. However, some states have enacted laws that prevent trucking companies from destroying ECM data when clear evidence that the data could be crucial to an official investigation exists. Trucking companies may also use tracking modules for their vehicles that record and store additional types of data. An attorney may request protection of these types of recording devices if they contain hours of service logs, pick up and unload times, or other data vital to an ongoing case.
How Can a Black Box Influence My Lawsuit?
A plaintiff’s attorney in a truck accident claim can file for a court order preventing the destruction of crucial data in a truck’s black box or ECM. If the truck driver or the trucking company is liable in any way for the plaintiff’s damages, the ECM data can help establish liability for all parties involved. For example, imagine a plaintiff suing a trucking company after claiming the truck driver made an illegal lane change and crashed into the claimant’s vehicle.
The ECM data may show that the truck’s computer logged a turn signal use right before the collision, countering the claim.
ECM data from consumer vehicles may also come into play in these cases. Many auto manufacturers include systems to record travel and crash data for use in investigations. Following the previous example, the claimant’s vehicle’s ECM data may show the claimant was traveling 20 mph over the speed limit immediately before the crash, establishing the claimant is at least partially liable for the incident.
If you are unsure if or how a black box could come into play for a truck accident claim, your attorney is the best resource for additional information. Your attorney can also file subpoenas for crucial data that can improve your odds of succeeding with a truck accident injury claim and handle insurance issues. Truck accidents often result in significant damages, and a black box is likely to be one of the most crucial forms of material evidence that will come into play in a truck accident lawsuit.