Why Is the Black Box Important in Truck Accidents?

A truck accident is often significantly more complicated than a standard car accident. Severe damage, costly claims, and multiple potentially liable parties make it difficult for truck accident victims to recover the full compensation they deserve, so conclusive evidence is vital.

One of the most potentially critical pieces of evidence in many Minnesota truck accident claims is data from the truck’s black box. So, what is a black box and why is it so important for your truck accident case?

What Is a Black Box?

The “black box” in a commercial truck, also sometimes referred to as an electronic control module (ECM) or event data recorder (EDR), is similar to the black boxes you hear about in airplane cockpits. These devices record certain types of data from various truck systems just before, during, and after crashes and near-crash events. This type of data can provide valuable evidence about how the truck was being operated after an accident occurs.

Black box data recorders were initially designed to help truck manufacturers challenge truck warranty claims, but they have since been used for a wider range of applications. Today, most semi-trucks and tractor-trailers manufactured since the 1990s are equipped with black boxes.

What Types of Data Does a Black Box Capture?

Black boxes capture many different types of information that can help police officers, attorneys, and other investigators learn about the circumstances surrounding a truck accident. If you have grounds for a truck accident claim, the truck’s black box may provide useful evidence for your case, such as:

  • How fast the truck was going just before the accident
  • Whether the driver was accelerating or decelerating just before the accident
  • Whether the truck driver applied the truck’s brakes just before the accident
  • Whether the truck driver was using cruise control prior to the collision
  • Whether the truck driver had been speeding or traveling below the speed limit
  • Whether the truck driver was wearing their seat belt when the crash occurred
  • Whether the airbags in the truck’s cab deployed when the crash occurred
  • Whether and how frequently the truck was involved in any prior accidents
  • Details about the truck’s tire pressure and GPS locations
  • Details about when and for how long the truck was driven before the crash
  • Details about communications between truck drivers and trucking companies

How Could Black Box Data Help My Truck Accident Case?

The information from a black box event recorder can be a key element in a truck accident case. Black box data provides investigators with reliable, unbiased evidence of any factors that contribute to or cause a crash.

For example, data about the truck’s speed and direction can show whether the driver was speeding, driving too fast for conditions, or losing control of the truck when the crash occurred. If black box data indicates that the driver failed to apply the brakes just before the crash, it could be a sign that they were distracted, drowsy, or even asleep at the wheel.

Black box data may also help investigators determine whether other parties could be at fault. If communications records show that the trucking company was encouraging the driver to go faster or disregard federal hours of service limits, for instance, the company may be financially liable for the crash.

Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me Access Black Box Data?

Just because black box data is available after a truck accident doesn’t mean it will be easy to get. Many newer black boxes store their data for a month or more, but older models sometimes only store data for a matter of days before recording over it. Additionally, trucking companies know how pivotal black box data can be in a truck accident claim, so they may attempt to destroy it to protect themselves.

Since it’s rare for trucking companies to hand over black box data willingly, it’s best to work with an experienced attorney after a truck accident. A good lawyer can take immediate legal action to prevent trucking companies from destroying evidence and compel them to hand over the data.

Contact a Minnesota Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If you were involved in a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, the dedicated Minnesota personal injury attorneys of Robert Wilson & Associates can protect your rights and gather valuable evidence to support your claim, including by preserving and utilizing truck black box data. To learn more about how we can help after a truck crash, call us at (612) 334-3444 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.