Commercial truck accidents are often catastrophic, resulting in massive property damage, severe injuries, and tragic loss of life. It is normal after these types of accidents for both investigators and loved ones to want to know what happened, whether to press charges, file an insurance claim, or simply gain closure. In order to do so, accident reconstruction experts may employ a variety of tools, ranging from computer programs to models to small pieces of technology attached to the vehicles themselves.
One of the more important and effective tools in accident reconstruction is the “black box,” a device installed in commercial trucks (and, more and more, some passenger cars and trucks) that records important data about a vehicle’s behavior. Investigators can use it to determine what a truck was doing right up until the point of a collision, which can be extremely helpful during a Kentucky truck accident claim. Proponents of black boxes even point out that their data can help improve road safety in the future.
What is a black box?
You may be familiar with black boxes from hearing about them on airplanes. Black boxes in commercial trucks are quite similar. Also called Electronic Control Modules (ECMs) or Event Data Recorders (EDRs), black boxes are small devices that record and store data about the truck’s operation. Per the NHTSA, a black box is:
…a device installed in a motor vehicle to record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period of time (seconds, not minutes) before, during and after a crash. For instance, EDRs may record (1) pre-crash vehicle dynamics and system status, (2) driver inputs, (3) vehicle crash signature, (4) restraint usage/deployment status, and (5) post-crash data such as the activation of an automatic collision notification (ACN) system.
After a truck accident, a black box can be valuable in determining what happened and what parties are at fault.
What sort of data does a black box collect?
A black box can collect a variety of data regarding the truck’s operation in the seconds leading up to a serious accident. This information includes:
- Braking. EDRs can record whether the brakes were applied and how hard they were applied. This can help investigators determine if the driver tried to stop the truck before the accident, and if the brakes were effective in slowing down or stopping the vehicle.
- Driver behavior. Some EDRs can tell whether a truck driver is wearing their seatbelt, how long they were behind the wheel, and whether they were using any electronic devices at the time of the collision.
- Engine performance. A black box can also measure engine performance, including data related to fuel consumption and RPM. This can help investigators determine whether problems with the engine, transmission, or other issues may have contributed to the truck accident.
- Rate of speed. Black boxes will record the vehicle’s rate of speed leading up to the accident, which can let investigators know whether the driver was exceeding the speed limit at the time.
- Vehicle position. EDRs can also tell where the truck was located on the road, like whether it was traveling in the correct direction or in the correct lane, helping accident reconstruction experts determine how the accident may have occurred.
This data all provides valuable insight into how a truck accident happened, especially when fault is in dispute.
Why is a black box important after a Kentucky truck accident?
A black box can be key in investigating the cause of a commercial truck crash, as well as assigning fault. Some of these reasons include:
- Accuracy. Because EDRs are computers, they have a high degree of accuracy. This precision allows insight into possible accident causes like vehicle malfunction, driver fatigue or intoxication, or other factors.
- Data collection. A black box collects a good amount of data regarding the truck’s operation and the driver’s behavior leading up to the accident. This objective data can be used in reconstructing the accident to determine cause and fault, rather than relying on sometimes-unreliable eyewitness testimony.
- Evidence. The data from an EDR can be used as evidence in an insurance claim or lawsuit, helping prove fault or establish liability. This is especially valuable if there’s a dispute about who or what caused the accident.
Additionally, by gathering and analyzing data from black boxes, safety experts can identify areas in need of improvement. This can include driver training, truck design, safety regulations, and even road design. Taking this information into consideration can help prevent future truck accidents.
Can black box data help with my Kentucky truck accident claim?
Because black box data is so valuable, it can also be important for a personal injury case, by:
- Establishing fault. As we mentioned earlier, EDR data can help establish fault by providing data about the events that occurred immediately leading up to the accident. For example, data might show the truck driver was speeding or failed to brake in time to avoid a collision.
- Confirming witness testimony. Black box data can also help support witness testimony by providing objective data to support a person’s statements; i.e., a trucker was weaving in and out of their lane.
- Countering false claims. Additionally, if the other party makes an improper claim – like you were at fault for the accident – black box data can help refute this claim.
- Proving damages. Data from a black box can even help prove your damages. For example, if the black box shows that the truck that hit you was traveling at a high rate of speed, this data can be used when demonstrating the extent of your losses and damages.
Overall, a black box can be a very valuable tool in your truck accident claim. Its data can provide clear-cut, strong, and objective evidence for your case. Working with an experienced Kentucky truck accident lawyer can help ensure you can access this data as soon as possible – before the other party can alter or destroy it.
If you or a loved one were injured in a commercial truck accident, talk to the attorneys at Wilt Injury Lawyers today about your eligibility for financial compensation. Call us or fill out our contact form today. We maintain offices in Lexington and Louisville and proudly serve clients throughout Kentucky.