Truck accidents produce a high number of fatalities and some of the worst injuries experienced in motor-vehicle crashes. Victims who survive typically face permanent disability and pain, inability to work and earn a living, and loss of their quality of life overall. Those who lose loved ones experience tremendous emotional losses and financial distress.
Identifying and holding the at-fault party responsible for the accident, injuries, and pain they have caused is the only way victims can see financial recovery. A skilled truck accident lawyer from GKBM can identify that party and build a strong case for your settlement by examining the truck’s “Black Box” evidence.
What Is a Truck’s “Black Box?”
Modern commercial trucks are equipped with Electronic Control Modules (ECMs), or “black boxes.” Like a black box in an airplane, a truck’s ECM records important information about the truck itself–how its systems function, its speed or changes in speed, fuel efficiency, and a variety of other data.
Often, ECMs are equipped with Electronic Data Recorders (EDRs), capable of recording specific crash data. Hard braking, quick stops, or collisions trigger the recorder, which can later provide valuable information about what happened in the moments before, during, and immediately after an accident.
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Types of Information Stored in a Truck’s Black Box
The specific types of information stored in a black box and the length of time that information is available depend on the model of the device. However, most black boxes document:
- The truck’s speed at the time of an accident and speed in general, for example, how frequently the vehicle operated over or under a speed limit
- Abrupt accelerations or decelerations
- Whether and when brakes were applied
- Whether and when cruise control was activated
- Airbag deployment
- Whether the truck operator was wearing a seatbelt
- Daily and/or monthly truck activity logs
- Tire pressure, fluid levels, steering wheel movement
- How many accidents the truck has been involved in
- The truck’s GPS location
- Communication between the truck driver and truck company
A truck accident lawyer will acquire access to this black box information. Often, the data provided is valuable in building a strong personal injury case.
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How Black Box Information Can Help Your Truck Accident Claim
Law enforcement, attorneys, and insurance companies can use the digital information recovered from the black box to discover the specific circumstances of the accident, most importantly, its cause and who is at fault.
If you have been in a truck accident, securing legal representation is critical to the success of your case. Insurance companies will access the black box information and use it, even misrepresent it sometimes, to deflect blame from the at-fault party or even put unfair blame on you. You need an experienced truck accident lawyer who will keep those insurance companies honest and who has the resources to dissect the black box information knowledgeably.
For example, black box data may show:
- The truck was speeding at the time of the accident.
- Certain systems, such as braking or steering, malfunctioned right before the crash.
- The driver was out of compliance with regulations governing hours and days of operation and the required rest.
- Communication between the truck operator and company showed the driver was fatigued or noticed mechanical problems with the vehicle.
- The truck was overloaded and overweight.
Using Black Box Data to Determine Fault
Based on the black box data, your truck accident lawyer can determine the at-fault party. For example, data may show the driver was speeding or drifted out of the lane at the time of the accident. The speeding speaks for itself, and the drifting may be evidence of driver fatigue or distracted driving. In these cases, the driver is most likely at fault.
When data shows a malfunction caused the accident, the truck or part manufacturer, vehicle inspectors, or those responsible for doing maintenance and repairs may be liable. If the trucking company did not keep up with required inspections and maintenance, the company may be accountable.
Sometimes, truck companies “encourage” drivers to overload their vehicles and work more consecutive days and hours than are legally allowed so the companies can make more money. If these compliance issues are revealed in the black box data, the truck companies may be held responsible.
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How to Get Black Box Data
Unfortunately, after a truck accident, victims are not the top priority for the trucking company or the at-fault party’s insurance companies. Companies operate to make money, and paying out large settlements does not contribute to the company’s success. As a result, black box data can sometimes be erased or “lost,” especially when its data proves the driver or company is at fault.
Since truck accidents typically cause serious injuries or deaths, victims and their loved ones do not always have the presence of mind to request black box data in the hours and days following an accident. By securing prompt representation from a truck accident lawyer, you take this burden off yourself and lower the chances of accidental or intentional loss of black box data.
Because the ECM belongs to the truck company, your truck accident lawyer will have to secure the data legally, possibly through a court order, and before that, will likely send the company an evidence preservation letter to ensure the ECM data remains available. Since different EDM models store information for different amounts of time, getting this letter to the company quickly after the accident is crucial.
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Black Box Evidence Can Secure Your Settlement
After a truck accident, your financial security, access to medical care, and sense of justice can only begin to be restored through a substantial settlement. Collecting that settlement requires solid evidence, which can often be found in a truck’s ECM, or black box. Connect with a truck accident lawyer from GKBM as soon as possible after your accident.
Your attorney will act immediately to preserve and access that important black box information and will use that evidence to secure you a just and substantial settlement.