You just survived a terrible truck accident, and now you’re fighting for your legal right to fair compensation. You have some evidence on your side: your medical records, the police report, and eyewitnesses, but the trucking company refuses to admit they were speeding when they lost control of the truck. You need evidence to support that they were going too fast, and you suspect there could have been other violations involved too.
Your lawyer says all this data is stored in the truck’s “black box.” But what is a black box, and how do you get the information inside? In this blog, we’ll explain black box technology, how it can strengthen your injury claim, and how to preserve the data inside these important machines.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
Commercial trucks operate under intense conditions. Many drivers work long hours and have to meet unrealistic delivery deadlines. And trucking companies often face tight profit margins and a trucker shortage. In this climate, some drivers and freight companies decide to prioritize profits over people, ignoring the laws and systems that keep our roads safe.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), most truck wrecks are caused by a variety of factors, rather one clear cause. However, in The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, the FMCSA notes that driver fatigue, drunk and drugged driving, and speeding are some of the most common factors involved in serious truck accidents. Some other common causes of truck accidents include brake and tire failures, medication use, distracted driving, tire blowouts, and driver error.
In the past, it was often difficult to identify the exact causes of a truck wreck. Drivers would often deny falling asleep at the wheel, becoming distracted, or ignoring their truck’s routine maintenance. Lawyers would have to turn to crash reconstruction experts and engineers to investigate the truck’s speed at the time of impact and other factors. Thankfully, many modern trucks contain sophisticated sensors and systems that monitor the truck and driver’s every move. While truck accident lawyers often call these systems “telematics” or “electronic control modules,” most of our clients refer to them as “black boxes.”
What Is an Electronic Control Module or Black Box?
Just like an airplane, many trucks have an electronic control module or event data recorder installed in their engines that records ongoing data as the truck runs. These modules are commonly known as “black boxes,” and trucking companies use them to monitor their drivers and investigate crashes. Black boxes record a vast amount of information, including:
- A truck’s speed
- The amount of time the truck spends driving over 65 miles per hour
- The amount of time it idles or doesn’t run at all
- Hard braking (when a driver suddenly slams on the brakes)
- Seatbelt use
- Hours of service or the driver’s time on the road
- Tire pressure and truck maintenance issues
Some trucks even have on-dash camera systems that record both inside and outside the cab! Most truckers also maintain detailed logs of their activity. While many in the industry are transitioning to electronic records, some truckers are resisting this change. Unfortunately, paper logbooks can be easily faked.
The black box’s information is so critical because it cannot be faked or forged. It can, however, be deleted. Most black boxes only contain records from the last 30 days, and sometimes less, depending on the module’s specifications and capacity. Even worse, trucking companies are allowed to erase black boxes after an accident unless you formally request that they preserve the data.
You’ll never find a trucking company who will voluntarily give up this information after a crash because the data can increase the value of your truck crash claim, and prove that they were at fault. That’s why you need a skilled lawyer on your side to help you preserve the information.
How Do Truck Accident Victims Obtain Black Box Information?
In Alabama and Mississippi, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is financially responsible for your injuries, so it’s essential that you know exactly who was to blame for your accident. Black boxes can provide powerful evidence, and your injury lawyers will need to act quickly to preserve their data.
To protect the information contained in the black box, you must take legal action. First, your lawyer will issue a formal letter, called a “preservation letter” or “spoliation letter,” that advises the trucking company of your claim and tells them not to preserve the black box’s data. If the truck driver or company refuses to turn over the evidence, your lawyer will have to immediately file a lawsuit and demand a protective order that saves the crash data.
Once you have access to the preserved information, your lawyer and a team of experts, including engineers, can interpret the data. Many times, they can reveal crucial details about the commercial vehicle, its driver, and other information that could make the difference in your case.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck crash, it is in your best interest to contact a tenacious lawyer who can help you preserve the information in the truck’s black box before the trucking company can delete it.
Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: Protecting Truck Crash Victims in Mississippi and Alabama
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we understand the complex nature of the trucking industry — and have a track record of success to prove it. We know that life after a truck wreck is never easy, which is why we are committed to fighting for your legal rights and making sure you get the justice you deserve.
When you or someone you love has been hurt in a big truck crash and needs to preserve critical evidence like black boxes, don’t wait to call the Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys team. We’ll meet with you in a free, no-risk consultation to help you understand how much your case is worth and what to do next.
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study—Analysis Brief. (2007, July). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.