Using Black Box Data to Establish Liability in a Truck Accident

Trucks on interstate highway break lights flashing red. Concept for Using Black Box Data to Establish Liability in a Truck Accident

Before discussing how to prove liability in a trucking accident, it is important to understand that accidents involving semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles are vastly different from a typical car accident injury claim. While both types of accidents can cause significant and catastrophic injuries, more stringent rules and regulations apply to the trucking industry. This means there are more ways to prove that a truck driver or trucking company was negligent, and additional information available to establish liability in a truck accident case.

What Is “Black Box” Data?

People often use the phrase “black box” to describe the various data recording devices in an 18-wheeler that track information about a truck’s movement and the truck driver’s activities.

There are generally two different kinds of data recording devices in a semi-truck. The Event Data Recorder (EDR) records technical information about the vehicle in the seconds before, during, and after a crash, while the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) records information about the driver’s activities to establish compliance with federal Record of Duty Status and Hours of Service requirements.

Origins of the Black Box

Black boxes are perhaps the most well-known in the flight industry, where airplanes are equipped with flight data recorders. While truck black boxes are not as sophisticated as flight data recorders, the concept is the same. The truck black box records data that can be used to piece together what happened in the time leading up to the crash.

Black box technology originated in trains, as on-train monitors recorded the path and speed of the train with time stamps. In the 1940s, the technology was applied to airplanes that were outfitted with devices that recorded speed and altitude on film. Black boxes were later used in military and civilian planes, then made their way to passenger and commercial vehicles.

Why Are the EDR and ELD Important?

The EDR and ELD contain important information about a truck and what its driver was doing in the time leading up to an accident.

The EDR records data about:

  • The speed of the truck immediately before a crash
  • The frequency with which the truck was operated over or under a particular speed limit
  • Sudden acceleration and deceleration
  • Whether and when the brakes were applied
  • The number of hard stops made by the truck and the rotations per minute (RPM) between stops
  • Whether the driver was using cruise control
  • Whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt
  • Airbag deployment
  • Tire pressure
  • Engine oil levels
  • Whether the steering wheel was turned at any given time

Similarly, the ELD records information about the driver’s activities, including the date, time, location, vehicle miles, driver identification information, and change of duty status to establish compliance with federal Record of Duty Status and Hours of Service requirements.

This information can be crucial in establishing liability in a trucking accident. To preserve this important evidence, it will be necessary to obtain an agreement to preserve the data and the details of when, how, and by whom it will be downloaded. Doing so will prevent any “mistakes” by the defendants in downloading the data that could lead to the loss of this crucial information.

The Role of Black Box Data in a Truck Accident Case

An experienced truck accident injury lawyer can use black box data to establish liability in a truck accident case. In many truck accident injury cases, we work with an accident reconstruction expert who will review the EDR data to better understand what the truck driver did in the seconds before the crash or to show that a trucking company failed to properly maintain the vehicle or ignored vehicle defects, which can be used to show that the trucking company was negligent.

A truck accident reconstruction expert can use ELD data to show that a driver violated Hours of Service requirements and was driving while tired. This information can also be used to show that the trucking company that employed the driver knew the driver was out of compliance or even encouraged the driver to violate safety rules.

Ultimately, the accident reconstruction expert will use black box data and computer modeling software to recreate the accident. The truck accident reconstruction expert can then share this information with the other lawyers and a jury so they can more clearly understand the cause of the accident.

Act Quickly to Obtain Black Box Data

Because of strict federal mandates, much more information is available in a truck accident injury case than in a typical car wreck. The experienced truck accident injury lawyers at Muth Law can use this information to establish the liability of the truck driver and the trucking company and to identify other defendants who played a role in causing the accident.

However, trucking companies are only required to maintain this information for six months. Critical information could be lost or destroyed if you wait to hire a lawyer. Act quickly to preserve this evidence by hiring a trucking accident attorney as soon as possible.

Contact the Experienced Truck Accident Injury Lawyers at Muth Law, P.C.

Muth Law has successfully used black box information to prove liability in countless truck accident injury cases. To put our experience to work for you, contact us today to get started on your case. Call us at 734-481-8800, email, or complete our online contact form.

Categories: Trucking Accidents