When a truck crash occurs, the immediate aftermath is often chaotic and stressful, making it difficult to establish the sequence of events leading up to the accident. Determining liability can become a complex legal battle involving multiple parties, from the truck driver to the trucking company and even the manufacturers of the truck or its parts.
If you were injured by a truck, you can work with an Indiana truck accident attorney to help you gather critical evidence for your case. This includes the truck’s black box data, which contains information about the driver’s actions leading up to the crash.
Understanding how this technology can serve as an unbiased witness and support your claim can help you receive maximum compensation for your damages.
What is a Black Box?
The term “black box” originates from the aviation industry, where these devices have been instrumental in analyzing plane crashes. In trucks, a black box refers to an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) or Event Data Recorder (EDR), generally a small electronic device installed in the vehicle’s dashboard.
It records data such as speed, acceleration, braking, and steering angle. Some devices are even sophisticated enough to record driver and trucking company communications.
Are Black Boxes Mandatory Equipment in Commercial Trucks?
ELDs are generally mandatory for most commercial motor vehicles. Any trucks required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to maintain Records of Duty Status (RODS) must have an ELD on the vehicle.
The FMCSA’s ELD mandate went into full effect on December 18, 2017, replacing the older method of paper logbooks. It aims to more accurately track, manage, and share RODS data to improve road safety and reduce the incidence of driver fatigue causing crashes.
Exceptions to the rule exist, however. For example, trucks manufactured before 2000, vehicles used for certain short-haul operations, and those not operating outside a 100-air-mile radius of their home base may be exempt from the ELD mandate. Drivers who drive for a maximum of 8 days out of every 30 working days may also be exempt.
Types of Data Recorded
The black box captures continuous real-time data, providing a comprehensive vehicle operation and behavior record. The following are types of data commonly recorded that your Indiana crash injury lawyer can use to help you pursue a settlement:
- Speed and acceleration: The device logs how fast the truck travels and any speed changes. This can be crucial in determining whether the truck was speeding at the time of the accident.
- Braking: Information about brake usage, including when and how abruptly the brakes were applied. This can help your attorney understand the driver’s reaction time and possible attempts to avoid a collision.
- Steering input: Data on steering angles and changes can indicate evasive maneuvers or lack thereof, revealing insights into the driver’s actions during crucial moments.
- Engine RPM: Engine revolutions per minute (RPM) data can show the engine’s performance, helping determine whether the truck was operating within safe mechanical limits.
- GPS Location: Geographical coordinates can establish the truck’s location at various times. This assists in recreating the route and positions relative to other vehicles involved.
- Timestamps: All the data is time-stamped, allowing for a chronological reconstruction of events, which is invaluable for investigations.
- Cabin audio/video: Some sophisticated ELDs may capture audio and video from the cabin, offering a more nuanced view of the driver’s condition and actions.
- Hours of service: The device may also record the driver’s active hours and rest periods, which is critical for verifying compliance with federal regulations that aim to prevent driver fatigue.
- Fuel consumption: Some advanced devices even log fuel levels and consumption rates. This can be used for various analytical purposes, including ruling out mechanical failure.
Legal Importance of the Black Box in Crash Investigations
The black box is crucial in crash investigations, providing objective data that can help determine fault and substantiate your legal claim. Your attorney can guide you through the following legal considerations regarding the ELD data in your case:
- Determining fault: Determining who is at fault in a truck accident is crucial for legal proceedings. Data stored in a black box can provide an objective account of the truck before, during, and after a crash.
For instance, if the black box shows that the truck was speeding or made a sharp turn just before the accident, it could imply driver negligence. If it shows that the driver applied the brakes well in advance, it could point to other factors, such as road conditions or the actions of other drivers.
- Insurance claims and lawsuits: Insurance companies often rely on black box data to assess liability and decide on claims. In lawsuits, the data can be used as evidence to support or refute eyewitness accounts and expert testimonies. Because the data is time-stamped and securely recorded, it often holds considerable weight in court.
- Compliance and regulation: When revealed by the black box, non-compliance regarding hours-of-service regulations can indicate fault and lead to heavy penalties for the trucking company.
- Limitations and admissibility: Using black box data may have limitations. Parties may argue over the admissibility of the data and whether it was tampered with or otherwise compromised. Speak with an attorney as quickly as possible after a truck accident so they can secure the black box and consult with experts who can accurately interpret the data.
An Attorney Can Help Obtain Data from a Truck’s Black Box
Navigating the complexities of a truck accident investigation is challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. An experienced Indiana crash injury lawyer from Wagner Reese can help you access black box data to use as evidence in your case.
We can work closely with experts and reconstructionists to interpret the ELD’s data and create a strong claim on your behalf. With years of experience handling truck accident cases, our attorneys know how to leverage black box data effectively to win you maximum compensation.
Reach out to our team today for a free consultation.