Why Is the Black Box Important in Truck Accidents?
Posted on Sunday, October 10th, 2021 at 4:56 pm
Commercial trucks have been responsible for more than 50,000 collisions, 16,000 injuries, and 428 deaths in Georgia over the past five years. Truck-on-car collisions routinely result in death or catastrophic injuries for the occupants of the car because of the increased weight and velocity of a loaded semi on the highway.
Occupants of passenger vehicles that collide with a truck are much more likely to suffer death and life-changing injuries like permanent brain damage, quadriplegia and paraplegia, and loss of use of limbs or senses than the truck driver. Even where there are no serious injuries, the trauma experienced by the car driver and passengers usually is significant and has long-lasting effects. These effects are made even more traumatic if the accident wasn’t your fault.
The trucking industry and its liability insurers have been fighting high-profile, high damage lawsuits against truckers by passenger vehicle drivers and passengers for decades, and they have developed a sophisticated playbook for handling these cases. They have put together teams of lawyers, investigators, and experts who they have on speed dial to send to the accident scene to gather evidence while the vehicle occupants are still in the ambulance.
One of the crucial items to both parties is data from the truck’s “electronic control module” (“ECM”). Like the black box in an airplane, the ECM is an onboard computer that constantly gathers and records details about the truck’s operation. This black box can capture data that can be critical to assessing what happened and when it happened prior to and during the accident, such as:
- The truck’s speed immediately before the crash
- Any sudden deceleration or acceleration
- If/when the brakes were applied relative to where the collision occurred
- How often the truck exceeded the speed limit during the most recent driving session and for how long
- The truck’s daily activity, including hours of operation and miles driven
- Real-time GPS location information
- Communications between the trucking company and trucker that could show that the company was pushing the driver to break the speed limit to make a delivery or that the driver exceeded the total number of driving hours allowed within a certain period and therefore may have been over-tired when the accident happened
Much of the data on the black box is highly technical, so your attorney likely will hire an expert to access and interpret the data to tell you what recovered ECM data you could use to prove that the truck driver was at fault.
For example, the black box data might indicate that the truck driver was going 75 mph and did not hit the brakes for the first time until he was less than 500 feet from your vehicle. You could then argue that the truck driver was speeding and that he was not paying attention to what was going on ahead of him. The trucker and his company will have their own experts who will try to use this same information to argue that the trucker was not at fault.
The black box data can be critical to your case. Because that’s true, one of the very first things an experienced truck accident attorney will do is notify the truck driver, the truck owner, and all their insurers that all evidence relating to the accident is to be retained exactly as it was on the date of the collision, especially the black box data. During settlement negotiations or at trial, you may have to show exactly why the truck driver was at fault, and you were not. With the black box information and other details, the attorney and expert witness will have the tools needed to:
- Calculate the estimated stopping distance between where the truck should have first seen your vehicle and when the truck started to brake,
- Identify different courses of action the trucker could have employed to avoid the accident, or
- Prove that your conduct in reacting to the truck’s movements were reasonable under the circumstances.
Remember that the evidence from the truck’s black box can’t help you unless you get your hands on it before it is destroyed or goes missing. The experienced truck accident attorneys of Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. know how important it is to put on the best possible case while pursuing compensation for your injuries and other accident-related losses.
Call us at (770) 205-8827 today or visit our website to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced truck accident attorneys. It’s the first step toward getting you the justice you deserve.