How to Use a Truck’s Black Box to Win a Truck Accident Case

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, getting the black box from the truck could be key to proving your case. A truck’s black box stores key information about what a truck driver did right before a crash. This information can show why the truck driver was at fault and why you should win your claim.

What is a Black Box?

Semi-trucks have a black box just like what you hear about in plane crashes. These event data recorders can help to tell what caused a crash.

In semi-trucks, the function of black boxes varies widely. Some begin recording only when triggered by crash-like conditions such as sudden acceleration, hard braking, or sharp movement of the steering wheel. Others record everything the truck does 24/7.

Black boxes also vary in the type of information they collect. Some black boxes might collect detailed GPS information, while others only collect basic information like speed. No matter which type of black box is used, the data can be extremely valuable in reconstructing the circumstances surrounding a truck accident.

How Black Boxes Work

Black boxes are tied into a truck’s engine electronic control module. They receive electronic signals regarding its speed, steering, and braking and sometimes also receive additional data such as tire pressure or oil level.

Following a crash, the black box can be connected to a computer so that the data can be downloaded. As with plane black boxes, semi-truck black boxes are generally well protected so that they survive most crashes. However, there is the possibility that a major collision, fire, or electrical problem will render the data unrecoverable.

Do Trucks Have to Have Black Boxes?

There is currently no regulation requiring all semi-trucks to use a black box. Still, they may be required in certain cases, such as when a trucking company repeatedly violates federal rules regarding driver hours.

Although they are not required, many trucking companies prefer to use them because they can also provide the trucking company with essential data about how efficiently the driver performs their job. This means that if you’ve been in a truck accident, there’s a good chance the truck has a black box that can help you win your case.

How to Get the Black Box After a Truck Accident

Because black boxes are generally optional and the property of a trucking company, there is no law making them immediately available to an accident victim. In most cases, the trucking company will be unwilling to turn this data over since it could be used as evidence against them.

 The first step to getting a truck’s black box is to ask the trucking company to preserve the data so that it isn’t recorded over or erased. A verbal request should be made immediately and followed by a written request as soon as possible. At this stage, the trucking company still doesn’t have a legal obligation to give you the data. They do have a legal obligation to save the data until you get a court order.

In the case of a serious truck accident, especially when the truck driver may be criminally charged, the police might get a warrant for the black box. You will usually need to get a subpoena to get any information from the black box that the police don’t include in the accident report.

Once you file your truck accident case, your attorney can help you get a court order to require the truck company to give you the black box data.

How to Use the Black Box to Prove Your Truck Accident Case

A black box has two important uses in finding out what happened in a truck accident.

First, it can help answer the question of what happened. The data may show that the truck was speeding, back witness claims that it never braked for a stop sign, or show that the driver suddenly swerved. Even though this data may not show the entire story, such as what other vehicles were doing or whether a stoplight was red, it can help corroborate or contradict testimony by other witnesses. This includes both eyewitnesses and those trying to reconstruct the crash such as investigators or hired experts.

The second question a black box can help answer is why a crash happened. For example, drivers are limited in the hours they can drive without resting to prevent fatigue. If the black box shows the driver had been driving too long, it may be presumed that the crash happened because the driver was tired. Similarly, if the data shows the driver was behind schedule and had been traveling above the speed limit for most of the trip, it could be inferred that the crash was caused by the driver recklessly trying to make up time.

Get Help From a Truck Accident Attorney

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident and need to get the truck’s black box, it’s important to contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your accident lawyer can help you take the steps you need to save evidence like the data from the black box and then use that evidence to get you the compensation you deserve. Most truck accident attorneys offer free consultations, and you don’t pay anything unless you recover.

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