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Establishing liability for a truck accident can be a complex endeavor. Your attorney will evaluate physical evidence from the scene of the crash, surveillance camera or dashcam footage, eyewitness testimony, and all other possible sources of information to determine liability. One crucial piece of evidence will be the black box installed in the truck.

Many trucks have a black box, or electronic data recorder, that stores information about the operation of the vehicle. This data can reveal if errors or negligence by the truck driver or trucking company caused the accident.

Obtaining and reviewing truck black box data requires experience and resources. Trucking companies often do not willingly hand over data, especially when they know it may not prove favorable to them. Downloading and processing data usually requires the assistance of computer experts.

If you’ve been injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, the skilled truck accident lawyers of Joye Law Firm have the experience to thoroughly investigate your case. We know how to use data from the truck’s black box to show how the truck driver or trucking company may have caused the crash. For more than five decades, our legal team has diligently pursued maximum compensation on behalf of injured truck accident victims. Our firm has a proven track record of successful results, including six-, seven-, and eight-figure settlements and verdicts for our clients.

Don’t wait another day to get the experienced legal representation you need in a truck accident claim. Contact us for a free case evaluation to learn how a truck accident attorney can help you pursue the financial compensation you deserve. Call 888-324-3100 today. With offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Clinton, we can meet with you anywhere that is convenient for you.

What Is the Truck’s Black Box?

Many commercial trucks, including tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers, are equipped with an electronic data recorder that functions similarly to the data recorder on a commercial airliner. As with airliners, this device on trucks is also commonly called a “black box.” Although the data that a truck’s black box records varies among truck models, most boxes record basic data, such as vehicle location and driver inputs.

What Is the Purpose of the “Black Box”?

A truck’s “black box” is intended to record data about the truck’s vital systems. The original purpose of a truck black box was to assist with maintenance and to help prevent fraudulent warranty claims by trucking companies. The black box has sensors that are hooked into various systems and components on the truck, such as the engine, transmission, braking system, tire pressure system, and steering column.

In recent years, truck black boxes have become increasingly useful in truck accident cases. Truck accident attorneys have been demanding access to the black box data, which can reveal critical evidence that shows errors committed by the truck driver in the moments leading up to a crash. This data can help establish the truck driver’s liability for causing the accident.

What Evidence Is in Black Box Data?

Truck black boxes have been in use since the 1990s, but in 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued rules establishing the types of data that truck black boxes must record. However, the rule does not require truck manufacturers or trucking companies to install black boxes on their vehicles. If a black box is installed in a truck, it must record the following types of data:

  • Truck speed
  • Engine throttle
  • Braking
  • Changes in speed
  • Use of seat belts
  • Airbag deployment

Some black box models also record other types of data, including the number of hours the truck’s engine was running, fault codes given by the truck’s computer when it identifies engine or component problems, maintenance logs, and even copies of emails or other communications between the truck driver and trucking company or between the trucking company and the truck maintenance company.

Truck GPS and Black Boxes

In addition to a black box/electronic data record, most commercial trucks are equipped with a GPS tracker or a GPS navigation device. These devices let the trucking company know where their vehicles are located and provide turn-by-turn directions for truck drivers on new and unfamiliar routes.

GPS data can also prove incredibly useful in a truck accident case since the data can be used to calculate how fast the truck may have been traveling at the time of the crash. GPS data can be used to corroborate or fill in data from the truck’s black box to paint a complete picture of what the truck and its driver were doing in the moments leading up to an accident.

Obtaining Black Box Data

To get the data from a truck’s black box following an accident, your attorney will first send the trucking companies a preservation of evidence letter, sometimes called a “spoliation letter.” This informs the trucking companies that the black box and its data may be required for litigation and puts the trucking companies on notice to preserve the device and its data. If the trucking company’s behavior gives rise to a concern that black box data may be destroyed or lost, your attorney may decide to go to court to obtain an order directing the trucking companies to preserve the truck and its black box until your attorney can conduct an inspection.

Downloading data from a truck’s black box often requires the assistance of experts. This is because copying data often requires using proprietary equipment and software from the manufacturer of the truck or the black box. In many cases, your lawyer will reach an agreement with the trucking companies to physically inspect the truck involved in the accident so that your computer expert can obtain a copy of the data from the truck’s black box. The expert can also obtain “metadata” from the black box, which can show if data in the black box was altered or deleted.

This avoids relying on the trucking companies, whose interests are opposed to yours, to send you a copy of the data. That way, you don’t have to worry about not getting the full data from the black box or being told that an “issue” led to the loss of certain data.

How to Use Black Box Data to Prove a Truck Accident Case

Using the data from a truck’s black box to prove liability begins with turning the data over to truck accident reconstruction experts. These experts can look at the speed, changes in velocity, acceleration and braking inputs, steering inputs, and other information to determine what the truck was doing in the moments leading up to the accident.

For example, was the trucking driver speeding? Did the truck driver attempt to brake or swerve to avoid a collision? Truck accident reconstruction reports often serve as critical evidence in cases.

Once your accident reconstruction experts have used the black box data to prepare a report or animation showing how the crash occurred, this evidence can be used in several ways to prove your right to compensation in your truck accident case. For example, your attorney may seek to depose the truck driver to question them about the actions they took leading up to the crash, or the driver’s testimony may be held for trial. If the driver’s testimony contradicts the black box data, your attorney can use that data to show that the driver is not credible.

Alternatively, if you have an accident reconstruction based on the black box data, you can use that to show that the trucking companies’ accident reconstruction reports have inaccuracies or were not properly based on verifiable data.

Black box data may also reveal other causes for a truck crash. For example, data about how long an engine had been running can show that the truck driver had exceeded hours-of-service limitations and may have been fatigued at the time of the accident. Sensor data, fault codes, or maintenance logs can show that an accident was caused by the failure to perform required or recommended maintenance on the truck.

Talk to a Truck Accident Lawyer Now

If you’ve been injured in a wreck, reach out to Joye Law Firm for a free, no-obligation consultation with a truck accident attorney. Our experienced legal team knows how to investigate these complex crashes and demand the justice you deserve. Call us at 888-324-3100 or contact us online to speak with a South Carolina truck accident lawyer.