Truck’s Black Box Is Key to Accident Litigation

Truck’s Black Box Is Key to Accident Litigation

Black boxes are known as "electronic control modules" (ECMs) or "event data recorders" (EDRs). Most commercial trucks are equipped with an ECM or EDR, and many national or regional carriers also use satellite tracking equipment or trip recorders to monitor their fleet. It is critical to a personal injury case that all electronic data available is preserved. If you are involved in a commercial motor vehicle collision, it is imperative you immediately hire an attorney experienced in handling commercial trucking cases. That attorney will ensure the preservation of electronic data from any of the available sources. Such information is the most reliable and objective source of information about the events that occurred just prior to a crash.

What is an EDR or ECM? An EDR is a device that stores data about the physical properties of a vehicle that is involved in an event, which can include an accident or near accident. Information that can be stored and downloaded from EDRs in most commercial trucks includes speed history, excessive RPM, heavy breaking, speed exceptions, hours driven, movement summary, fast accelerations, accident reports, driver identification, idle time, fuel consumption and seating driving time limits. In commercial vehicles that are equipped with global positioning satellite systems, much of the above information can be transferred immediately via satellite to a "home" base. Currently, federal regulations do not require that trucks have EDRs; however, almost all truck engines today have an ECM that functions as an EDR. An ECM is standard equipment on all diesel fuel injection systems. ECMs allow companies to monitor and analyze trip times, speeds, total idle time and the existence and number of hard stops, all of which can help a company save fuel and engine wear and tear by better managing its fleet. An experienced trucking attorney ensures all electronic information is preserved before the trucking company loses and/or destroys it. 

In many instances, EDR and ECM evidence can corroborate a person’s version of events and bolster their personal injury case. For example, imagine a situation in which an eyewitness claims that the truck driver was speeding. The driver insists that he was below the posted speed limit. EDR and ECM evidence can prove the driver was operating his commercial motor vehicle over the speed limit prior to the crash.

Accident reconstruction, particularly in multi-vehicle or severe injury cases, will be an important aspect of proving your case. Information on an EDR/ECM will be used by an accident reconstructionist, in addition to other evidence from the scene, to effectively demonstrate what occurred and who was at fault. This is yet another reason to immediately retain an experienced trucking attorney, who will retain a reconstructionist to go out to the scene and investigate. Physical evidence does not last forever and must be documented. In accident reconstruction, analyzing all available data, including EDR data from other vehicles involved in the crash, is of tantamount importance.

Preservation of this evidence must be done as soon as possible. Do not trust that a trucking company will do it. EDR/ECM data can be overwritten if the vehicle is moved or operated after an accident. Critical data, whether it is facts that will assist you in pursuing your personal injury case or help you to assess the potential liability of the trucking company/driver, can be lost if you do not act quickly, and the potential consequences are significant.

Bordas and Bordas has the necessary experience to handle your case against any trucking company and their drivers. Please call us with any questions.

Today's blog: Commercial trucking vehicles are enabled with equipment that can give exact details of things like speed, hours driven, heavy breaking, etc. This information should be obtained immediately after a trucking accident to determine what caused the crash and how it can help with a legal case.