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Although it is well known that investigators will rely on the so-called “black boxes” to reconstruct the moments leading up to a catastrophic incident involving a train, ship, and airplane, drivers may not be aware their vehicle may be equipped with a similar device.  After Tiger Woods was hurt in the rollover crash in Southern California, investigators were wanting to retrieve the “black box” after the accident to get a better picture of the event. 

Automakers design the black box (or Event Data Recorder)  EDRs to retain about 15 seconds worth of data leading up to the crash event when injured in a Texas car accident. Check out how a black box may serve as help after a car accident. 

What’s an Event Data Recorder in a Vehicle?

Technically, the black box is referred to as an Event Data Recorder, with its main function used to know when to deploy airbags. However, an EDR  may also collect other data, such as the speed of a vehicle and the use of a safety belt, in the event of a collision to help understand how the vehicle’s system’s performed. 

Generally, the black box is a good thing for car accident lawsuits because it can be used to provide solid evidence regarding how and why a traffic accident occurred. Oftentimes, it comes down to your words against the other party’s, but if you have a black box installed in your vehicle, that can help verify the cause of the accident or simply connect the dots.

Your vehicle’s black box can be found under the passenger seat, driver’s seat, or center console of the car. For more information about the black box, you can refer to your vehicle’s manual. 

What are the Types of Data That are Collected by the EDR?

The unit is connected to the airbag system, as it was originally designed to monitor the metrics that signal the deployment of the airbags. Some of the information that a black box captures include:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Steering angle
  • The tilt of the vehicle
  • Acceleration/ Deceleration speeds
  • If brakes were applied
  • Throttle position
  • Force of impact 
  • Airbag deployment times
  • If you were wearing your seatbelt

Having a black box can be used as a form of witness after a car accident, considering the amount of information that it holds. Since the back box cannot be tampered with, the information included in the recorder may be the best form of evidence in a car accident lawsuit. 

One piece of information to remember is that the EDRs only function when the vehicle is turned on. So, unfortunately, if you were involved in an accident in which someone rammed into your vehicle while the vehicle isn’t on, your EDR will not have the information to support your claim. 

Do All Cars Have a Black Box?

The answer is yes and no. While older vehicles won’t include a black box, the NHSTA proposed making black boxes mandatory in 2014 but the devices never became federally required and manufacturers started voluntarily including them. You can find a full list of all the latest vehicles with a black box here

Since not every driver on the road is aware of the black box in their vehicle, it may be a blessing or a curse after an accident. Depending on the automaker and car model, an event data recorder may capture many more functions, though car companies aren’t required to disclose exactly what those are. 

However, it is important to note that even though it is nicknamed “black boxes’ a car’s EDR is different from an airplane’s black box as it doesn’t record data the entire time that the vehicle is being operated. A car’s EDR is constantly being overwritten with data, as it works with less memory. Unless you crash, data will not be recorded. 

Who is the Legal Owner of the Information That is Being Collected? 

Depending on the state that you reside in, the laws governing black box recorders in vehicles may be different. 

In December 2015, the Federal Driver Privacy Act of 2015 was enacted, placing limitations on data retrieval from EDRs and providing that information collected belongs to. The black box data belongs to the truck owner and Texas law prohibits downloading the information without the owner’s consent, by court order, or in relation to repair and research. Unless the court intervenes, the company may destroy or hide the data.

Can the Information From the EDR of Your Vehicle be Used? 

Typically EDR data can be downloaded with only the vehicle owner’s consent. However, exceptions may exist when a car accident lawsuit or insurance investigations are being conducted.  In addition, black box data is difficult and expensive to get, and interpreting it takes special training. 

However, the information collected by the EDR often helps fill in the gaps of the accident, in the sense that it helps support other evidence. Because it is quantitative information, it is difficult for defendants to argue against it. For example: 

  • In a multi-vehicle accident, the EDR may help prove that you did stop short from hitting the vehicle in front of you, but because you were struck from the rear, you were caused to hit the cars ahead of you. 
  • In situations in which it is your word against someone else’s, having the EDR data can help outline the circumstances surrounding the crash. 
  • It may help in a personal injury claim in which you may use force to support the severity of your injuries. The speed change after the crash and the direction of impact are important metrics in determining the mechanics of the injury. 
  • May help prove when there has been an accident that has led to the death of a motorist or the loss of someone’s memory. 

How can The Carlson Law Firm Help?

Time is against you if you have been involved in a car accident and you intend to use EDR data to support the facts of the accident. Fortunately, The Carlson Law Firm has the experience and is available 24/7, ready to help you during your toughest moments. Contact our office today for a free consultation to discuss your legal options right away. We care and we can help. 

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