Every single year, more than 86,000 people are injured in accidents involving large trucks. These accidents can cause serious injuries and even death. If you have been injured in a serious trucking accident, it is important to know that you are not alone. An experienced trucking accident attorney can help build a case that is designed to obtain maximum compensation for your injuries; however, doing so may require swift action on your lawyer’s part. One of the keys to proving negligence and winning your case involves preserving the valuable evidence on the tractor trailer’s “Black Box.”
Semi-trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. The sheer size and weight of the truck alone is enough to cause serious bodily injury when a tractor trailer is involved in an accident with a 3,000-pound passenger vehicle. Attorneys representing accident victims can often face serious challenges when proving wrongdoing on the part of the truck driver or the trucking company. These accidents can be notoriously complex, and there may be multiple parties to blame for your accident and injuries. Fortunately, there is one piece of evidence that can make your attorney’s job significantly easier – the Black Box.
Understanding the Black Box and Truck Accident Data
Since the 1990’s, most trucks manufactured in the United States come equipped with an Electronic Control Module (ECM), also known as the Black Box. These Black Boxes are designed to capture on-going data from the truck and store it as downloadable evidence for a period of time – sometimes up to 30 days or more. Some of the information that may be captured and recorded by the Black Box include:
- Overall average speed
- Highest speed
- Time driven
- Amount of time traveling over 65 mph
- Average RPMs
- Seat belt use
- Air bag performance
- Idling time
- Number of hard stops
- Brake usage
- And more
This ECM information was originally designed to be used by manufacturers to help them counter questionable warranty claims by customers. But instead, Black Box data is more often used now to help truck accident victims prove liability after an accident. The information contained in the Black Box can be used by experienced trucking accident attorneys to show discrepancies in the truck driver’s personal log or in the trucking company’s maintenance records.
After a Truck Accident, Time is Critical when Preserving Black Box Data
After a trucking accident, time is of the essence. ECMs usually record data for thirty days, sometimes less. After that, the data is recorded over, and valuable evidence can be lost. In addition, trucking companies may remove the Black Box or lose the evidence if too much time has passed. Many states have passed legislation to make Black Box data the property of the trucking company. This means that trucking companies can destroy the data if they wish to, unless it is subject to a request to preserve evidence (i.e., a preservation/non-spoliation letter sent by the injured person’s attorney). This is why it is so critical to have an experienced trucking accident lawyer on your side from the moment you are injured.
Steps to Take to Preserve the Black Box Data
The information contained in the Black Box can be invaluable when proving truck driver negligence or error. In order to preserve this evidence, and to give your case the best chance for success, your attorney should take a number of steps to preserve and retrieve this information:
- Send a presentation/non-spoliation letter to the trucking company;
- Seek to limit repair, destruction, or alteration of the tractor-trailer and its ECM data prior to inspection;
- Request ECM data; and
- Select a qualified company to read and interpret the ECM data.
Contact Our Philadelphia Trucking Accident Lawyers Today
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury in an accident with a tractor-trailer or big rig truck, it is important to know that you are not alone. The trucking accident attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have more than 90 years of experience representing injured accident victims and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties. We are also proud to serve injured accident victims and families throughout the State of New Jersey. Contact us today toll-free at 1-855-633-6251 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.