What’s in the Box? The Key to Motor Vehicle Crash Cases.

In litigating motor vehicle collisions, utilizing crash reconstruction techniques and technology is essential. While an expert may be able to make use of a law enforcement crash report, the data and conclusions in the report will not provide everything needed for a complete reconstruction. Metrics like vehicle speed, change in speed over time, braking inputs, lateral movement and engagement of the ABS can be obtained from the vehicle’s event data recorder (“EDR”) or black box. Discussed below is the process for obtaining the black box data and what you should expect to find therein.

The Process

After obtaining a crash report for the incident, locate the vehicles involved in the collision. After the vehicles are located, it is essential to send spoliation letters to companies, tow yards, vehicles owners, and repair shops which correspond to any vehicles—whether the vehicle belongs to your client or a prospective defendant. Contained within the letter should be that all EDR/Blackbox data be preserved and that no attempt be made to access the EDR and that the vehicle not be restarted. If this request is refused, seek a temporary restraining order to preserve the requested data.

It is important to note that depending on the condition of the vehicle, an expert may not be able to retrieve EDR data with a standard connection.

Of course, an expert is needed to retrieve the EDR data, and one should be retained as soon as possible if you intend to inspect a vehicle and complete a download. Once you have an expert, the expert can download data in both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks.

The Box

For passenger vehicles manufactured after 2012, federal regulations mandate that 15 separate data elements are recorded, examples of these are:

  • Delta-V and maximum delta-V
  • Vehicle Speed
  • Seat Belt Use
  • Air Bag Deployment

For commercial trucks, data recording is more complex. Not only do they utilize EDR systems but also an electronic logic device (ELD). Like an EDR system, an ELD automatically records the date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles, and identifying info for the driver. Both types are useful for determining a driver’s route, time of travel, length of travel, speed, hours of service and many other metrics that may be important when prosecuting a commercial vehicle accident case.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, including an accident involving a commercial vehicle, please contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-742-6009 or toll free at 1-888-261-8831.