Much like commercial airliners, most modern motor vehicles come equipped with an "Event Data Recorder" (EDR), more commonly known as a "Black Box". These devices, usually about a square foot in size, continuously record and erase data relevant to the operation of a vehicle in small (6 to 8 second) segments until a significant event, like the deployment of an air bag after an accident, prompts the device to record the most recent information in the long-term memory bank of the EDR.
Information Useful for Accident Reconstruction
The information contained in the Event Data Recorder regarding an accident can help confirm (or refute) the conclusions that crash scene investigators may hold regarding an accident. Such was the case of an accident involving a 2008 Dodge Charger last month. According to the dailyherald.com, while reconstructing the events leading to the crash, investigators had concluded that the vehicle was traveling very fast. The Event Data Recorder confirmed that the car was moving at 142 mph when the crash happened.
Event Data Recorders and Tractor Trailers
Additionally, the information contained in these EDRs may also help the case of the victim of an accident with a commercial truck. While the EDRs currently used in average family cars record only some very basic data, those installed on eighteen wheelers are much more complex and therefore, record much more data. Also, it is important to note that these vehicles usually carry more than one. The most common HV EDRs (Heavy Vehicle Event Data Recorders) are part of the truck's engine control module, while other HV EDRs may be integrated into safety features like a collision avoidance or anti-rollover system. Many trucking companies have added their own tracking/speed systems to monitor driver activity as well as truck location and speed.
Unfortunately, there is no uniformity on the kind or amount of information that an HV EDR will record because each engine manufacturer builds its own HV EDR and decides what kind of information it will record. However, most of the current HV EDRs record data such as the engine rpm, the speed, the vehicle acceleration and the maintenance record, all relevant information to those investigating an accident.
Why Hiring An Experienced Attorney Right Away is Essential
Hiring right away a law firm experienced in handling trucking accidents can be crucial for your case. For example, a lawyer that is not familiar with the fact that there may be more than one HV EDRs in a truck, may fail to look for and collect valuable information that may make (or brake) the client's case. Our firm has won a number of cases based upon data recovered from these EDRs. We employ highly skilled and qualified experts to retrieve the information because the data could be lost if the downloading is done improperly. The information must also be documented so that it will be admissible as evidence at trial. It takes a skilled and qualified legal team to insure that everything is done correctly.
Moreover, legal work on the victim's claim should begin as soon as possible after any accident, especially one with a truck or commercial vehicle. Of course, medical care for the victim comes first. Yet, it is important to hire a knowledgeable lawyer within the first few days following a serious truck accident because it will allow the lawyer to start collecting evidence that can otherwise be lost. For this reason, we immediately send letters notifying the commercial carrier, their insurance company and their lawyer, to preserve the truck, tractor, trailer, container and cargo so it can be inspected by our team of lawyers and experts. Keeping these trucks out-of-service until the inspection process is concluded is critical.
We understand that accident victims usually want (and in most cases, need) to have their vehicles repaired or replaced as soon as possible. However, we recommend that a truck accident victim do not sign away the title or give up possession of their vehicle (to their insurance company or to that of the at-fault driver) before having their own personal injury lawyer examine the car first. In a number of our cases, we keep our client's car, or purchase the salvage of other vehicles involved in the crash in order to preserve evidence and enhance the value of our client's claim.
Similarly, victims of accidents with large commercial trucks must remember that the insurers for the trucking company have their own investigators and attorneys hard at work collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses as soon as the accident is reported. As a matter of fact, these insurance companies usually have fast response teams that are dispatched to the scene as soon as the accident is reported. In an eighteen wheeler fatal crash we are currently handling, the New York lawyer for the insurance company told me that his "expert" responded to the crash scene within hours of the fatality. Shouldn't accident victims have someone working as hard for them from the start?