How important is black box data after a truck accident? Semi-trucks and other large commercial trucks are intrinsic to the American way of life, delivering necessary groceries, medicine, clothing, and all kinds of other required goods. If they were to stop making their treks across the nation, everyone will notice pretty quickly.
However, semi-trucks also cause many injuries and deaths every year due to negligence. A black box device can often establish liability in these accidents. For more information, reach out to a truck accident lawyer.
What Is a Black Box?
Semi-truck has what is known as a black box, similar to devices in airplanes, trains, and other large and complex vehicles. This device records and stores various information concerning the vehicle’s status.
If the truck is in an accident, the black box data can usually reveal information vital to the crash investigation. Some black boxes continuously record data and store it for longer periods. However, other models only retain the data for a few minutes leading up to a crash.
Law enforcement officers, crash investigators, truck accident attorneys, and insurance companies will rely on the black box to gather information about what happened with the truck leading up to the accident. It may provide information about who caused the crash.
Semi-trucks constructed after the 1990s typically have a black box. In addition to black boxes, many major national trucking operations use satellite tracking equipment or trip recorders that help monitor their fleet on the road.
Data the black box provides might be extremely vital to your truck accident case. It may contain a missing piece of the puzzle about how the crash occurred or who is to blame. For example, the black box can prove their negligence if the truck driver was speeding, didn’t brake at a stoplight, or lost control of their vehicle.
Black box data might show:
- Evidence that the truck driver drifted to the shoulder of the highway, possibly indicating a distracted or fatigued driver at the time of the accident.
- That a driver suddenly swerved before the collision, which might explain a rollover accident.
- Proof that the steering wheel turned directly before a blind spot accident showing that the truck driver attempted to merge into another lane immediately preceding the collision.
Information Stored in a Black Box
Data you might obtain from a black box depends on the truck manufacturer.
However, it might include:
- The speed the truck was traveling immediately before an accident
- How often the truck crossed over or under a certain speed limit
- Sudden decelerations and accelerations
- Whether the driver applied the brakes and when
- The number of hard stops a truck made and the rotations per minute (RPM) between each stop
- If the driver used cruise control
- Daily or monthly activity logs
- If the driver was wearing a seatbelt
- Airbag deployment
- Tire pressure
- Engine oil levels
- How many times the truck has been in a crash
- The time interval between accidents
- GPS location and information
- If the driver turned the steering wheel at any given time
Some black boxes can also reveal important communication between the truck driver and the trucking carrier that help determine the cause of an accident. For instance, there might be emails proving that the driver was drowsy, the truck had mechanical problems, or other circumstances on a trip that caused or contributed to the crash.
Black box usage data is similar to a trucker’s logbook and can help determine if the driver violated federal travel time rules regarding the hours spent on the road without a break. Suppose such a reason led to the collision. In that case, the black box data might help establish the trucking company’s liability for any damages.
In conjunction with physical evidence, accident scene reconstruction, eyewitness testimony, and other facts of the case, black box data can prove a truck driver or trucking company’s liability in an accident. Recovering the losses you experienced as a result of your truck accident relies on these pieces of evidence.
How Can My Truck Accident Lawyer Obtain a Truck’s Black Box Data?
Most black boxes store data for about 30 days before it gets recorded over, although some models will record over crucial data in a much shorter period. There’s also the possibility that the trucking company might deliberately erase information related to an accident to destroy important information that might be damaging to them in a personal injury lawsuit.
Since the trucking company maintains control of the black box, they also have control over the information it contains. Sometimes trucking companies don’t want to turn black box data over to investigators or attorneys, especially if their truck driver is at fault for the accident. Instead, trucking companies operate on profits and want to avoid assuming financial responsibility for a crash to protect their profits.
A trucking company can intentionally or accidentally erase black box evidence, so it’s imperative to recover this data as soon as possible after the accident before they record over it or discard it. This often requires your truck accident attorney to legally compel the trucking company to turn over black box data.
The most common way to accomplish this is to send an evidence preservation letter directly to the trucking company on your behalf. The letter informs the trucking company of the potential that you will file suit and instructs them not to destroy information that might be critical to the case.
Your lawyer should send this letter immediately after an accident to avoid having evidence lost or destroyed before you can access it. In addition, your truck accident lawyer can also hire an expert in electronic recording devices to avoid problems or a loss of evidence when they download the information from the black box.
Do You Have a Truck Accident Case?
Suppose you suffered an injury in a truck accident. In that case, you or your truck accident attorney must prove several points to obtain compensation. The party at fault for your accident must have breached a duty, and you must have suffered damages. Without these two elements, there’s no valid claim.
Breach of a Duty
Truck drivers have the duty to drive safely, following traffic laws and government-imposed standards for their industry. If the driver doesn’t follow these rules or standards, they breached their duty and are negligent.
Injuries and Damages
Negligence by itself doesn’t give an injury claim merit. In addition, you must suffer a physical injury. Your injuries must cause you to incur provable damages. These can be economic such as medical expenses or lost wages, or non-economic, such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Many different factors can cause truck accidents. Some of them are the same factors that apply to other motor vehicle accidents. Some are unique to the truck driving industry.
It’s normal for truck drivers to drive long distances over numerous hours, getting little rest along the way. Understandably, truck drivers face a lot of pressure to deliver the load within a short window of time.
Many sleep as little as possible and press on to get the job done. The sleep they do get often isn’t quality sleep. Their fatigue can cause them to lose concentration and coordination behind the wheel. Some even end up falling asleep while driving. Even though federal laws address how often they must have rest periods and how long they should be, it’s easy for them to ignore the laws.
Many truckers use alcohol and other drugs while working. Some use or buy substances while in town, and others bring them along for the trip. Either way, it’s illegal and puts all motorists at risk. Even some prescription drugs can lead to impaired driving.
Lack of Proper Training
Truck drivers can’t operate large commercial vehicles on public roadways until they have met minimum training requirements. They must have a specific number of behind-the-wheel practice hours as required by law. However, many truck drivers don’t get the training they need to drive safely. Trucking companies frequently ignore this fact to get more drivers on the road.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Truck drivers are legally required to ensure that their vehicles are in top condition before getting on the road. Since this takes additional time and can cost money, many truckers instead focus on getting their job done. They ignore their responsibility to maintain their truck, increasing the risk of an accident.
Truck drivers can get to their destination quicker by speeding. While this makes sense logically and for profitability, it puts many lives in severe danger. Speeding is especially concerning for big rigs. Being larger and heavier vehicles, trucks need more time and distance to stop.
Driving for many hours over long distances often causes drivers to become bored. Naturally, they search for something to keep them occupied, but it leads to distracted driving.
To kill the boredom, they might:
- Read or reply to text messages
- Make phone calls
- Visit social media sites
- Change the car radio station
- Program their GPS
- Eat or drink
Distracted driving is really performing any action behind the wheel other than driving. When truckers divert their attention away from driving and the road, even for a fraction of a second, it significantly increases the chance of an accident.
What Makes Big Rig Accidents so Destructive?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), when it comes to crashes, tractor-trailers are the most hazardous type of trucks on the road. In a recent year alone, 108,000 crashes involving large trucks injured people and 4,842 large trucks killed someone.
These big rig accidents don’t occur as frequently as passenger vehicle accidents. However, when they do occur, they are severe. These trucks have much larger dimensions and weigh much more than other vehicles they share the road with. They can’t stop as fast, and when they hit something, their weight makes them more destructive than a smaller vehicle. Depending on how their load gets packed and secured, their weight can also make them more likely to cause or be in an accident.
A semi-truck’s tires and other parts suffer extreme wear and tear from so many miles on the road, which also puts them at risk of causing an accident from a tire blowout or breaks that have stopped functioning. These two factors alone can cause catastrophic accidents.
Truck Accident Injury Statute of Limitations
Injured victims should be aware that their time to pursue a legal claim against the at-fault party is finite by state law, according to where the accident occurred. Depending on the state, you might have between one and four years from the date of your injury to file a claim against the party liable for your injuries.
If you miss this deadline, the legal system is no longer an avenue you can use to receive compensation. In most cases, you cannot pursue a claim anymore. Considering this, you must contact a knowledgeable truck accident attorney as soon as you can after realizing you have a potential personal injury claim.
Contacting an attorney early on can also have other benefits, including that they can:
- Collect and preserve evidence, including the black box, from the scene of the injury
- Stand up for your rights to the insurance company
- Protect you from the insurance company’s attempts at denying or reducing your claim
Injured in a Semi Truck Accident? Call an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer for Help Today
Semi-truck accidents can cause severe, life-altering, and life-threatening injuries. Many times, these accidents occur because of a negligent truck driver or trucking company. The black box often uncovers their negligence. These parties should compensate victims for their many losses, such as pain and suffering, lost income, and medical expenses. To get a full and fair settlement, you need a fierce and experienced legal advocate on your side. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.