The answer is “yes!” Well, most of them do anyway. Roughly 96% of new cars from 2014 are equipped with black boxes, or Event Data Recorders (EDR), as they’re technically known. They can record information about a vehicle before, during, and immediately after a crash. This electronic device is part of a vehicle’s airbag and powertrain system but was initially created to record data from the airbag in the event of an accident. The two types of data it was designed to record in a crash are 1) when the airbag isn’t deployed (a “non-deployment event”) and 2) when it is deployed (a “deployment event). In both circumstances, data is recorded before, during, and after the crash, although in the case of a deployment event, the vehicle may be too damaged to record all the data. Over time and as technology in cars advanced, the black box became more sophisticated. It can now capture a wide variety of data (15 or more variables up to 20 seconds before and 10 seconds after a crash) in one-second intervals. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandates that today’s black boxes must capture the following data:
- The driver’s speed at the moment of impact.
- Brake force and when and if the brakes were applied.
- When and if the vehicle’s airbags were deployed and which ones were deployed.
- Whether or not the seatbelts were buckled and if they functioned properly.
- How much pressure was applied to the accelerator?
- The angle of the steering on impact.
- The time elapsed from the start of the collision, total collisions, and time intervals between collisions.
- If airbags were engaged and how much time did it take for them to deploy
All this information gathered by the black box is meant to help make vehicles and drivers safer by allowing investigators, insurance companies, and engineers insights into the dynamics of accidents and how to minimize or prevent them in the future. Oh, and this information also helps lawyers recreate the scene of an accident by providing factual and precise data on the vehicle and the driver’s actions. There is one very tiny catch, though; a black box only records data when the vehicle is turned on, so an individual in a parked car with the ignition off would not be able to prove liability if their vehicle was struck in an accident.
How does the information contained in a black box help you?
In the unfortunate case that you have an automobile accident with another driver and believe you’re not at fault, a black box can help corroborate your story. Your attorney, with the help of trained professionals, will pull the information from the box (should you have one in your vehicle) and use it to verify the details of the accident. Since a black box can’t be altered or tampered with, it’s the ideal form of evidence and a witness to your safe driving. It can also be invaluable in proving to an insurance company that you deserve fair compensation for any damages or injuries that may have occurred.
Recovering the information from a black box
By now, you’re probably wondering where the black box is in your car. Well, it’s strategically hidden so it won’t be accidentally damaged in a severe accident and might not even be black in color. It may even be a bright color to make it easier to find after an accident. Whatever the case, it takes a certain degree of skill and expertise to extract the box from a vehicle and then a special tool kit and software to download and read the data. The data is generally interpreted with a CDR reader, which can convert into a PDF on your chosen device. Trained individuals would then have to review the PDF with your legal team to determine how to use the data in your case. Bear in mind that the vehicle owner must give permission to access the data by law. Consult with a personal injury attorney before allowing an insurance company to access the data to potentially undermine the facts of your case or lessen your claim. In some cases, downloading the black box data might need a court order because it can be essential in determining liability after a motor vehicle accident. For example, engineers and other expert witnesses can analyze the data collected and use that information to testify in your defense.
The Bottom Line
KL understands the importance of obtaining hard-to-get data, like information recovered from a black box, to secure a fair settlement for clients. So, if you’ve been injured in a car accident and need a law firm that hires the right professionals who will dig deep and leave no stone unturned to seek out the facts to support your case.