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Truck Accidents

The Importance of Black Boxes in Semi-Truck Accident Investigations

Posted Sep 28, 2021 by Matt Boulton

Semi-truck accidents frequently leave devastation in their wake. These large, heavy, and often fast-moving vehicles can be incredibly difficult to stop. With these events, multiple vehicles involvement often occurs, potentially causing questions about liability. Sadly, many people who survive semi-truck accidents may experience injuries.

When investigating these events, black boxes can provide critical insights into how and why they occurred. Unfortunately, accessing and reviewing a black box is rarely possible without the help of a seasoned truck accident attorney.

What a Black Box Is and How It Can Help

Whether filing a personal injury claim or a wrongful death lawsuit, the collection and examination of all available evidence is key to getting fair compensation and a fair determination of fault. Black boxes are an important safety technology that was once exclusively used in the aviation industry. Given the incredibly high rate of semi-truck accidents and the substantial amount of damage they cause, the industry adopted block boxes. Also known as event data recorders, black boxes can record all pertinent information about individual trucking trips, including radio conversations between truck drivers and dispatch officers, driver actions, and the functionality and use of various mechanical systems among other things.

Details From Event Data Recorders That May Be Helpful for Your Case

Although the law doesn’t require black boxes in all commercial trucking vehicles, most semi-trucks currently have them. These devices are frequently tied into the onboard engines of trucks. As such, they log details like travel speeds, travel distances, brake use, steering wheel use, and even travel times that can help determine the following:

  • Driving while fatigued
  • Driving aggressively
  • Illegal overtaking
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Driving while distracted

When drivers have engaged in any of these activities, details collected from their onboard event data recorders can serve as solid evidence. There are also times when the fault for trucking accidents lies with the companies that have manufactured semi-trucks, or with semi-truck owners who haven’t been diligent in properly maintaining them. In these instances, some black boxes may record data pertaining to tire pressure, steering fluid, engine oil, braking system malfunction, and more.

Evidence collected from a black box carries far more weight than statements collected from firsthand witnesses. Thus, this data can make it easier to hold responsible parties accountable.

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Why Accessing Information Stored on a Black Box Is Often Difficult

A semi truck’s black box, along with any information collected and stored by this device, remains the property of the commercial trucking company that owns the truck. Given the obvious conflict of interest, most trucking companies are reticent or outright unwilling to share this evidence.

Moreover, they are not obligated to share this data with trucking accident victims unless specific legal actions are taken. Until trucking companies are legally compelled to share black box data, they rarely do so. This evidence can single-handedly prove that truckers were speeding, driving erratically, or even falling asleep behind the wheel.

Strategies That Trucking Companies Commonly Use to Conceal or Destroy Black Box Information

Even when companies believe that they might be only partially responsible for an accident, they’ll do all that they can to conceal or destroy evidence, or to shift blame to another party. Sometimes, this includes shifting blame to the actual accident victim. Unfortunately, although black box data represents incredibly solid evidence, it isn’t stored indefinitely.

One of the most common strategies used by trucking companies to avoid sharing black box information is simply waiting until a device purges itself of dated records. Many event data recorders retain their records for just 30 days. Some devices may hold records for even less. After this time, drivers record over old data or shed it.

There are also times when trucking companies may rush to repair trucks to get them back out on the road. Repair processes can destroy critical forensic evidence such as dents, dings, failed braking systems, excessively worn tires, or paint damage. More importantly, black box data may be deleted or recorded over at some point during this process.

How Boulton Law Group Can Help

Matt can take legal action to prevent the purposeful deletion or destruction of black box data. He can also extract critical evidence from these tools. His knowledge and experience with truck accidents make him especially adept in discerning which data is most relevant to individual cases, and how best to use it.

When you have an attorney on your team, your odds of accessing black box information greatly increase. You also have a far higher likelihood of finding and leveraging the exact information you need.

Why Seeking Legal Help Right Away Is Often Critical With Semi-Truck Accident Claims

Semi-truck accidents can bring life to a grinding halt for accident victims and their families. Whether you’re suffering from an injury or have recently lost a loved one in one of these events, taking fast action to seek legal help is important. The sooner that you act, the sooner your attorney can put pressure on the responsible trucking company to both protect and share black box data. Waiting too long could result in the permanent loss of this often critical evidence.

At Boulton Law Group, we have extensive experience in representing semi-truck accident victims and their families. We can help you obtain event data recorders and any vital information about your accident that they contain.

Matt Boulton

Author Matt Boulton

Attorney Matt Boulton is an award-winning personal injury attorney with more than 25 years of experience helping seriously injured people throughout Indiana. He designed his firm for the client who expects exceptional service and passionate, successful legal representation.

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