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The Black Box in Truck Accidents: What You Need To Know

If you've been injured in an accident or on the job, the attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP have the knowledge, skills, and experience required to hold the party responsible for your injury accountable.

Last Updated: 08-02-2023
Written by: Michael A. Rose and Gregory Hach

If you’ve been injured in a collision with a truck, you need an attorney with real truck accident experience who knows how the trucking industry operates. And what evidence to look for to prove your case. Your attorney should also know how to recover the data from the black box in the truck that hit you.

Truck/car collisions routinely result in death or catastrophic injuries for the occupants. That immediately creates the risk of multi-million-dollar damage awards against the driver, the trucking company, and insurers. The trucking industry knows this better than anyone. Its members have teams of lawyers, investigators, and experts on speed dial who get sent to the accident scene to gather evidence while the vehicle occupants are still in the ambulance.

The Black Box in a Truck

One of the crucial items both parties need is data from the truck’s “black box.” Like the black box in an airplane, it records the truck’s movements before, during, and after the accident. With that data, an accident reconstruction expert can testify about how the accident happened and which driver(s) caused the accident. If the trucker’s lawyers have that information and you don’t, your case will suffer significantly. For that reason alone, having just any garden variety personal injury attorney handle your case won’t do. You need Hach & Rose, LLP.

Electronic control module

The official name for the black box is “electronic control module” (“ECM”). An onboard computer constantly gathers and records details about the truck’s operation. It was originally intended to help truck manufacturers fight warranty claims by drivers. The black box captures some or all of the following data that can be critical to assessing what happened when before and during the accident:

  • The truck’s speed immediately before the crash
  • Any sudden deceleration or acceleration
  • If/when the brakes were applied
  • How often the truck exceeded the speed limit, and for how long
  • The truck’s daily activity, including hours of operation and miles driven
  • Real-time GPS location information

The Black Box Continuously Collects Data

The black box operates differently than the airbag control module in passenger cars because the black box collects data continuously. Airbag modules only get triggered only when an accident occurs. The information gathered and stored in the black box produced by one manufacturer may differ slightly from the data captured in one from a different manufacturer.

In addition, the data recorded is highly technical and must be accessed, downloaded, and interpreted meticulously by an experienced accident reconstruction expert. The trucker and his company will have their own expert who will try to use this information to argue that the trucker was not at fault, so you must be able to get to the truth.

Preserving the evidence of the accident

One of the first things your Hach & Rose, LLP attorney will do is notify the truck driver, the truck owner, and all their insurers that you are asserting a claim. We will demand that they preserve all evidence of the accident, especially the black box. Working with an expert accident reconstruction witness, our attorneys will use this and other evidence (such as police reports and witness statements) to explain why the truck driver was at fault. By comparing the relative positions of the vehicle before, during, and immediately after impact.

Among other things, our expert witness will be able to:

  • Calculate the estimated stopping distance between where the truck should have first seen your vehicle and when the truck started to brake
  • Identify different courses of action the trucker could have employed to avoid the accident.
  • Prove that your reaction to the truck’s movements was reasonable.

Communications between the truck driver and his company

The black box also records less technical but equally important information. That includes the truck driver’s communications with his company. These communications may contain damaging statements by the driver admitting that he had exceeded the maximum number of hours allowed during a specific time window. It might also disclose the driver’s or the company’s knowledge of repairs needed for the truck that was put off until after the accident with you. This kind of evidence can hurt the company’s image and make the company and its insurer more willing to settle the case.

Remember that the evidence from the truck’s black box can’t help you unless we get our hands on it before it is destroyed or goes missing. Call us at (212) 779-0057 today or visit us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced New York truck accident attorneys. It is the first step toward getting you the justice you deserve.

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