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Can a Vehicle’s Black Box Be Used as Evidence?

Posted on behalf of Anderson Cummings on Apr 25, 2022 in Auto Accidents

Mechanics looking at a vehicle's black box data Most modern vehicles have a black box similar to the ones on airplanes and ships. These black boxes are used to gather information that could help determine what caused a car crash. However, getting the data off the box could be difficult, especially if the information you need is in another driver’s vehicle.

Our auto accident lawyers in Fort Worth are prepared to help you file a claim and gather the necessary evidence you need to prove another driver is responsible for the crash that resulted in your injuries, including any information from a vehicle’s black box.

Below, we discuss how the black box information in a vehicle can be used as evidence.

What is the Black Box in a Vehicle?

An Event Data Recorder (EDR), the proper name for a vehicle’s black box, is a device that is installed in most vehicles today. They are used to record information about the vehicle in the seconds before, during and immediately after a collision. These devices are usually located under the front row seats or console and connected to the airbag or powertrain systems.

An EDR is not a requirement of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but most vehicle manufacturers install these devices in their vehicles. Currently in the U.S., about 96 percent of all vehicles have an EDR device.

What Information Does the Black Box Record?

An EDR is typically connected to the airbag system. The purpose is to monitor and record any pre- and post-crash data when there is an airbag deployment. However, these devices also record information from a non-airbag deployment collision, such as:

  • Acceleration rates
  • Steering
  • Force of impact
  • Duration of the crash
  • Brake activation
  • Speed  
  • Seatbelt use
  • Passenger airbag activation/use
  • Seat positions
  • Airbag deployment
  • Number of impacts
  • Tire pressure

The data from an airbag deployment is stored indefinitely, whereas data for a non-deployment event is more temporary.

How Can the Data in a Black Box Help Prove Fault?

The information that is recorded by an EDR could help determine who is liable for damages. This data is especially useful if fault for the crash is not immediately clear or if another driver contests it.

Data from the black box could help you prove the other driver was speeding, for example. It could also help you prove something the insurance company is trying to dispute. For instance, it could help to establish that you were wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.

There are a number of scenarios when the recorded information from a black box could be useful to establish fault. The only issue is whether you can access that information. Drivers should be able to access their own vehicle’s EDR data with help from an accident reconstruction expert or some other professional who has the right tools for the job. This could be difficult or expensive on your own, but our attorneys have the resources to help you get a qualified person for the job.

Can I Access the Black Box Data in the At-Fault Driver’s Car?

The real issue of retrieving black box data is when it comes from another driver’s vehicle. Especially the driver you believe to be at fault for the crash.

In these cases, you might have to file a lawsuit to push for discovery that would compel the other driver to release this information. However, you might be able to get the insurance company to cooperate early and agree to hand over the data. Either way, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to avoid having the information erased or destroyed before you can use it as evidence in your case.

If a lawsuit is filed and your attorney requests EDR data from the opposing party, and that data is purposefully destroyed, that person could be in serious legal trouble.

Can My Own Black Box Data Be Used Against Me?

The insurance company will try to use any information they discover to undervalue or deny your claim, including the data from the black box in your own vehicle. There are several excuses they may try, but our attorneys are prepared to help you fight back against their arguments.

One of the most prevalent excuses they may try to make is that you were on your phone when the crash occurred. The problem with this reasoning is that the black box may register that a cell phone was connected to the Bluetooth system in the vehicle. However, that does not necessarily mean that you were texting, browsing the internet or otherwise physically touching your phone or not watching the road when the crash occurred. You could have simply been listening to music over the Bluetooth system. You could easily disprove a texting and driving claim from the insurance company by providing your phone records.

However, there are other arguments from the insurance company that may have merit, and your own black box data could hurt your claim. For instance, if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. In this situation, your compensation could be reduced for failure to mitigate damages. However, under Texas’ comparative negligence laws, you may still be able to recover some compensation.   

We Can Help. Call Today.

Our lawyers are ready to help you build a strong case for compensation by gathering the evidence you need, including getting access to a vehicle’s black box information.

We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your claim and what your legal options may be. There are no fees while we work on your case, and you do not pay us until we successfully recover compensation on your behalf.

Call (877) 920-9009 to get started.