Most people have heard of a “black box” when it’s associated with a plane crash. An airplane’s “black box” is called a flight recorder. But did you know that the car or truck you drive also has a black box? An automotive black box is commonly referred to as an event data recorder (EDR). The EDR continuously records information but it overwrites the previous few minutes until an event occurs that locks the data in place. The event is usually a crash that results in a sudden change in wheel speed. The data can reveal important information about the operation of the vehicle for several minutes before the event occurred such as speed, braking, steering angle, and seat-belt use. The EDR may continue to record for a short time after the event.
After a severe crash, particularly involving loss of life, the EDR data may be accessed by the Police. Access to data from an EDR requires specialized hardware and software to “image” the data. Because the data can be lost unless it is accessed quickly, time is of the essence and accident victims or their family members should consult counsel as soon as possible after a severe crash.
Recently, partner Eugene C. Miller was retained by a client shortly after a serious crash. The firm’s staff located one of the vehicles in a local salvage yard. Mr. Miller was able to gain access to the vehicle and an expert retained just for that purpose by Mr. Miller was able to image the data from the vehicle’s EDR. The data revealed that the driver of vehicle had been speeding prior to and at the time of the impact and had never applied his brakes before impact. The negligence of the driver of that vehicle will now be provable in the absence of eyewitness testimony. The data will help establish liability for the crash and will be extremely helpful to Mr. Miller in order to obtain reasonable compensation for the injured victims.