The Role of the Black Box in Truck Accidents

According to statistics, there are more than 13 million registered commercial trucks in the United States. At any given time, millions of these trucks are traveling on our nation’s streets and highways, delivering goods that are essential to maintaining our economy and way of life. While commercial trucks play a vital and important role, they are also subject to many dangers, including the potential of a serious traffic collision. Each year in the United States, approximately 500,000 accidents take place involving tractor-trailers and commercial vehicles. These accidents led to about 150,000 injuries and approximately 5,000 deaths. Many injuries suffered in a commercial truck crash are serious in nature and will require extensive medical treatment. The injuries sustained can impact every area of your daily life.

Following a commercial truck accident, authorities will conduct an investigation into the collision and its cause. This investigation is important because it can establish fault and legal liability for the crash. Based on the evidence at the scene, police officers and investigators will make a conclusion on how the accident happened and who should be held responsible. One key piece of evidence during the investigation process is the black box that is inside the truck. A truck’s black box often holds a treasure trove of valuable information that helps assist investigators following an accident.

Here, we will take a look at the truck’s black box and the roles that it can play when an accident happens. If you or your family member have been affected by a truck crash anywhere in the United States, our national truck accident attorneys are standing by to assist you at any time. Give us a call to see how we can help.

What is the Black Box?  The Role of the Black Box in Truck Accidents

Many people are familiar with the concept of a “black box” and what it does. Generally speaking, however, commercial trucks come equipped with these installed devices. Some black boxes are continuously recording data while others will only obtain data for a few minutes leading up to the crash.

Law enforcement investigators, insurance companies, and attorneys may find data from the black box to be useful. The data from the black box can help to determine who was at fault for the accident. Prior to the turn of the century, black boxes were not always installed in trucks. However, since that time, a large majority of trucks have the black box installed even though it is not legally required.

Once data is retrieved from the black box following a crash, it can give many clues about the accident. For example, the data may show if the truck drifted off the roadway prior to the accident. It can also show whether sudden movements, such as swerving or jerking of the truck took place. The black box also monitors and records other key information, such as:

  • Speed of the truck at or near the time of the collision
  • Sudden acceleration and deceleration of the truck
  • Application of brakes
  • Whether the truck was being operated in cruise control
  • Deployment of airbags
  • Tire pressure
  • Oil levels
  • GPS location information

All of this data can be gathered in order to help determine exactly what the truck was doing prior to the accident. Once this information is gathered, it can be used to help police, insurance adjusters, and others piece together exactly how the crash took place.

Obtaining Black Box Data

Knowing that a black box exists in a truck is one thing. However, obtaining data from the black box is another. While the black box is valuable for the reasons already stated, getting the information is sometimes easier said than done. To start, most of the software used to record data on the black box is only programmed to hold up to 30 days of records. After 30 days, the software may overwrite the data so that it cannot be recovered.

Another potentially more serious issue is tampering with the black box or intentionally deleting data. Trucking companies who do not want to be held liable for a crash may attempt to conceal or destroy information that tends to prove their liability. This includes deleting black box data from at or near the time of the crash.

In order to avoid the potential loss of evidence, it is vital to have an attorney on your side as soon as possible. Once a lawyer is involved, they can request that any black box data not be destroyed or overwritten pending an investigation into the crash. One way this can be accomplished is to put the trucking company on notice by sending them a letter of non-spoliation. The non-spoliation letter in essence warns the company that there may be a claim filed against them and that they should not take any steps to destroy, alter, conceal, or otherwise tamper with evidence.

If a trucking company chooses to disregard the non-spoliation letter, it can later be subject to sanctions from the court for destruction of evidence. The non-spoliation letter is effective, but only if it is sent within a time frame during which the data remains available to be preserved.

National Truck Crash Attorneys

Successfully handling a truck accident claim requires a thorough investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the crash. Obtaining all of the available evidence is important to proving who was at fault. Many key pieces of evidence can come from a truck’s black box. Following a crash, it is important to obtain the black box data at the soonest possible time in order to avoid the loss or destruction of the information. Requesting preservation right away is the most important step that can be taken to ensure the integrity of the claim.

Here at Burg Simpson, our team of nationwide truck crash lawyers are here to help you at any time. We provide free consultations and case evaluations for all potential and prospective clients. There is no obligation until we obtain a recovery for you. To schedule your time to speak with one of our attorneys, please reach out to us using our online intake form or give us a call at 866-695-1236.


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