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Using Black Box Technology to Win Personal Injury Claims

By Keith Stachowiak on March 23, 2020 // Leave a Comment

two cars in a a collision If you were in an accident, what if there was a way to see exactly what your vehicle was doing in the seconds before and after the crash?

If you had access to data showing how your vehicle speed changed, how hard your vehicle was hit, and braking patterns, it might help prove that you were not at fault for an accident. Most motor vehicle crash investigators do a great job at recreating an accident scene and today, technologies are assisting them more than ever.

Learn more about black box technology below, and why you should hire a car accident attorney with experience in obtaining this valuable data after any car accident.

What Is a Black Box Recorder?

In the 1990s, some carmakers began putting a device known as a Vehicle Electronic Digital Recorder, or EDR, in every vehicle to capture vehicle performance and safety measures. This is also commonly referred to as a “black box”, even though they are not typically black. In addition, the black box would also record a few seconds of a vehicle’s movement right before and right after a crash.

Because the data collection and safety review proved valuable, many car manufacturers followed suit, adding these electronic devices to new car models. Soon, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pushed for ALL vehicles manufactured after 2008 to be equipped with a black box. These electronic devices are invaluable after a car accident and can be used to prove crash liability in legal claims.

How Do I Know If My Vehicle Is Equipped With a Black Box Recorder?

The majority of passenger cars, SUVs, and small trucks traveling Wisconsin roads today are built with a black box positioned directly under the driver’s seat. The NHTSA reports about 96-percent of motor vehicles are operating with one today. Large trucks and commercial vehicles have different types of EDR technology used for similar purposes.

If you’re wondering whether your vehicle has one or not, Harris Technical Services provides the most updated list of all vehicles equipped with EDRs or owners can find out the location of their car’s black box by reviewing the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

What Does the Black Box Recorder Show?

A recording of both vehicle and operator data is triggered upon airbag deployment or an “event” such as an unnatural change in the vehicle’s velocity or a crash. While the black box sensors do not capture video or audio footage, EDRs often provide moment-to-moment statistics such as:

Black box braking
  • Ignition cycles
  • Engine speed
  • Steering wheel direction
  • Restraint usage
  • Date and time
  • Braking patterns

Some newer models may include as much as 30 different types of recorded information, including the time of headlight onset, technology use of both driver and front-seat passenger, GPS locations, road conditions, lane assist performance, and other more sophisticated features found in today’s automobiles. 

These advanced gadgets can be beneficial in providing winning facts to determine if a person was indeed driving recklessly and responsible for a crash. Newer EDR models may store the information for several months after an event, but many basic black boxes only secure moments of data.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Whatever the make and year of your vehicle, it’s important to contact an attorney soon after being involved in an accident.

With experienced legal help, black box evidence can be collected and reviewed in time to present the most substantial claim in your favor.

How Is Black Box Information Accessed?

Owners of a vehicle involved in a crash control access to the recording device, but a crash data retrieval system will be required to run diagnostics. Collecting the information is time-sensitive and costs around $2,500. If a vehicle was heavily damaged and the box demands sensitive removal and care, extra expenses may be necessary to help gather and read all the information needed to prove fault in a legal claim.

In Wisconsin, an attorney and a court order are often necessary to gather evidence and real-time crash facts from an EDR inside another person’s vehicle. Also, most consumer insurance policies state that the holder has to agree to “cooperate” or assist in settling or handling the claim, and one part of this cooperation can be providing access to the EDR.

After obtaining a warrant, police sometimes use black box data to assist in crash scene investigations and site reconstructions. They will generally only use the EDR information to support other evidence consistent with collision facts.

Why Is It Important to Find an Experienced Black Box Attorney?

semi truck hitting van

Car accident blame is easily disputed among parties even when independent witnesses, traffic camera footage, or in-vehicle technology systems may provide the best proof of who was at fault. But black box data could become useful as well after being well scrutinized and given the proper weight as evidence. An attorney can ensure EDR reports will support a case rather than hurt it. These experienced black box lawyers will know how to investigate, retrieve, and use the right data to do so.

For more than 30 years, the attorneys at Murphy & Prachthauser have been working diligently to help people in the Milwaukee area who have been hurt or injured in car accidents, prepare their cases thoroughly, so they receive favorable outcomes and the deserved compensation.


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If you have a black box case that you would like to speak to a lawyer about, please contact us to get a free consultation and get an experienced team of lawyers working on your behalf.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Research and Development (Web Log Post). November 28, 2018. Event Data Recorder Report. Retrieved July 9, 2010, from https://www.nhtsa.gov/research-data/event-data-recorder#overview-10516