For those of a certain age, it may come as a surprise that black boxes are in most cars made today. Your car’s black box, also known as an event data recorder (EDR), becomes vitally important if you are in a car or truck crash. Why? First, it helps investigators determine who was at fault by detailing what happened in the moments before the incident. If you decide to pursue a lawsuit for damages related to the accident, your attorney can use the data as evidence to support your claim and maximize your compensation.
For victims harmed in car or truck accidents, data from black boxes can make all the difference in helping you win your lawsuit. In this blog, we do a deep dive into black boxes in cars and discuss their importance in accident lawsuits.
Information on Car Black Boxes
What is a Black Box?
Most people associate black boxes with aviation. A flight data recorder, also known as the "black box," is a crucial device that records essential flight data and conversations in case of accidents or incidents. The information from the data recorder can be used to better understand what happened prior to an accident.
A car black box is no different; it records driving information before, during, and after an accident. Car black box data may include information on speed, turning, braking, throttle position, airbag activation, and more.
Do Cars Have Black Boxes?
Yes, there are black boxes in cars. Car black boxes are installed in most modern cars and trucks. Ford, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and other major automakers include event data recorders on standard vehicles. It is important to note the recorded data is not easily accessible to the average car owner. Most car makers require specialized equipment or authorized personnel to access black box data.
How Do I Know if My Car Has a Black Box?
The first car black boxes appeared in the mid 1970s, though it would take another 20 years before the technology was more widely adopted. Some GM models (the Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, and others) started using data recorders in 1997. By the 2000s most of GM’s U.S. fleet had black boxes. Other carmakers followed suit in the 2000s, and by 2012, they became industry standard.
If your vehicle was manufactured after 2012, it is likely equipped with a black box. To be certain, consult your car or truck owner’s manual, or you can use this vehicle search tool to see if your make/model has a black box.
What Does a Car Black Box Record?
A car black box records various types of data related to a vehicle's performance and operation. The basic variables that a black box typically records include:
- Vehicle speed
- Acceleration and deceleration speeds
- Steering angles
- The tilt of the vehicle
- Throttle position
- Whether brakes were applied
- Force of impact
- Airbag deployment times
- Seat belt usage
Some models may also track GPS location and capture video or audio from inside the vehicle, though the recording capability may be limited to around 20 seconds before an accident. More on this below.
How Do I Access Car Black Box Data?
Accessing the data recorded by a car's black box requires a specialized data retrieval toolkit with the appropriate software, hardware, and a cable that connects to the vehicle's onboard diagnostics port. It is important to note that, in some cases, additional training may be necessary to correctly interpret the data retrieved from the vehicle's computer.
Black box data can be used as evidence in personal injury claims, particularly in cases where fault needs to be established, contradictory testimonies are present, or the magnitude of the impact needs to be determined for assessing potential injuries. It is crucial to act quickly to preserve this evidence as some devices have a limited recording capacity of around 30 days and may start erasing data after that time. If the vehicle involved belongs to a company, they may consider the data their property, so notifying them to preserve the data or obtaining a court order might be necessary. In cases where black box data cannot be accessed from directly involved vehicles, data from other vehicles involved in the accident may be helpful in supporting a claim.
It is recommended to seek legal representation as soon as possible if you have been involved in a car accident and wish to access the data from a black box for your personal injury lawsuit. An attorney can put the opposing side and insurance company on notice to preserve the black box data, obtain a court order if needed, and use the data as evidence in your case. Acting swiftly and seeking legal assistance can help protect your rights and increase your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.
How Long Do Car Black Boxes Record Data?
Car black boxes constantly record data while the vehicle is in use. However, that data is generally only saved under two conditions:
- The vehicle’s safety system is initiated but the airbags do not deploy. These “near misses” are temporarily saved, but the duration can vary among manufacturers. The data stored in near miss scenarios typically lasts for about 250 ignition cycles, which is roughly equivalent to three to four weeks of normal driving activities. If you need to access the data, the car accident lawyers at Wisner Baum recommend doing so as soon as you are able.
- The airbags deploy. In an accident where the airbags are deployed, the data is preserved more permanently. That said, we still recommend gaining access to the data as soon as possible.
The actual recording duration may vary depending on the specific circumstances and events. After a crash, black boxes usually retain recordings for approximately 20 seconds leading up to the accident. Some black boxes record only the last few seconds or events before a collision occurs.
Whatever the circumstances of your crash, a lawyer can help you obtain the data to help your case.
Do Insurance Companies Look at Data From Black Boxes in Cars?
Black box data may be of interest for insurance companies investigating accidents and adjusting claims. But under the Driver Privacy Act, electronically recorded data on cars is the property of the owner or lessee. As such, black box information cannot be accessed by third parties without a court order or consent of the vehicle owner or lessee.
Some insurers for commercial trucks include clauses in their policies that permit them to obtain black box data in the event of a crash. When the policyholder accepts the insurance coverage, that technically serves as consent. But generally speaking, insurance companies cannot use black box data without a court order or the owner/lessee’s consent.
How Can a Car Black Box Help in a Lawsuit?
Yes. Car black box data can be valuable evidence in a car accident lawsuit. The data recorded by EDRs can help establish what happened in the moments prior to the accident, especially when the parties involved do not remember the details or provide contradictory testimony. Black box data can also help determine the magnitude of the impact, which can bolster your claims for property damage reimbursement, damages related to medical care, and pain and suffering. The data can also show if other vehicles were involved in the accident, potentially adding to the value of your claim.
A Lawyer Can Help Obtain Black Box Data From The Other Driver
If you have been involved in a car accident and wish to access the data from a black box for your personal injury claim, it is recommended to seek legal representation as soon as possible. If you are having trouble accessing data from the at-fault driver, an attorney can notify the opposing side and insurance company to preserve the black box data, obtain a court order if necessary, and use the data as evidence in your case. Acting quickly and having legal assistance can protect your rights and improve your chances of securing the compensation you deserve.
What If I Was Partially At Fault?
In California, the concept of comparative negligence is applied in car accident cases. Under this rule, even if a plaintiff is partially at fault for an accident, they can still recover damages based on the percentage of fault assigned to other parties involved.
California follows a "pure" comparative negligence system, which means that even if a plaintiff is found to be partially at fault, they can still seek compensation for their injuries. This approach allows injured parties to collect damages regardless of their level of fault, providing some level of recourse even in situations where they bear a significant degree of responsibility for the accident. The use of comparative negligence helps ensure a fair distribution of liability and damages in personal injury cases.
Data from a car black box may contradict statements from witnesses and help your claim, even if you were partially at fault. If you are unsure about your legal rights after a crash that may have been partially your fault, please contact an attorney who can answer all your questions. You will be able to find out relatively quickly whether or not you have a claim.
Hire the Wisner Baum Injury Attorneys | Billions in Verdicts and Settlements
In the aftermath of a car accident, it is critical not to accept an insurance settlement offer without speaking to a lawyer first. Our attorneys have helped numerous clients maximize their compensation after receiving a lowball settlement from the insurance company.
Make no mistake: auto insurance companies are more concerned with their bottom line than they are about making sure you have the financial resources you need to put your life back together after an accident. Hiring an experienced car accident lawyer can help level the playing field and get you fully and fairly compensated for your injuries. Let us negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and present evidence to show the true extent of your damages.
With more than $4 billion in settlements and verdicts, the accident attorneys at Wisner Baum have the experience and resources needed to take on any corporate defendant and win in court.
To schedule a free, confidential consultation, fill out our contact form or call (855) 948-5098. We accept cases in California and throughout the country.