Did you know that your car, truck or van has a “black box?” We all have heard of black boxes in relation to an airplane. However, a black box in a motor vehicle is a relatively new development that coincides with the digital revolution. It is estimated that 96% of vehicles on the road today have some version of an Event Data Recorder (EDR) or “black box.” While not required by law, there is discussion by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) of mandating the installation of Event Data Recorder’s by automobile manufacturers. Interestingly, Volkswagen is one of the only mass-produced vehicles that does not come with an Event Data Recorder.

So, what do these black boxes record exactly? They continuously monitor and record speed, steering, braking acceleration, seatbelt use and, in the event of a crash, force of impact and airbag deployment data. In the event of a crash with injuries, this type of data can be critical for both sides of a lawsuit. However, it is also fairly expensive at this time to access black box data. Currently, it can cost several thousand dollars to retrieve and interpret the black box data in the event of a crash. But in a disputed case, the cost is nothing considering the data is can retrieve. At the time of an impact, the black box holds onto the previous 15 seconds measurements prior to impact. This information can prove to be invaluable in establishing fault in a wreck.
In any wreck where a vehicle is totaled, the insurance company will take possession of the vehicle and scrap it pretty quickly. If there is any chance that not just fault but any aspect of the case could be in dispute, you want to see a lawyer immediately so that the EDR information can be retrieved.

In my next post, I will provide a real-life example of a “reversal of fortune” thanks to black box data.