What to Know About Commercial Truck Black Boxes
May 8, 2023 / Truck Accidents
Being involved in a commercial truck accident in Indiana is a terrifying experience that can lead to catastrophic and even fatal injuries. Survivors may be left traumatized and facing long, painful recoveries that require expensive rehabilitation and continuing care, and medical bills mount up at a time they are unable to work.
If you or a loved one has been injured or someone has died in a commercial truck crash that was due to another party’s negligence or fault, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation for your losses and injuries. However, insurance companies will try to deny claims, get you to settle for as little as possible, or even make it seem that you are to blame for the accident.
There are a large number of parties potentially liable for a truck accident; they may include major corporations and multiple insurance companies well-experienced in defending claims and lawsuits brought against them.
This is why it is so important to have an experienced Indiana commercial trucking accident lawyer on your side who knows Indiana personal injury law, how to investigate the accident, and how to fight back against trucking companies and their insurers to help you receive the settlement you deserve.
Proving negligence is essential to winning your case. In situations where the driver of the truck, the trucking company, or some other party did something that contributed to the accident, one major source of evidence is the truck’s black box.
Why is the Black Box Important After a Truck Accident?
The Black Box, often referred to as an Electronic Logging Device (ELD), is a recorder that is designed to detect certain actions and data that can provide insight into how and why an accident happened. This information, and especially the data gained from the vital seconds before and immediately after the crash, is extremely useful when investigating the accident.
The box captures data such as:
- How fast the truck was going
- Braking activity, including whether the brakes were applied and whether the driver slammed on the brakes
- Whether seatbelts were in use
- Cruise control status
- The angle of the truck rolling over
- Airbag deployment
- Clutch application
- GPS coordinates
- Steering position and angles
- The truck’s mechanical status.
This information can help determine the causes of the crash and whether the truck driver was at fault or there was a mechanical problem in the truck that contributed to the accident. In addition, the black box monitors whether or not there was compliance with federal trucking Hours of Service guidelines and regulations.
The trucking industry is governed by Indiana state and federal safety regulations, and failure to meet them creates liability. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (Title 49, Parts 350-399) govern all vehicles engaged in interstate traffic, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has rules for:
- Driver’s license standards
- Safety and fitness procedures
- Financial responsibility for motor carriers
- Maximum hours truckers can drive to eliminate fatigue
- Inspection, repair and maintenance.
When these regulations are not adhered to, the responsible parties can be found negligent and liable for damages.
To prove negligence legally, your attorney would have to show the existence of the following elements:
- Duty – The defendant(s) in the case owed you a duty of care not to cause harm.
- Breach – The defendant breached that duty by acting or failing to act.
- Cause – This action or failure to act caused a crash and your injuries.
- Damages – You suffered damages as a result.
Trucking accident cases are especially complicated because there may be multiple parties that can be held liable. For example, truckers may work directly for a large company, or they may be independent contractors.
Drivers may have driven while fatigued or impaired; cargo may have been loaded incorrectly; parts of the truck may have failed; or problems with road maintenance may have contributed to the accident. The truck’s black box will provide invaluable information that is essential for identifying liable parties and proving negligence.
Depending on the circumstances, liable parties may include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The owner of the cargo
- Third-party contractors
- Other negligent drivers
- The manufacturer of the truck or its equipment or parts
- The mechanic responsible for maintaining the vehicle
- The municipality or road repair company responsible for maintaining the road.
Your attorney should use black box data as a tool to help identify all parties who were at fault for contributing to the accident and name them as defendants in the case, as they all may have insurance and assets that can go toward a settlement award.
What Should I Know About Commercial Truck Black Boxes?
Since a black box is so important in determining negligence in a lawsuit, when trucking companies know they were at fault, they are unlikely to volunteer to provide it to you voluntarily. This is why it is essential to act quickly to preserve and obtain data that can be used as evidence before it can be damaged or destroyed.
This may happen deliberately or in the normal course of handling a wrecked truck that may be salvaged and sold. Your attorney should take immediate steps to prevent the destruction of the black box and then retrieve and preserve it.
Retrieval of black box data is best done by trucking experts who have the qualifications to perform the necessary downloads from the box and then interpret the data which may be used to reconstruct the accident.
This is especially important if the insurance or trucking company disputes liability and tries to make it seem that the accident was your fault, so make sure your commercial truck accident attorney has the resources to hire an expert who can do this quickly.
If the black box has already been damaged, it can be sent to a special lab where expert engineers may be able to salvage chipsets and printed circuit boards that can be analyzed by machines produced by the black box manufacturer.
The trucking company has ownership rights to the black box and may try to prevent you from using its data, but your truck accident lawyer knows how to pressure big corporations to preserve crucial information.
Get Help from Our Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer in Indiana
If you or a loved one has been harmed in a truck accident, the skilled and experienced attorneys at Stephenson Rife are fully prepared to help you recover an award for compensatory damages. These may cover both your economic damages for monetary costs and losses and your non-economic damages for losses that may not have a specific dollar value but negatively impact your life, such as physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Damage award amounts you may receive in a successful truck accident case can vary from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the circumstances. Our truck accident lawyers know from experience what your case should be worth and will fight for as high a settlement as possible.
Remember that it is especially important to begin investigations quickly after a big rig truck accident, while black box and other evidence can be found and preserved. When you have Stephenson Rife on your side, we will get to work for you immediately.
We will thoroughly investigate your case by examining the crash scene, interviewing eyewitnesses and first responders, examining driver cell phone records, truck maintenance and employer hiring and training records, as well as the truck black box data which can show how the truck was being operated at the time of the crash.
We offer a free consultation to evaluate your case and determine the way to move forward, and we work on a contingency basis, so there are no up-front costs to you. If we win your case, then attorney’s fees and expenses will be paid out of the settlement.
Do not delay. Indiana has a deadline called a statute of limitations (Indiana statute §34-11-2-4), generally two years from the date of the injury, to file a personal injury lawsuit. In case of death, the law allows two years from the day of the death to file a wrongful death claim. If you do not file on time, the courts are likely to refuse to hear your case.
Call Stephenson Rife at 317-680-2350 today to get started while the black box can be preserved, evidence is fresh, and witnesses can be found.
Attorney Mike Stephenson
Attorney Mike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, just to name a few. Mike is a proven advocate and trial attorney. He has served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and has handled litigation in 18 states. [ Attorney Bio ]