When a trucking accident occurs, a lot is at stake for both the injured party and the truck driver. Because of the size difference between a consumer vehicle and a big rig, the driver of the passenger vehicle is likely to sustain significant and costly damages. On the other hand, while the truck driver may remain relatively unscathed, he or she stands to lose his or her job should the deciding party determine he or she was at fault.
Without having witnessed the crash themselves, the parties who assess and determine fault may struggle to piece together what happened. That is where the vehicular data comes in.
Event Data Recorder
Event Data Recorder is the technical term for the device most consumers call the “black box,” and the data many injured parties and their attorneys rely on. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 1997 the National Transportation Safety Board proposed and got to work on the idea of using EDRs to gather and analyze crash data. In 2000, the NHTSA sponsored a research group that was to specifically focus on the use of EDRs in large vehicles, such as commercial trucks. Since then, the NHTSA, insurers and other parties have been using EDR data to support truck accident investigations.
While many people assume the little black box holds all the answers to questions regarding a collision, the truth is that the data is limited in scope. In fact, an EDR only records for a brief time — as in seconds, not minutes — before, during and after a crash. Types of data it may record include the following:
- Pre-collision system status and vehicle dynamics
- Driver input
- Deployment/restraint usage status
- Vehicle crash signature
- Post-crash data
Because of the limited data EDRs actually provide, Automotive News laments the emphasis many crash victims and their lawyers place on these devices. The publication also brings up the issue of data ownership.
Ownership of EDR and other vehicular data
According to Automotive News, the 2015 Driver Privacy Act clarified that EDR data belongs to the lessee or owner of a vehicle. In a trucking accident case, this can pose a problem for the victim, as it means he or she would have to obtain the data before the trucking company destroyed it, as some companies are apt to do. However, even if the plaintiff’s lawyer could preserve and obtain the data, the fact still remains that EDRs do not offer comprehensive or conclusive overviews of what occurred before a crash. Other modules within the vehicles, however, may. Yet, the Driver Privacy Act does not touch on these other datasets, meaning ownership is up in the air and, therefore, elusive to injured parties and their lawyers.