blog home Truck Accidents Are ‘Black Boxes’ Involved in Truck Crash Investigations in Houston?

Are ‘Black Boxes’ Involved in Truck Crash Investigations in Houston?

By Texas Personal Injury Lawyer on March 10, 2024

A man working under the hood of a semi truck.

Like most things in Texas, the Houston trucking industry and its vehicles are big. While the trucking industry is vital to the Texas economy, large commercial trucks pose a serious risk to other motorists. Because of their size and weight, truck accidents can be life-threatening, if not fatal, to those involved. After a truck collision, an experienced Houston truck accident attorney can assist in investigating the facts to assign fault. One method is truck data recorders, commonly called black boxes.

What Are Black Boxes in Trucks?

If you watch the news, you may have heard of the black boxes carried by airplanes. A black box data recorder, officially known as an Electronic Control Module (ECM) or Event Data Recorder (EDR), is virtually indestructible. It can be retrieved after a crash to provide investigators with a host of information about the aircraft’s functioning and failures in its final moments.

Since the 1990s, most commercial trucks have carried black boxes or ECMs. They were first created for cars and trucks to help monitor vital functions and gain insight into drivers’ actions and vehicle metrics before an accident. These onboard computers essentially act like a brain for the vehicle. For example, when your check engine light is on, your ECM uses its many monitoring systems to locate an error that requires your attention. As technology advances, this black box data can now be accessed, downloaded, and translated into valuable evidence after a collision.

Data Recorded by Black Boxes

While black boxes for trucks have some variations depending on the manufacturer, most general black boxes can record the following information before and after a collision:

  • Speed, including acceleration or rapid deceleration
  • Braking data, if and when brakes were used
  • Tire pressure
  • Cruise control, if used before the crash
  • Seatbelt usage
  • Airbag deployment
  • Location or GPS coordinates
  • Engine conditions

Accident Reconstruction Using Black Box Data

Accident reconstruction consists of data and science-based techniques to recreate the exact sequence of events leading to a crash. Accident reconstruction specialists can use information from the truck’s black box, such as GPS location, braking, steering, and engine data, to create a 3D model or digital animation of the crash. By examining all aspects, accident reconstruction experts can identify the cause of the incident.

How Black Boxes Help Determine Fault

Information stored in a truck’s black box can be vital in determining fault after an accident. An accident reconstructionist may use black box information to prove that the truck driver failed to address existing mechanical issues, violated the speed limit, failed or was unable to brake, or other possibilities that may lead to finding the driver and trucking company at fault for your injuries.

Challenges in Obtaining Black Box Data

There are some potential hurdles to consider in obtaining black box data. For example, trucking companies that monitor the truck involved in the collision may not be interested in turning over the information unless they are legally compelled to do so. Another factor is that a black box can have a limit to its data preservation; if not preserved, it may record over the information stored after 30 days or less.

A personal injury lawyer can assist you in obtaining black box data by filing a court order mandating that the trucking company preserve the evidence. An attorney can also take steps to force the company to provide this information for investigation.

Protecting the Rights of the Injured

DK Law is here to assist if you have been injured in an accident involving a truck or other heavy commercial vehicle. With over a decade of experience and millions in compensation won for our clients, the DK Law lawyers have proven to be outspoken advocates for those in need of justice.

Learn more about how we can protect your rights. Contact our Houston firm at (281) 402-8856 for your free case consultation.

Posted in: Truck Accidents

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