In some St. Louis car accident cases, a driver knows they were not at fault but can’t prove it due to a lack of witnesses or video evidence. Often both drivers claim that the other was at fault, so without much evidence, it can be difficult to prove your case.
At Goldblatt + Singer, the St. Louis Injury Law firm, we always assign a team of investigators to seek out witnesses, doorbell or traffic camera videos, or any other evidence available to support your case. Sometimes this means that we look at your car’s black box data.
This small device, typically found in newer vehicles, collects and saves data about the car’s physical condition and even the driver’s behavior before and during an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been collecting data from black boxes since the early 2000s to understand how accidents happen and hopefully prevent them. The car’s manufacturer also uses this data to improve safety in future car models. But in many car accident cases, the data contained in this box also helps to reconstruct what happened and build your case.
If you drive an older model or classic car that was made in the previous century, it most likely doesn’t have a black box (although a few brands started using them as early as 1994). If you’re unsure if your car has a black box, your lawyer can look up this information for the model, make, and year. If your car doesn’t have one, we may be able to gather evidence in other ways. As time passes, the possibility of retrieving external data such as traffic camera or doorbell camera video is reduced, so the sooner you speak with a St. Louis car accident lawyer, the better.
Most black boxes store about 30 days of data before the information is overwritten as needed. In many cases, data pertaining to the time before, during, and after the crash are important evidence in a car accident case. Not all black boxes are the same – some track more data than others. Here are some items that your black box may record:
Understandably, some people are not thrilled to learn just how much data their own car is collecting. In 2015, Congress passed the Driver Privacy Act, which states that EDR data is the property of the vehicle’s owner or lessee, and that this data cannot be retrieved without the owner’s knowledge and consent. There are a few exceptions:
Some states have created their own legislation adding more restrictions on how black box data is used, but Missouri is not currently one of them.
In some situations, the EDR data may be evidence of one driver’s liability if it shows that their negligent actions contributed to the collision. Here are some examples:
First, a brief explanation of Missouri’s pure comparative fault laws:
Now you should be able to see why black box data could affect your car accident settlement. Here are some specific ways EDR data could show that a driver was at fault:
Although we think of accidents as being the fault of at least one driver, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the actions of third parties can contribute to or cause a collision. If one motorist was driving a company vehicle, it’s possible the accident occurred because the vehicle had not been maintained properly. If so, there may be evidence in the EDR data of the vehicle’s long-standing need for maintenance. Unlike in the above tire pressure example, the vehicle and responsibility for its maintenance would probably belong to the employer, making them liable instead of the driver.
Another potential cause of an accident is a sudden failure of a car’s engine or components despite receiving regular maintenance. Faulty brakes, for example, can cause a very bad accident. A problem with engine timing might lead to a vehicle unexpectedly stalling at a bad time. Careful study of the black box data may show that a product defect, not a driver, led to the crash. In this case, the car manufacturer or component producer may be liable for the accident.
The above are only a few examples of how black box information may be used as solid evidence in your car accident claim. There are other kinds of evidence, and we will work to build the strongest case possible to get you all the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one were hurt in a car accident, we recommend you speak to a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer at Goldblatt + Singer, the St. Louis Injury Law Firm, as soon as possible to assist you in preserving this critical data by calling 314-888-1000.