Louisville truck accidents too often end in tragedy. In fact, according to the most recent data from the Kentucky State Police, there were more than 10,500 Kentucky truck accidents in 2018. While these accidents comprised just over 4% of all motor vehicle collisions in the state, they were responsible for over 9% of all traffic-related fatalities. Even in those cases where accident victims survive, the injuries are often severe.
Given the serious nature of truck accidents, it can be difficult to learn what caused an accident or to obtain evidence of a truck driver’s negligence. Those who survived the accident may not have a recollection of the moments leading up to the collision, and even if they do, they can’t know what was going on in the truck driver’s cab. This only adds to the frustration of accident victims and their family members, because bringing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit after a serious truck accident requires evidence of a truck driver’s negligence. However, black boxes can provide valuable information that Louisville truck accident lawyers can use to learn more about an accident and establish a truck driver’s negligence.
What Are Black Boxes and What Do They Do?
Black boxes, also called electronic control modules (ECMs) or event data recorders (EDRs), are devices on semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles that record information about the vehicle and how it was traveling right before an accident. They are similar to the black boxes on airplanes, which help investigators understand what went wrong right before a crash.
Black boxes continually record information. When a truck is involved in an accident, the black box saves the information. Most black boxes record data after a “near accident,” as well. A near accident occurs when the truck driver suddenly slams on the brakes or quickly swerves to avoid a collision. Black box information is transmitted to either the trucking company or a third-party data management company.
The type of information a black box record includes:
- The truck’s speed;
- Whether the truck was accelerating or decelerating;
- Whether the truck driver applied the brakes;
- Whether cruise control was on;
- The length of time the truck driver was on the road that day;
- Whether the truck’s airbags deployed in an accident;
- The GPS location of the truck leading up to the accident;
- The air pressure of each of the truck’s tires; and
- The engine’s revolutions per minute.
This information can be critical to piecing together how an accident occurred and what the truck driver could have done differently to avoid the collision. Thus, the importance of black boxes as evidence for an accident claim cannot be overstated.
Common Types of Truck Accidents and How a Black Box Can Help an Accident Victim Prove Their Case
Truck accidents can happen for any number of reasons. However, most serious truck accidents are the result of either driver error or mechanical failure. According to the Kentucky State Police, which investigates most truck accidents in the state, the most common equipment-related causes of truck accidents are:
- Defective brakes,
- Defective headlights,
- Steering failures,
- Defective or improperly inflated tires,
- Oversized loads, and
- Improperly secured loads.
In terms of driver errors, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lists the following as the most frequently cited causes of truck accidents nationwide:
- Traveling too fast for the conditions,
- Driver unfamiliarity with the road,
- Over-the-counter drug use,
- Distracted driving,
- The pressure to drive past the point of fatigue,
- Illegal turns,
- Following too closely,
- Illegal drug use, and
- Alcohol consumption.
When comparing the common causes of truck accidents with the data provided by black boxes, it is clear that black boxes can uncover valuable information related to almost all the major causes of trucking accidents. Those causes that are unaddressed by black boxes, such as drug or alcohol consumption, will typically be ascertainable through police reports. Thus, black boxes are a critical tool that can help accident victims learn more about what caused a truck accident.
Preservation of Black Boxes as Evidence for Accident Claims
One issue that too often comes up in truck accidents is preserving the black box evidence. Black boxes do not necessarily store accident data forever. If the truck is still operational, the black box will typically store the data for 30 days, at which point it will write over old data. This gives accident victims and their attorneys only a short period of time to ensure that the trucking company preserves the black box data.
Of course, when a trucking company knows about an accident, it is under a legal duty to preserve all evidence related to any potential lawsuits. However, in some cases, a trucking company may not know about an accident that was caused by one of its drivers but didn’t involve a collision with the truck—for example, if a truck driver drifts into oncoming traffic, forcing another motorist to veer off the road. In this situation, the truck driver caused an accident, but the truck itself wasn’t involved. Thus, unless the truck driver informed the trucking company about the near-accident, the trucking company would not know to preserve the black box evidence.
Another problem some accident victims face is the potential for a trucking company to destroy or limit access to black box evidence. As previously mentioned, black box data is often transmitted directly to the trucking company that employs the truck driver. If a trucking company knows that the black box data could result in liability, it may make attempts to delete the data, write over it, or refuse to hand it over. In these cases, a Kentucky personal injury attorney can ask the court to order the trucking company to preserve the evidence. If the trucking company fails to do so, the court can fashion a variety of remedies, such as an adverse inference instruction. In this case, an adverse inference instruction would inform the jury that black box evidence existed, it was up to the trucking company to preserve it, and it failed to do so. The court will also instruct the jury that it should assume that any destroyed evidence would be harmful to the trucking company.
Have You Been Injured in a Kentucky Truck Accident?
If you were recently injured in a truck accident or lost a loved one due to a truck driver’s negligence, reach out to the dedicated Louisville truck accident lawyers at the Gladstein Law Firm. We have more than two decades of experience handling all types of complex personal injury lawsuits and know where to look to uncover evidence of a truck driver’s negligence. We offer all prospective clients a free consultation, in which we will answer all your questions and explain the process in clear, understandable terms. And because we accept cases on a contingency basis, we will never charge you for our services unless we can help you recover from your injuries. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our dedicated injury lawyers, give us a call, or you can contact us through our online form.