Black Box Data and Car Accidents

Automobile accidents are some of the most terrifying, complicated, and stressful events a person might ever experience in their lifetime. If you live in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach County, there is a pretty good chance you have been involved in a car crash at some point. Accidents happen literally in the blink of an eye, and many times people have trouble remembering exactly how the collision occurred (and for various reasons, some people just simply do not want to remember what happened). In car crash cases, disputes very frequently arise over who was at fault for the collision.

In many car crash cases, we have a “he said, she said” situation where each driver has a very different version of what happened. In a smaller number of instances, video of the crash is caught on security cameras at a nearby business, or when certain vehicles like a police car are involved, video of the crash might be caught on a dashboard camera. Unfortunately, the vast majority of crashes are not captured on video, so we have to look to other pieces of evidence to determine exactly what happened in the collision. One potentially useful source of evidence is a vehicle’s “black box.” The black box typically isn’t actually black but is instead a small console inside the vehicle containing microcomputer chip sets. It is colloquially referred to as a black box because it is, at least in some ways, modeled after airplane flight recorders, which are typically used to track aircrafts in the event of a crash or disappearance.

The automobile variant of these “black boxes” is known as an event data recorder (EDR). Sometimes, the black box is referred to as an Accident Data Recorder (ADR), digital tachograph, or electronic logging device. At Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez, P.A., our attorneys are highly experienced in handling car accident cases involving black box data. If you have been involved in a car accident in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, or anywhere else in Florida, and want to learn more about whether your vehicle’s EDR can possibly help your case, contact our office for a free consultation.

A Brief History of Black Boxes in Automobiles

EDRs first entered the automotive world as a means of monitoring when and how air bags were deployed in car crashes. General Motors (GM) was at the forefront of this endeavor when they began installing early versions of EDRs in their vehicles in the 1970s. As technological development accelerated in the following decades, GM began exploring the possibility of collecting even more data from car collisions, resulting in the release of EDRs that could analyze seat belt activation, ABS (anti-lock braking system) deployment, traction control effectivity, air bag operation, and much more. By the late 1990s it was clear that EDRs were capable of revolutionizing crash safety.

According to a 2004 estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 40 million US-registered vehicles have EDRs installed, and as of September 1, 2014, all light-passenger vehicles being manufactured are required to have them equipped in the vehicle.

How Do Event Data Recorders Work?

Basically, whenever you are operating your vehicle, EDRs are constantly recording and erasing data collected from the vehicle. You can think of it as a continuous loop, where data is constantly recorded and then written over by new data. But when a triggering event occurs, the EDR maintains the most recent data obtained from the vehicle. The EDR will only maintain (i.e., not erase) data that is obtained over a period of a few mere seconds. If it is functioning properly, an EDR should store data that is collected immediately before, during, and after an event (most of the time, the “event” is a collision). Things like merely running a red light or speeding will not trigger the EDR to store the data, unless a collision occurs immediately thereafter.

Car makers nowadays use a number of different event data recorders in their vehicles. Depending on what type of EDR your vehicle is equipped with, data that might be captured includes:

  • The time of the crash
  • Vehicle speed
  • Whether (and if so, when) you hit your brakes
  • Whether an airbag deployed
  • Whether a seatbelt was used
  • How many people were inside your vehicle
  • Acceleration/deceleration information
  • Steering wheel angle
  • Crash force
  • Seat position
  • Engine RPM
How is Data Collected From an Event Data Recorder?

In order to extract and analyze data from an EDR after a collision, you usually need to utilize a sophisticated (and expensive) data retrieval tool kit which gets connected to the automobile after the crash. From there, the data is transferred or downloaded from the EDR. Most of the time, extracting EDR data is a time sensitive matter. In other words, if you wait too long after the accident, the data may be lost. But assuming the extraction is done early enough, so long as the EDR itself was not damaged in the collision and there are no issues with the vehicle’s battery, wiring, or anything else that would cause the EDR to malfunction, the data retrieved from the EDR would then be analyzed by a software program and a report gets generated.

The intricacy and complications surrounding this process make it a near-impossible feat for the average person, often requiring the use of a private company that specializes in extracting and interpreting the EDR data. Our office has worked on numerous cases where we have retained a company that specializes in extracting EDR data (at a very reasonable cost). The company retrieves the data from the device and prepares a report describing the data, and we then are able to review the report relaying the information relating to the crash.

How We Can Use Black Box Data in Your Car Accident Case

Data retrieved from the EDR can play an important role in your accident case. In fact, in a number of cases in recent years, our office has utilized data from a vehicle’s EDR to successfully support our client’s claim that the other party was liable for the crash. As mentioned above, many accident cases involve situations where there is disputed liability. But in some instances, the EDR data can shed light on important issues, such as whether the other driver was speeding, hit the brakes, or changing lanes immediately before the crash. The EDR data can help us get a better understanding of the chain of events immediately leading up to the crash. When we litigate these cases, we make it a priority to specially request any EDR data from the defendant.

Contact an Attorney Who is Experienced in Utilizing Black Box Data in Car Accident Cases

Having been equipped on over 90% of all vehicles manufactured since 2010, EDRs are now a standard in the automotive world, providing important data in many car accident cases. If your car had an EDR in it at the time of the crash, or if the other vehicle was equipped with an EDR, it is important that you have an attorney who knows how to handle car accident cases where black box data is involved. At Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez, P.A., we have decades of experience representing persons who have been injured in car crashes throughout Florida. And we have represented many clients in cases where we have utilized EDR data to benefit our clients. If you have been involved in a car accident anywhere in Florida, contact our office now at 877-853-7466 for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"Everything was handled perfectly. I couldn't have had a better experience" Alex Edgley
★★★★★
"Feeling understood & comfortable from the beginning to end was very important." Samantha Sagotsky
★★★★★
"I would like to thank the entire law firm for handling my families cases and helping us progress through the difficult loss of our beloved ..." Mark Domermuth