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
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
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 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
- Whether (and if so, when) you hit your brakes
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
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
(954) 833-1440 for a free consultation to discuss your case.