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Battle for the Black Box: The Importance of EDR Data in Accident Claims


Modern cars and trucks have a variety of computer-controlled functions, from engine operations to internal climate. These functions are governed by a multitude of networks involving electronic control units (ECU). Some cars also have a computer that records operational inputs, called an event data recorder (EDR). As a result, these systems are often called “black boxes” like the flight recorders on airplanes. Like airplane black boxes, this information can be helpful in a lawsuit regarding injuries caused by a car or truck accident. This blog discusses the nature and importance of this data.

The Importance of Black Box Data

ECUs and EDRs record information related to the vehicle’s operation, including driving speed, engine ignition and shutoff times, engine RPM, acceleration, deceleration, and airbag deployment. As a result, car or truck black box data can help determine the speed, and impact force of an accident. Such data can be used as evidence in a lawsuit to help determine the cause and severity of a crash.

Accessing Black Box Data

The extraction and interpretation of black box data from ECUs and EDRs is a technically involved process that requires specialized equipment, software, and skill. Moreover, the raw data from ECUs and EDRs is incomprehensible without being converted and interpreted by a professional. As a result, using black box data in a lawsuit likely requires hiring an expert witness with a background in ECU and EDR data management.

Further, many ECUs or EDRs have a limited storage capacity. For example, truck EDRs can hold up to 30 days of operational data. However, EDRs continually record data as the vehicle is driven. Thus, any data that is older than 30 days will be overwritten as the black box unit records new data. Therefore, the parties in an accident lawsuit should act fast to access and preserve black box data.

Blackbox Data Discovery Issues

Given the ephemeral nature of black box data, it is critical for attorneys to take the necessary steps toward protecting black box data. Parties to a lawsuit have a duty to preserve evidence and information that may be relevant to the pending litigation. Federal and state procedures recognize that electronically stored information is discoverable.

However, when electronically stored information is inadvertently lost in good faith, courts will not sanction the party for losing the data. This risk is particularly important to keep in mind for accidents involving commercial vehicles. Some companies that utilize commercial cars and trucks can download black box data onto their servers. However, this does not guarantee that the data will be preserved.

Electronic data management is a very resource intensive endeavor. Accordingly, businesses will have a data retention and destruction policy. If black box data was destroyed in connection with a reasonable business policy for data retention, they will not be reprimanded. As a result, it is crucial for attorneys to make discovery requests for both the black box data and the data retention policy, to ensure its destruction conformed to their routine business operations.

Injured in a Vehicle Accident? Politis & Matovina, P.A. Can Help!

Preserving computer data from a car or truck requires diligent attention and experience with civil discovery procedures. As a result, you should consult the professional legal services of a qualified vehicle accident attorney in Daytona Beach for representation. At Politis & Matovina, P.A. we are dedicated to advocating for the rights of Daytona Beach residents to receive compensation for the injuries they sustained as a result of another party’s reckless or negligent conduct.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys by calling Politis & Matovina, P.A. at (386) 333-6613 or visiting us online today.