firefighter reviewing a crash scene

Can Crash Data Help You in Court?

Understanding Your “Black Box” or Event Data Recorder:

You may have heard of “black boxes” in reference to airplane flight recorders, which show investigators exactly what went wrong in the event of a plane crash. Today’s passenger vehicles are also equipped with black boxes. The event data recorder (EDR) is a recording device that collects moment-by-moment statistics in car accidents.

Typically, these so-called black boxes record the 20 seconds before and after car accidents to help investigators and safety agencies determine what happened. In some cases, this data can help you in court.

Does My Car Have a Black Box?

Yes, if you drive a car manufactured after 2014, your car has a black box. Some vehicles have had EDRs since 1994, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made them mandatory in September of 2014.

While older models present in Cadillacs, Buicks, Chevrolets, and Pontiacs only tracked airbag deployment, today’s black boxes must track 15 variables, including:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Accelerator position
  • Brake application
  • Steering wheel angle
  • Airbag deployment
  • Seatbelt use
  • And more

There are also standards for how data is collected and retrieved, and some states have laws regarding who can use the data – and for what.

Who Can Access Black Box Data?

EDRs are designed to prevent future crashes, so vehicle manufacturers and safety organizations may wish to examine your car’s black box data. Insurance companies and police officers may also want to pull information from your EDR.

To acquire black box data, professionals must use a $2,000 to $20,000 Crash Data Retrieval (CDR) system. Vehicle manufacturers have these systems, and the NHTSA and law enforcement have access to third-party CDR shops. Essentially, if someone wants your data and has the resources, they can get it. Some states, including California, have laws regarding who may and may not pull information with or without your permission. Usually, authorities and safety organizations can get the information via a court order, but insurance companies cannot use black box data to set your rates unless you give them permission.

Although you can “lock” your black box, you cannot delete its recordings or turn off the box. If someone wants the data, they can ask you for it or get a court order. In states without black box laws, you may have to fight even harder to keep your data private.

Nevertheless, your black box exists for your benefit and protection. If you are in a car accident, the data can help prove your side of the story

How Can Black Box Data Be Used in Court?

Black box data has been influential in major investigations. In 2011, for example, investigators used black box data to show that a government official was driving 100 mph without a seatbelt when he totaled a government car.

In accidents that result in serious injury or death, the police can retrieve black box data, analyze it, and use it against you in court.

On the other hand, however, you can use your own black box data to corroborate your story during a personal injury lawsuit. As Forbes explains:

In civil litigation, this data will help to determine the course of events and may help to determine which vehicle was responsible for the collision.”

At Frish Law Group, APLC, we recently used black box data to prove our client’s case. The at-fault driver claimed our client was parallel parked and darted out into the road, but black box data showed they were driving at 17 mph and slowed down to 13 mph before the other driver caused the collision.

When you choose our firm, we will always find the best way to solve your case and do everything we can to meet your needs – whether that means using black box data for a car accident case or something else entirely. Our attorneys are results-driven and pride themselves on their dedication. We will be responsive and transparent throughout your case, answer calls and emails within 24 hours or less, and bring decades worth of experience and in-depth knowledge to your case.

Call us at (818) 477-1905 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today.


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  • Dedication

    Our attorneys pride themselves on being responsive and transparent during your whole case. When you have questions, you get answers within 24 hours or less.

  • Results-Driven

    The attorneys at Frish Law Group know how to get the job done. They tirelessly fight on your behalf to get you the maximum compensation you deserve.

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