What Every Driver Should Know about Semi-Truck “Black Boxes” [Part II]
This is our second installment of a two-part blog post providing key information about tractor-trailer event data recorders and their role in trucking litigation. The data recorded by these devices often is the most critical evidence in a trucking case, so we invite you to contact our Atlanta Trucking Accident Lawyers at Montlick and Associates if you have more specific questions about how the information from these devices can assist in the building of a compelling case.
Can EDR data be used in civil or criminal litigation?
Information obtained from an "event data recorder" (EDR) can be extremely helpful during both civil and criminal proceedings following a tractor-trailer collision. When our Atlanta trucking accident attorneys work with accident reconstruction experts, the data from a "black box" can be critical in confirming theories of liability, exposing misrepresentations about the truck's location or hours of service, and furnishing evidence of liability not available through other sources. State law dictates when the data can be introduced as evidence in a civil lawsuit.
Must the trucking company preserve data recorded by a large truck's EDR?
EDRs typically have the ability to record for 30 days or some other period before the device will begin recording over existing data, but older units might have far less recording capacity. Once the recording capacity has been exhausted, the device will begin recording over stored data. Further, some states have passed laws designating that the data is the property of the trucking company. This means that the trucking company might have the right to destroy the information following a collision unless legal steps are taken to prevent the commercial carrier from conveniently erasing the information.
Depending on the state, a restraining order might be necessary to ensure preservation of the data. Another option involves a trucking accident attorney sending a letter to the trucking company indicating that the information stored in the EDR is the subject of litigation, so it must be preserved. This form of correspondence, which is referred to as a "spoliation letter," can expose the trucking company to sanctions from the court if the information is altered or lost. These sanctions might result in an attorney fee award or an instruction to the jury that the information should be presumed to be favorable to the plaintiff. Sending a spoliation letter is an important step, even if the goal is to settle the case without going to trial.
While law firms must act promptly to preserve "black box" data, this issue can be complicated based on the jurisdiction where the case is being litigated. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and many states impose requirements for the preservation of electronic data, so it is important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable in the manner in which these laws interact.
How can an EDR be used in a trucking accident lawsuit to prove liability?
When a person has brought a claim to recover damages after a serious truck accident, there are a multitude of ways that the evidence from the EDR could be useful, but a few examples are provided below:
• Contradicting distorted entries regarding hours of service in a driver's logbook;
• Confirming witness testimony that the truck was speeding; or
• Verifying that the truck driver did not apply the brake prior to rear-ending another vehicle.
By gathering this information, it might be possible to resolve the claim without having to pursue a lengthy litigation process.
Put Our Law Firm's Over 30 Years of Experience to Work For Your Case.
These are just a few examples of critical proof that might be provided by the information preserved by a black box. The importance of the information contained in the data recorder means that time is of the essence in contacting an experienced trucking accident lawyer. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for more than 30 years, including, but not limited to, Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins, and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. We make it a priority to be the best personal injury law firm in the United States in order to effectively represent our clients. No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.