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The Usage of Black Box Recorders in Personal Injury Cases

Over the past few months, many deadly collisions have occurred involving tractor trailers. A majority of the collisions occur on the highway at high speeds, leading to fatal injuries and extensive damage. When an individual is hurt in a collision involving a tractor trailer, they may choose to pursue a claim against the trucking company that owns the truck involved in the accident or employs the driver. Trucking companies are often found to be liable due to neglect of thorough maintenance, a failure to comply with service regulations, or even due to the driver falling asleep at the wheel.

Luckily, with the usage of black boxes, attorneys and law enforcement are able to reconstruct the crash and determine the events leading up to a collision. Accident reconstruction is a practice that is growing quickly due to its helpfulness in determining the cause of a collision. Crash data, which is recorded by the black box inside of a vehicle, is analyzed by certified crash data retrieval technitions. The data recovered from the vehicle or tractor trailer can then be used as evidence in a personal injury case.

According to Crash Data Services, LLC, the utilization of black box technology is a relatively new practice. In some states such as Illinois, the preservation and usage of black box data is typically only used as forensic evidence in cases involving a reckless homicide.1 In fact, as of June 1st, 2015, only seventeen states have published specific laws governing the utilization of this technology in personal injury cases. Georgia is not one of them, although universities such as Georgia Institute of Technology have continued to gather thorough research on collision speeds using black box data.

Politicians and law enforcement officers have differing opinions regarding whether black box technology should be available to use as evidence in personal injury claims. Many are concerned that this invaluable data can be easily damaged or destroyed by insurance companies, or even government personnel. Others are calling for increased usage of black box technology to prove driver fatigue or negligence in a collision. Personal injury attorneys are in agreement that ECM technology is an invaluable tool, and that such evidence is absolutely necessary in order to obtain the maximum possible compensation after a collision.

Many of the top verdicts in Georgia have utilized ECM technology and/or collision reconstruction, according to DailyReport’s Top Georgia Verdicts. In 2013, after a five-day trial involving the analyzation of black box technology, the jury awarded a verdict of $15M to the plaintiff for punitive damages, wrongful death, and pain and suffering. Black box data determined that the at-fault driver was speeding at the time of the collision.2

Reference

1In Illinois, officials investigating a reckless homicide (reckless use of a vehicle causing the death of another person) are required to “preserve, subject to a continuous chain of custody, any physical evidence in their possession or control that is reasonably likely to contain forensic evidence” according to statute 725 ILCS CHapter 5/116-4 (a) 2.

2Kaleo Hewlett v. Richard Brown and AstraZeneca, No. 2009EV008039