Could black box evidence prove liability in a Pennsylvania accident?

Proving what caused an accident is often difficult. The data contained on a vehicle's black box recorder may contain crucial data that another driver was negligent.

Almost every car that comes equipped with an air bag has a black box recorder similar to that of an airplane. These devices capture information about speed and braking maneuvers as well as throttle position and other technical details. Data from the seconds before a crash can help experts determine the cause of an auto accident.

In a Pennsylvania case from several years ago, black box information used in a criminal case helped prosecutors secure a vehicular homicide conviction. Three passengers in the vehicle died after the car struck a concrete barrier and flew into a wooded area.

The way that the car left the Pittsburgh highway after hitting the barrier told authorities the vehicle was travelling at a high speed. Because the car was airborne for many feet before it crashed, investigators did not have tire tracks or skid marks to determine exact speed.

Police obtained information from the black box recorder that the car was travelling 105 mph. The driver's attorneys challenged the use of this data and filed an appeal. The Pennsylvania court of appeals affirmed the conviction finding that black box data collection systems were well-established technology. The decision was the first appellate decision to review the use of black box data in criminal prosecutions.

Upcoming federal requirements

General Motors first installed black boxes or event data recorders in its vehicles to track the speed of a vehicle and deploy airbags in an accident. When a crash happens and an airbag deploys the device provides information from a few seconds before the crash. Often this information helps determine what caused the collision.

No standard exists for the industry, so different automakers track different data. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a rule that would require every new car to contain a black box that would provide five seconds of data on 15 different elements before a crash. In 2015, the recorders will be mandatory in all vehicles. A couple automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi, will have to start installing the devices in their vehicles.

Civil case liability determinations

When it is unclear whether the negligence of another driver caused a car crash, the seconds of data before a crash contained on these recorders can be incredibly valuable. Obtaining the information needs to be completed quickly or it may be lost. Often these devices record over past data. The court may need to order another party to turn over the black box recorder in some cases.

When an injury is serious, you may not recall the moments immediately before or after the accident due to shock. Seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney in dealing with insurance companies and finding the cause of the crash. You might be entitled to monetary damages to cover lost wages, medical expenses and the suffering you endured because of the accident.

Keywords: car accident, causation, serious injury