Black Boxes in Truck Accident Cases

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Fortunately, truck accident lawyers in Maryland representing injury victims have more weapons in their arsenal to prove liability against a trucking company and its driver. Black boxes, which are found on large commercial trucks (and, parenthetically more frequently in passenger cars) are one of these tools. Black boxes are on board information recorders that can capture operational data from the truck's electronic network. A black box records data from an accident that can lead a truck accident lawyer investigating a trucking accident to a wealth of information as to how the truck accident occurred. Most notably, black boxes can often provide information as to the condition of the truck after the accident. It can also provide information on how the truck was operated, such as engine speed, brake applications, throttle position, vehicle speed, seat-belt usage, and airbag performance data. Because the black box's data storage ability is rather limited, the old data usually rewrites over the new data in a loop. Some trucks have very short loops where data is destroyed every ten minutes. On these commercial trucks, if an accident does not occur, the old data is erased and replaced with new data.

Truck accident lawyers in Maryland need to make sure after the truck accident that anyone who has custody of the truck does not try to repair the truck or even move the truck's black box. The possibility of the trucking company retrieving the black box data unilaterally should also be fought.

Instead, the parties should either agree (or the injured victim's truck accident lawyer should seek a temporary restraining order from a Maryland Circuit Court) to a joint inspection of the vehicle so that the black box data can be recovered with all parties of interest present. While it is generally accepted that the vehicle owner owns the data, the truck company cannot knowingly destroy data it believes is relevant to a civil lawsuit in Maryland.

Some insurance polices contain language that gives the insurance company the right to retrieve the black box data. If the truck has been destroyed or the black box data has been erased, you should still request the information because either the trucking company or the insurance company may have preserved the data. If the lawyer does not ask for the information, the trucking company and their insurance company has no obligation to provide it.

Black boxes can also be used by plaintiffs' truck accident lawyers as a weapon against trucking companies that do not you use black boxes to their fullest potential. Almost all of large trucking companies in 2006 use wireless communication and satellite technology to track their trucks and communicate with their truck drivers. But some companies use this same technology to help keep tired truck drivers off our highways. To prove they are complying with Maryland and federal law, truck drivers are required to keep a log of their hours. As you can imagine, some truckers either keep poor logs or fill them out long after they had a real memory of their trips (defense lawyers for trucking companies have the same problem with their time sheets). But at some more progressive companies, the black boxes can compute this information for the trucking company.

If you are bringing a claim against a company that has this technology, if the black box provides evidence that the driver was involved in a truck accident while driving more than federal law allows, it is powerful evidence of the trucker's and the trucking company's liability. If the trucking company does not employ this technology, it is a fair question to asking on cross examination of the trucking company's designee as to why the company does not employ this technology to make its fleet safer.

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