Without an effective attorney, the jury may never hear what may be the most compelling evidence in a car crash case. Worse yet, the evidence may not even be available to begin with.
Event Data Recorders
Many people are familiar with the “black boxes,” or flight data recorders, that are standard in commercial airplanes. But many people are unaware that there is probably a similar device in the cars, trucks, and vans that they drive every day. What makes this evidence so valuable is that, unlike eyewitness testimony, it basically cannot be challenged and its reliability cannot reasonably be questioned.
Almost ten years ago, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issues a rule concerning event data recorders, or EDRs. In addition to making them mandatory for all new cars sold in the United States, the regulation set forth a number of metrics that these devices must capture and record. This data includes:
- Throttle percentage (how much pressure was on the accelerator);
- Seatbelt use;
- Brake application:
- Airbag readiness and deployment; and
- Number of crash events.
Most vehicles have more advanced EDRs which measure and record information like the angle of steering and acceleration.
If the insurance company declares a vehicle to be a total loss, it is normally disposed of within a few days or weeks after the crash. Any evidence in that vehicle, including the EDR, is permanently lost.
In these instances, an attorney will send the insurance company a spoliation letter. This correspondence serves as written notice that a lawsuit may eventually be filed and that the recipient is under a legal duty to preserve evidence. By doing do, the attorney looks to create ample opportunity to review the EDR data before trial and ascertain whether or not it is favorable or unfavorable.
Due to privacy concerns, there are only four ways that a person or entity can access and download information from an EDR:
- By court order;
- For purposes of vehicle maintenance;
- Safety research; and
- By owner consent.
If the vehicle owner refuses to give consent, an attorney can easily seek a court order to obtain, or at least view, the EDR and its contents.
For a free consultation with an attorney who gets to work quickly, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in New Braunfels. We do not charge upfront legal fees in a personal injury matter.