Most of us have heard of a ‘black box.' However, most, if not all, of us associate a black box with airplane accidents. While airplane crashes, thankfully, are extremely uncommon; when they do occur, they always make the news and reporters always talk about the black box. The black box records the majority of functions and maneuvers that took place on the airplane and crash investigators use this information to determine what, if anything, went wrong when an accident occurs.
But did you know that most cars also have black boxes! In fact, all cars manufactured after 2014 contain them. These event data recorders (EDRs) are onboard computers that record data from your vehicle before, during and after a car accident. The types of information recorded includes: vehicle speed, direction and location, whether your vehicle's airbags deployed, the vehicle's steering and brake performance and use, as well as the vehicle's seatbelt(s) status and use.
While the information recorded on vehicles' black boxes was originally used by car manufacturers in assessing the safety and performance of their automobiles, law enforcement and attorneys caught-on to the fact that this information could be useful during crash investigations and personal injury lawsuits. After federal regulations required the installation of EDRs on all vehicles sold in the United States beginning in 2014, some states—Colorado included—passed legislation governing when the data recorded on your car's black box can be used and how the information can be obtained.
According to Sections 12-6-401 – 403 of the Colorado State Statutes, the owner, renter or lessee of a vehicle is the owner of their vehicle's black box and any information recorded therein. This fact is important, because as the owner of this information, Colorado law requires your written consent before this information can be accessed and used by anyone else.
However, there are a few exceptions. Information captured by your car's black box can be accessed: (a) by a car dealer or automotive technician to diagnose, service or repair your car at your request; (b) through the legal process of discovery as governed by the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure if relevant to claims arising out of a motor vehicle accident; (c) pursuant to a court order or order from an administrative agency (such as the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles) requiring disclosure of your black box's information; or (d) for vehicle safety research purposes so long as the owner of the vehicle's identity is not disclosed.
So, Can My Black Box Information Help Or Hurt My Case?
Like so many things in the law, the answer to your question of whether your car's black box can help or hurt your personal injury case is: it depends!
Despite the limited statutory situations (described above) for when information from your black box can be used without your consent, if you have been involved in a car accident, odds are good that the contents of your black box will be disclosed during the process of discovery or pursuant to a court order in your personal injury case. This is because the information contained on the black box will be relevant to what happened/what caused your car accident.
So, when can your black box hurt you? The information on your black box will hurt your case if it shows that you were responsible, partially responsible or probably responsible for your car accident. For example, if your accident occurred on a street with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour (mph) and your black box says you were travelling at 50 mph at the time of your accident, this is clear proof that you were speeding and the other side will use this against you to blame you for your accident. At the very least, the other side will try to use this information to prove that, at a minimum, you were partially to blame for the car crash.
Likewise, your black box can help your case if the data recorded reveals that at the time of your accident, your seatbelt was engaged, you braked as soon as practicable and were not speeding.
And, of course, any good personal injury attorney—like those at the law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal—will ensure that you have access to the other driver's black box so that you can compare this information with yours and show that the other driver was at fault.
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, you should contact a qualified car accident / personal injury attorney immediately. At the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal, our lawyers have years of experience representing accident victims and we will fight for the compensation you deserve and need to recover from your injuries. We will thoroughly investigate the cause(s) of your accident, including all parties who could be liable, and will help you understand your rights and legal options. For a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable Colorado lawyers, call us today for a free consultation at (303) 647-4511 or visit us online.