An automobile black box is an electronic device that records important information before, during, and after an automobile accident.  They are usually physically implanted in the car by the manufacturer, and are triggered by the impact caused by a collision.  Also known as a car black box, or “Event Data Recorder” (EDR), the device is usually capable of detecting:

  • Engine and vehicle speed (5 seconds prior to impact)
  • Brake status (5 seconds before impact)
  • Throttle or gas position
  • Whether the driver was wearing a seat belt
  • Whether an airbag was deployed or not
  • The car’s “travel velocity”, which includes both actual speed and direction
  • Whether there was audio on in the driver compartment

Thus, automobile black boxes are powerful devices that can store important information related to an automobile crash.  They were originally created in order to allow mechanics to diagnose crash-related problems, especially with the deployment of airbags. Since event data recorders can provide information such whether the driver was speeding, much debate has arisen as to whether such data can be used during trial in court.

Can Information in Automobile Black Boxes Be Used in Court?

This mostly depends on the jurisdiction where the car accident occurred.  Some courts hold that the information recorded in car black boxes belongs to the owner of the car.  In that case, police and other authorities can only access such information if they have a valid search warrant for the box. 

However, in most cases it’s not that difficult to secure a search warrant, given that the police have probable cause to obtain the box.  Thus, while black boxes are increasingly becoming standard issue for new cars, it is also more likely that police and other authorities will be able to access the information stored therein. 

In some jurisdictions, courts have held that insurance companies can also access the information.  This in turn has led to concerns over privacy and abuse of such information by insurance companies and the police. 

What are Some Other Issues Related to Automobile Black Box Laws?

One thing to consider is that the industry standards regarding automobile black boxes aren’t exactly uniform yet.  Since they are so new, event data recorders aren’t subject to any government or industry standards regarding accuracy and reliability.  As a result, the issue of data accuracy may play an important role in the disposition of a lawsuit. 

Also, there are many privacy concerns regarding the collection of data from black boxes when someone else is driving the car.  Again, jurisdictions may differ when it comes to obtaining crash data information from a driver who is not the owner of a car. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Automobile Black Box Laws?

These different issues may make the admission of automobile black box data questionable in a court of law.  If you have any concerns regarding automobile black box laws, you may wish to seek legal counsel from a qualified lawyer.  Your lawyer can keep you updated on the legal status of automobile black boxes in your area.  Also, if you need assistance in court, an experienced personal injury attorney can represent you in court.