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What is an automobile event data recorder and how can it help my car accident case?

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Just about 98 percent of the automobiles in the USA have what we call an event data recorder, some people call it a black box. It generally works off the airbag module. What happens is when there’s a collision, the airbag goes off, this event data recorder records the last several seconds – they’re all different, depends on the manufacturer, but several seconds of data prior to that airbag going off. So the information that it will give you is the speed in the last five seconds before the airbag goes off, whether or not the brakes are engaged, the RPMs of the engine, and perhaps some other information. Generally, those three are always there. The technology is rapidly changing, but the point is, is this information is critically important to reconstructing what happened at a collision.

Now the problem with this is you can’t access it over the Internet. You’ve got to download it with special software by accessing the vehicle itself. So in the case of a total vehicle, and you may be in the hospital, you may be incapacitated; and not long thereafter, your car disappears. Once it’s released from the record yard, there’s no telling where it ends up, and so this data is lost. It’s critically important with this information, the speed, whether the brakes are engaged, the rpms, with this you can determine the amount of forces involved in the collision. If [you have] both cars with the datas available for both cars, it generally will tell you exactly how a collision occurred.

This information is given to specialized engineers, we call them accident reconstructionist, perhaps some other types of engineers as well. They can come up with any number of opinions. So this data is critically important, not only to show that the other person was at fault, but also that you weren’t at fault in causing the collision, as well as the amount of forces that are transferred in that collision. So, this is information that needs to be gathered within days or a week or so of the collision. Generally, the only people that have access to this software are these accident reconstructionist. It is important that they be retained, that they secure this data collected for later on down the line in the event it’s necessary in Litigation. [It’s] very important that you hire a lawyer soon after a collision, so that this data can be preserved and maintain for the future, to help preserve your rights.

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