How a Small Piece of Electronics Can Have a Big Impact on a Truck Accident Case

July 19th, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

Commercial truck accidents on Kentucky roads can be a “he said – she said” type of affair. It’s often one driver’s word against another’s. Physical evidence can be gathered and accidents re-created to approximate what happened; but thanks to computers, who did what when is becoming easier to determine. Those computers are on board commercial trucks, and there may be one in your vehicle, too.

Most commercial trucks made in the U.S. since the 1990’s have an Electronic Control Module (ECM) as part of their engine. Often called a “black box,” an ECM performs a similar job to the electronic storage device used in commercial airliners. They capture a variety of data concerning the operation of the truck, including:

  • Overall average speed
  • Highest speed
  • Time driven
  • Amount of time driven more than 65 miles per hour
  • Average engine revolutions per minute (RPMs)
  • Seat belt usage
  • Air bag performance.

These devices were first developed by manufacturers to guard against bogus engine warranty claims where engine damage was actually caused by purchaser abuse. Whatever the reason for the information’s being stored, it can be used for many purposes, including providing evidence that can help piece together a picture of what may have caused an accident. Helpful information can include these things:

  • The number of hard stops
  • The truck’s speed
  • Number of engine RPM’s before the stop.

ECM data can also be used to determine whether a driver’s personal, paper log of his or her driving times is accurate. It may show the driver was driving longer than allowed under federal regulations, which may support a claim the driver was fatigued or distracted at the time of the accident.

Your vehicle may have a version of an ECM in it, known as an event data recorder (EDR). They are in most modern vehicles and have been mandated by the federal government to be in all new light vehicles starting in 2014. It’s accessed through the same connection your mechanic uses to check for diagnostic codes if your “check engine” light goes on.

Information from the EDR can help paint a picture of what happened just before and during an accident, according to NPR. The information can include vehicle speed, acceleration and braking. There are also sensors under the seats. If you claim two people in the car were injured, the EDR may show evidence of only one seat being used.

Just as accident re-creation was not the idea behind ECMs in commercial trucks, the same is true for EDRs in light vehicles. They are part of your vehicle’s computerized safety system, which may pull seat belts tighter or inflate the airbags if an accident is detected. With the help of data from vehicles in actual accidents (not just test track studies), engineers can also track how these systems work and come up with improvements.

If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident in Kentucky, you can rely on the Julie Butcher Law Office, which has extensive experience handling the claims of those injured in commercial motor vehicle accidents. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help your family obtain justice.