In Pennsylvania, someone who sustains serious injuries in a car accident may be able to file a personal injury case to obtain compensation for related expenses, including medical bills and lost wages. To prevail, they must provide evidence that proves the defendant was at-fault for the accident. In addition to evidence, such as eyewitness depositions, photographs of the accident scene, and accident reconstruction testimony, black box technology can help prove how the accident occurred and who was to blame.
What is Black Box Technology?
A black box, otherwise known as an Event Data Recorder (EDR), is a recording device used by auto manufacturers to document information, including airbag deployment, vehicle speed, seat belt use, and brake application. This data obtained from the defendant’s vehicle can be used to enhance a plaintiff’s personal injury case.
Black boxes are installed in over 90 percent of all new cars and light trucks sold in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Information stored on these black boxes not only help manufacturers improve vehicle safety performance, but it can also show what happened in the moments leading up to and immediately after a crash.
Can Black Box Technology Prove Fault in Car Accident Cases?
The NHTSA reports that approximately 38,000 people die each year in the United States in motor vehicle accidents, and nearly four million are injured in vehicle-related crashes. By helping to analyze these crashes, black box technology can improve highway safety and save lives.
In addition to providing crash data for automakers, black boxes can also be useful evidence in personal injury cases. Information stored in the black box provides an objective, unbiased documentation of the crash sequence in question. According to a Congressional Research Service Report, black boxes help determine measurements, including:
- Changes in forward crash speed.
- Whether a seat belt was fastened at the time of the accident.
- Whether the airbag system was working.
- The time it took the airbag to deploy.
- The number of distinct crash events occurring within a specific time period.
- Time between two recorded events, such as a skid and a crash.
There are currently no federal limits on access to black box information, and unlike other states with EDR privacy laws, Pennsylvania does not have explicit restrictions on the use of EDR data. However, a personal injury plaintiff is advised to seek the assistance of a lawyer in obtaining black box data; information contained inside may either enhance or detract from their case, depending on the cause of the crash.
What are Common Causes of Car Crashes?
In 2019 alone, 36,096 people were killed and 2.74 million were injured in motor vehicle accidents, according to the NHTSA. These crashes are often caused by negligent and reckless drivers who engage in risky driving behaviors, such as:
Drunk Driving: The NHTSA reports that more than 10,000 people die in drunk driving crashes each year. Alcohol negatively affects abilities essential to driving safely, such as judgment, muscle coordination, and information processing. Although it is illegal in every state to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, many people continue to drink and drive or drive under the influence of drugs.
Speeding: The NHTSA considers speeding to be an aggressive driving behavior that endangers the lives of everyone on the road. When speeding is a factor in a car accident, injuries tend to be more severe. Victims who are injured in speeding accidents may be able to use black box technology to prove that the other driver was speeding.
Distracted Driving: Any time a driver is distracted, they are at greater risk of getting in an accident. Cellphones, navigational devices, and other electronic diversions can all contribute to a crash, in addition to reaching for objects in the vehicle and eating or drinking while driving. Black box technology might be helpful in a distracted driving accident case.
Drowsy Driving: NHTSA data reveals that drowsy drivers are twice as likely to make performance errors. Drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving since it is just as dangerous. A plaintiff in a personal injury case may be able to use black box technology to show that a driver veered into their lane, did not apply the brakes, or ran off the road at a high speed.
What Steps Should I Take After a Car Accident?
After a car accident, the following are certain steps a victim may take to strengthen their personal injury case:
- Seek medical treatment. Seek medical attention for all injuries. Document all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses associated with the injuries.
- Collect evidence at the accident scene. Take photographs of the scene of the accident, injuries, and any other contributing factors to the accident. Also, collect the other driver’s insurance information and contact information of any witnesses.
- Do not apologize to the other driver. Apologies may be used against a car accident plaintiff in court; therefore, avoid apologizing to the other driver after a crash. Car accident victims may also consider contacting a lawyer before making any statements to the insurance company.
- Obtain a copy of the police report. Submitting a police report to the insurance company may help move the claims process along. It may also prove valuable to the claims adjuster when it comes to determining fault and issuing payment.
Pennsylvania Personal Injury Laws
A car accident victim in Pennsylvania may be able to recover damages from an at-fault driver in certain circumstances. Under Pennsylvania’s choice no-fault car insurance system, only those who opt for full tort coverage at the time they purchase insurance may pursue compensation directly from another driver. Those who choose no-fault coverage must generally turn to their own insurance company for compensation, regardless of who was at-fault for the accident.
Also, a plaintiff in a Pennsylvania car accident case must show that they were no more than 50 percent at-fault for the accident. If the plaintiff is more than 50 percent responsible for a crash, they will not be entitled to recover from the other party, even if that driver was partially at-fault for the accident. However, plaintiffs who are less than 51 percent at-fault may recover an award reduced to reflect their portion of blame. For example, a plaintiff who is found to be 20 percent responsible will receive 80 percent of their original damage award.
A person filing a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania must also do so within the legally allotted time frame. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of the accident. An experienced lawyer may be able to assist in various aspects of the legal process, such as dealing with the insurance company, ensuring that all documents are filed in a timely manner, proving fault, and collecting compensation.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Victims Obtain Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
If you were injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to damages, including compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help gather the evidence necessary to secure a favorable outcome in your case. In certain circumstances, black box technology may strengthen a personal injury case. Call us at 215-569-8488 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.