Black boxes are on board information recorders that are capable of capturing operational data through a truck's electronic network. A black box has the ability to record data from an accident that can lead to a wealth of information as to how the truck accident occurred, such as the condition of the truck after the impact.
It can also provide information on how the truck was operated, such as engine speed, brake applications, throttle position, vehicle speed, seat-belt usage, and airbag performance data. Because the black box's data storage ability is rather limited, the old data usually rewrites over the new data in a loop. Some trucks have loops as short as 10 minutes. On these trucks, if an accident does not occur, the old data is erased and replaced with new data.
Plaintiffs' counsel needs to make sure after the accident that anyone who has custody of the truck does not move or try to repair the truck, remove the truck's black box, or retrieve or attempt to retrieve the information on the box. Instead, the parties should either agree (or you should seek a temporary restraining order from the court) to a joint inspection of the vehicle so that the black box data can be recovered with all parties of interest present. While it is generally accepted that the vehicle owner owns the data, the truck company cannot knowingly destroy data it believes is relevant to a civil lawsuit in Maryland.
Anyone handling a truck crash should also know that some commerical insurance polices contain language that gives the insurance company the right to retrieve the black box data. If the vehicle has been destroyed or the black box data has been erased after the wreck, you should should still request the information because either the company or the insurance company may have preserved the data after the accident. If you do not ask for the information, the trucking company and their insurance company has no obligation to provide it.