Electronic Evidence in Car Crash Cases

Sometimes, evidence immediately available at the scene, like witness statements, is enough to establish liability in a car crash claim. Frequently, however, it is not enough to fill in all the blanks. In these situations, a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder often does this job. EDRs resemble the black box flight data recorders in commercial airplanes.

Federal investigators use these flight data recorders to determine airplane crash causes. Likewise, Marietta personal injury lawyers use EDRs to determine car crash causes. As outlined below, attorneys and their investigator professional partners put the bits of evidence that an EDR records much like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The result is a clear picture of the accident the jury uses to award maximum compensation to injury victims.

EDR Functions

The first EDRs appeared at about the same time as the first car airbags, which was in the 1970s. Back then, airbags provided limited protection to drivers, and that was about it. Fifty years later, airbags are much more sophisticated. 

Similarly, early EDRs had limited capabilities, mostly because computers were primitive in the 1970s. Today, an EDR records important vehicle operational metrics, like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Brake application.

An eyewitness could provide similar information. But electronic information is much more useful in court.

First, it’s more specific. A witness might say that a vehicle was speeding. An EDR proves, almost conclusively, that a vehicle was traveling 67.8mph.

Second, and on a similar note, computers are never incorrect or biased as long as they are working correctly.

Legal Issues

An EDR can make or break a case. But unless a Marietta personal injury lawyer acts quickly and decisively, this vital evidence could be unavailable in court.

Georgia has strong vehicle information privacy laws. Lawyers usually need a court order to bypass these privacy laws and access vehicles’ onboard computers, like an EDR. A court order grants theoretical access. For practical access, a lawyer needs special tools. A screwdriver and a laptop are not good enough.

These things assume the EDR is still available. That is not a safe assumption to make, especially after a catastrophic wreck. Most insurance companies destroy most vehicles in these situations. That destruction means all physical evidence, including the EDR, disappears.

So, attorneys must quickly send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty for the company to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR, for future inspection.


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