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The Importance of Preserving ECM Data Records




by:
Jeffrey H. Rasansky
Rasansky Law Firm - Dallas Office

 
May 21, 2014

Only recently have we come to see recording devices such as black boxes in places other than airplanes. With the growth of technology, it is now possible to find these units in a variety of motor vehicles including commercial trucks (tractor trailers). These electronic data recorders are now often a standard feature on many vehicles in operation for commercial purposes.

Handling the Aftermath of a Truck Accident

When an accident involving an 18-wheeler occurs, it may be necessary for the injured party or his or her family to file a lawsuit. In the event of a lawsuit, the information contained on the recorders will be a valuable tool in assessing the liability of the party or parties involved in the accident. The technology is not very old and is somewhat unknown to the average jury, but an ECM/EDR data expert can provide the information necessary to substantiate a claim including appearing in court if that is necessary. The expert can explain what these devices are capable of doing and provide a professional opinion concerning the meaning of the data. He or she can explain what conclusions are possible based on the data that is available.

Overview of an ECM/EDR Device

The purpose of an electronic control module (ECM) is to manage and control the functionality of a diesel engine. This device is the key or brain of the engine and controls many of the important processes such as the timing of the fuel injection. You may not find these devices on every truck on the road, but you will usually find them on the newer models. There are a number of uses for ECM devices in commercial vehicles, and as technology progresses, there will be new uses for their use.

Advancements in the ECM

The electronic control module has come quite a way since its beginning, and one of those advancements is the electronic data recorder (EDR). This expanded device acts as a black box on commercial vehicles by recording various processes on the vehicle such as breaking events, engine data, and other significant processes over short periods of time. It can provide essential and invaluable information concerning the cause of an accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires EDR devices to measure specific data types before and during a collision. Some of those data types include brake use, speed, forward velocity, and use of safety belts. Each of these bits of information plays a role in making a determination of driver negligence when an accident occurs; however, it is much more complicated than that. For instance, a newer vehicle may already include an EDR. In addition, the information from the device is circumstantial and not enough on its own to assess the amount of negligence on the part of the driver.

Preserving the Black Box

The data gathered from an electronic control module can be an excellent way to prove the existence of driver fatigue or negligence when an accident occurs. When the driver or company logs vary from the data the ECM collected, this shows a strong indication the company lacks internal control in the methods it uses to ensure the drivers and company are in compliance with DOT and other trucking regulations.

The evidence on ECM units can be extremely valuable for a lawyer who is attempting to determine the level of culpability in a personal injury accident. The lawyer must first depend on the expertise of an ECM expert to interpret the data available on the truck in question. While this is not the only step involved in the process, it is certainly the most important one next to preservation of the information on the black box.



 

The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.
 

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Author
 
Jeffrey H. Rasansky
Practice Area
 
Personal Injury
 
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