Did you know that you probably have your own personal private detective riding along with you every time you get into your car? In addition, should you find yourself in a collision that wasn’t your fault, that same little private detective could very well be used to prove your case, in case the other driver denies everything.
Most people don’t actually realize this, and it’s something the insurance companies aren’t desperately eager for you to find out about, because it could end up costing them a lot of money if it’s one of their clients that injure somebody. The fact is, however, almost every car that has an airbag system also contains an event data recorder (EDR) as part of that system.
The information contained in the EDR could prove invaluable in providing investigators vital clues as to what your vehicle was doing moments before the collision. Much like the black box contained in all commercial airlines, the EDR records a veritable treasure trove of details and holds those details where they can be retrieved any time an airbag deployment has taken place.
Providing vital clues
Let’s say someone pulls out in front of you at an intersection. Maybe they were sending a text, combing their hair, eating a taco, or maybe they just weren’t paying any attention for no particular reason. Their car pulls out in front of you, giving you nowhere to go and no time to get there, and bang, the two vehicles collide.
The police arrive, and the formerly inattentive driver suddenly becomes a mastermind. They can tell police that you were doing at least 70 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone, and that you made no effort to stop before crashing into them.
Enter the EDR, which your new worst enemy didn’t know anything about. The device will almost definitely have recorded such details as:
- What your car’s systems were doing several seconds before the crash
- The speed of your vehicle in the few moments before and leading right up to the crash itself. This is the kind of information that the insurance companies would rather you didn’t have access to!
- How long before the collision were your brakes applied, if at all
- Whether or not your seatbelts were buckled
In Oregon, personal injury attorneys are arguing that if all parties in an accident had access to the information contained in an EDR, it would speed up the claims process, as well as providing accurate and indisputable details of some of the circumstances surrounding an accident. In addition, proponents claim that if the information was freely available to both parties, it would serve to keep them honest in their reporting of events.
Using EDR data could, in many cases, remove the need to go to trial, with all the expense, frustration and anxiety, not to mention the time involved in that process.
In some places, you have to ask before you can have a look
In most states, including Oregon, police departments can download information from the EDR in serious accident cases. However, there are still 13 states, with California being the main offender, where you have to either get the consent of the car’s legal owner, or even the police have to obtain a search warrant to get at the data.
In a number of cases, information collected from an EDR has led to more than just a personal injury settlement. There have also been cases of:
- Criminal charges being brought against drivers who were proven to be driving too fast just before the collision
- Charges against drivers for providing false or misleading information about their actions in the moments leading up to the crash
- Insurance cancellations–the insurance companies take a very dim view of their clients poor (and expensive) driving habits, and they especially don’t like being dragged into a case on the basis of lies being told by their client which are subsequently shown to be utterly false by EDR data
Oh, no, we like it…really we do!
Some insurers say they fully approve of using EDR data to get to the facts of a case. State Farm’s Sevag Sarkissian said, “…we believe that’s (use of EDR data) is helpful, because getting to the facts of an investigation helps us assess more accurately and more efficiently resolve a claim.”
On the other hand, insurers say they don’t really need the data, saying that they would only anticipate using it in approximately one percent of all claims.
Some personal injury attorneys and safety regulators, however, feel the insurance industry has a vested interest in not allowing EDR data to be used more consistently than is currently the case. One attorney spoke frankly when he said the insurance companies save a lot of money (which after all is their primary function as far as the stockholders are concerned) by not having the true facts readily available.
Take a case where a driver sitting at a stop sign is rear ended and severely injured by another driver. Every piece of information available could be of assistance to the injured party in proving their claim, and that information would be contained within the EDR. However, it would be far more beneficial to the at-fault driver’s insurance company if they could state in court their client was merely doing 10 miles per hour at the time of the collision, when in fact he was doing 25.
Whether or not insurance companies deliberately obstruct those looking for the information contained in the EDR is a matter of debate. Some think they deliberately have the data erased, while others say that’s not possible.
After a minor accident, the data will be automatically overwritten; in most cases, after the car has been restarted between 200 and 300 times. However, in a serious accident, as in any crash causing an airbag deployment, the data is locked into the EDR and cannot be erased.
Fitted as standard
Federal safety regulators would like all EDRs to record the same kind of data. They also want to see an expansion in the amount and types of information the systems can record. According to one report, the new, standardized EDRs will be required on all new cars no later than 2015. It’s uncertain at this time, however, whether all parties will have access to the information, particularly in the 13 states that currently place restrictions on access to the recorded data.
It’s good to know that if you’ve been involved in an Oregon road accident, you might just have access to the information you need to prove your case contained in your own car, particularly if the at-fault driver and their insurance company are not so forthcoming. After all, anything that can help resolve the case quickly and honestly should be welcomed.
Thousands of people are injured every year on Oregon roads, and in many cases, the accidents are caused by careless, negligent, speeding or drunk drivers. If this has happened to you, it’s important to require the necessary expertise to make a successful claim against the at-fault driver.
Your best bet is to retain the services of an experienced and knowledgeable Portland auto accident attorney. They know where to find the information you need to prove your case, and they know how to get it. They also have experience in dealing with reluctant insurance companies and at-fault drivers who are reticent about revealing the facts of their liability for your injuries.