Electronic Evidence in Car Crash Claims

In order to establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), the victim/plaintiff must have evidence in a car crash claim. Until very recently, New York personal injury attorneys had to rely almost entirely on witness testimony and the police accident report.

These sources are still very useful, but they also have significant problems. Witnesses are sometimes biased or unqualified. Maybe they were in a car crash themselves or maybe they were not wearing their glasses. Similarly, the police accident report is sometimes incomplete. If the victim was seriously injured or killed, that report usually only contains one side of the story.

So, electronic evidence is important as well. Like eyewitness testimony and other types of traditional evidence, electronic proof usually involves some issues that an attorney must work around or overcome. EDR is a good example.


What Is an Event Data Recorder?

Many people do not know that their vehicles contain EDRs. These gadgets are a lot like the black box flight recorders (which are actually orange) in commercial jets. Government investigators use black boxes to piece together the events leading up to a plane crash, and attorneys can do the same thing with EDRs.

These devices have been around since the 1960s. But until recently, they were not mandatory and had very limited capabilities. Today, the government requires EDRs in all passenger vehicles. Event Data Recorder features vary by make and model, but typically, these gadgets capture and record things like:

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

In court, electronic data has some advantages over eyewitness testimony. For example, EDR information is much more specific. A witness may say that a driver was speeding, but the EDR can prove that the vehicle was traveling at 57.4 mph. Additionally, assuming the device is working properly, it’s almost impossible to legally challenge EDR data. Computers are rarely wrong and never biased.


EDR Issues in New York

To present this electronic evidence to the jury, attorneys must do some homework, because there are some obstacles to overcome.

New York has very strict vehicle data privacy laws. These laws prevent insurance companies and evildoers from tampering with or altering EDRs. So, before they can inspect these gadgets, an attorney normally needs a court order. These requests must meet certain legal requirements, or else the judge will not allow EDR inspection.

Furthermore, these devices are technically sophisticated. A lawyer needs special tools and special skills, or access to such resources, to utilize EDRs in court.

Finally, there may be availability issues. If the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) vehicle was totaled, the insurance company will probably destroy it almost straight away. If that happens, any physical evidence the car contains, including the EDR, will be gone forever.

To prevent this outcome, an attorney must quickly send a spoliation letter. This letter creates a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence in the case, including the Event Data Recorder.


Rely on an Experienced Attorney

Electronic evidence, like the EDR, makes it easier to establish negligence in a car crash claim. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. We routinely handle cases in Queens County and nearby jurisdictions.