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Event Data Recorders in Cars: Examining the “Black Box” in Auto Accident Cases 

By Daniel T. Geherin

When an airplane or helicopter crashes, investigators scour the wreckage to find the “black box” to learn more about what lead to the accident. Believe it or not, there are similar “black boxes” (formally known as, “Event Data Recorders” (EDRs) in most automobiles. According to most insurance and governmental estimates, up to 95% of all cars on American roads built after 2014 have EDR technology.  

EDR are devices installed in motor vehicles to record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period before, during, and after a triggering event, typically a crash or near-crash event.  Every day, we hear horrible reports about traffic and pedestrian accidents where someone is severely injured or killed. The driver is often intoxicated or distracted and clearly at fault.  In others, there’s nothing more than a “random” accident with horrific consequences for both victim and driver. These drivers may be charged criminally with serious crimes called “Moving Violation Causing Death or Serious Injury,” which allege that the driver’s traffic mistake or infraction caused the other person’s injury or death. In a nutshell, this statute requires proof that the driver committed any Michigan moving violation (i.e., speeding; failing to yield; red light or stop sign) resulting in the accident which caused serious bodily injury or death.  Likewise, the driver may be liable civilly for the injury or death, as might be their insurance carrier.  

Police and accident reconstruction experts often focus their investigation on obtaining and reviewing EDR data to determine crucial elements of the accident:  speed; stopping radius; etc.  This data is often reviewed and summarized by a police or civilian expert, who generates an opinion report as to what caused the accident.  

How do police obtain EDR?  Usually in one of three methods:  One, by obtaining a search warrant signed by a judge; Two, by obtaining consent of the automobile owner; or Three, by simply impounding the vehicle and downloading information. Attorneys who handle automobile cases—either criminal or civil—must be familiar with these investigative methods to potentially challenge the seizure of data, or use it to bolster their cases. In addition, attorneys must be familiar with the EDR technology and have a network of available experts ready to help analyze the data.  

Geherin Law Group is an Ann Arbor-based law firm that exclusively handles cases with a criminal justice element. We handle criminal and traffic defense; we handle driver’s license appeals and restoration; and we represent plaintiffs who are seriously injured or killed by the negligent actions of others. We’re uniquely qualified to provide expert assistance for anyone affected by a serious traffic accident, including drivers who face criminal inquiries.  We’re also well-versed in the EDR technology and have mounted legal challenges to data seizure.  

GLG Michigan has represented dozens of people charged with a Moving Violation Causing Injury and Death throughout Southeastern Michigan, and have sued insurance companies on behalf of countless families who have been victimized by negligence. Unlike other firms who “dabble” in criminal, traffic and licensing cases, our firm is a specialized, targeted, trial-based criminal justice firm with a long and proven track record of success in winning cases. Our firm’s founder, Dan Geherin, is a former prosecutor and board-certified criminal defense attorney in Ann Arbor with over 25+ years’ experience practicing criminal law, and the published author of The Michigan Drunk Driving and Driver’s License Handbook.  

If you or a loved one was the driver involved in a serious pedestrian or auto accident in which the police are investigating, please call us immediately to discuss how best to protect yourself.  There are many steps you should take from the beginning to protect against serious criminal charges, against losing your driver’s license and freedom, and against being sued for wrongful death or serious personal injury. If you have been injured by a negligent driver, or have lost a family member to another person’s automobile negligence, please call our firm immediately for guidance.  

The Geherin Law Group:  Providing Personal Attention, Personal Solutions, and Personal Justice for all serious Automobile Injury/Death Cases.