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The Evidentiary Role of Modern Car Computers

The Evidentiary Role of Modern Car Computers

Modern cars record an incredible amount of information. After an accident, data from a car’s memory can reveal details that the car’s driver couldn’t know. Sometimes a car’s memory will reveal that a driver’s recollection of the accident is flawed or self-serving. Other times it can prove that a driver is telling the truth.

The kinds of data a car records

Modern cars are loaded with electronic sensors that pass an enormous volume of information to devices called Electronic Control Modules, or ECMs. Since the mid-1990s all cars sold in the United States have been required to comply with the Onboard Diagnostic II (OBD II) Standard, which standardized the format and type of data collected by ECMs. OBD II systems collect information for use by mechanics who are diagnosing problems with a car, emissions inspectors, and accident investigators. The specific data gathered by a car’s OBD II system will vary by manufacturer, but generally includes things like accelerator and brake pedal positions, engine RPMs, and error or warning signals. Some cars also collect details like the vehicle’s pitch and yaw, seatbelt status, and the weight of passengers.

The introduction of onboard navigation systems and other Internet-connected tools has added another category of computer to the modern car. These systems not only gather data about where a car has been. They also record speed, cross-referenced to the location’s speed limit, time information, and other details that car manufacturers sell to third parties.

The use of car data in a lawsuit

The information gathered by a car’s computer can become significant in a lawsuit that follows an accident in a number of ways. OBD II information can be extracted from a car using specialized readers. The availability of information from non-OBD II systems, like navigation computers, will depend on whether the information is stored locally or only on the system’s remote servers, and whether the owner of the system allows consumers to access it.

The key thing to understand about a car’s electronic data is that it can be exceptionally compelling evidence of pivotal details about an accident. Did the driver accelerate or brake? Was the driver speeding? Was there a mechanical problem with the car that contributed to the accident? Technical details are perceived—often correctly—as more reliable than human recollections about an event.

Digital records often can’t tell the entire story about an accident. A car’s data won’t necessarily reflect things like what the driver saw, whether the driver was distracted, and whether external factors like roadway conditions played a role. But it’s important to take car computer data into account when building a case.

GGRM understands car accident litigation

For more than 45 years, the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has worked with clients in the Las Vegas area to get the compensation they deserve for injuries from car accidents. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contacts page.