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Can the Info in Your Car's Black Box Be Used against You?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017By Richard Alexander

After an airplane crash, we all hold our breath to see whether the “black box” is intact and, if so, what it will reveal. Black boxes record important information about the plane that may bear on the cause of the crash, including data about its speed, steering input, and mechanical status.

But did you know that most cars these days have similar devices? They go by different names like these:

  • telematics;
  • electronic data recorders (EDRs); and
  • sensing and diagnostic modules (SDMs).

Under California law, these devices are legally known as SDMs. By law, SDMs include manufacturer-installed devices that do any of the following five things:

  • record the speed and direction of a car;
  • record the travel history of a car;
  • record a car’s steering performance;
  • record a car’s braking performance; or
  • record the status of a driver’s seatbelt usage.

The definition of an SDM includes any manufacturer-installed device that has the “ability to transmit information concerning an accident . . . to a central communications system when an accident occurs.” As you might imagine, SDMs contain a lot of information that might help or hurt the parties involved in a lawsuit over a crash.

In California, car manufacturers must disclose the existence of SDMs in car owner manuals. In addition, California places strict limits on who may access the contents of SDMs.

Of course, the information may be disclosed to the car owner or to anyone with his or her consent. It may also be obtained by certain people who are working to diagnose, service, or fix the car. Outside of that, the full data may only be disclosed by court order, which can occur in a lawsuit over the crash. This means that if a judge orders the information to be disclosed, it can be used against you in a car wreck lawsuit.

If you or someone you love was injured in a crash in California, contact the Alexander Law Group, LLP today at 888.777.1776. We are a nationally-recognized and award-winning personal injury law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco, and we stay up-to-date on cutting-edge technology relating to crashes.

While the results that we have obtained in other cases and our clients' testimonials do not guarantee, promise or predict the outcome of your case, we do promise to do our very best for you in your case.

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