Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Electronic Control Modules Value in Semi Truck Accidents!
Semi truck accident lawyers see thousands of cases every year that deal with the aftermath of serious crashes. When people are injured in semi truck accidents and turn to attorneys to help them, one of the primary goals is to determine what, why, and how the accident happened. With this information, semi truck accident attorneys can shed light on whether negligence played any part in the accident.
One critical source of this information lawyers depend on is the ECM or electronic control module that is on board most vehicles and tractor trailers today.
What Is an ECM and What Does It Do?
An electronic control module or ECM is a computer that has been placed in the engine compartment and connected via sensors to many engine parts such as the throttle, voltage regulator, fuel injectors, and many more. Data is collected and returned to the ECM which monitors and analyzes the data to determine if anything is not working properly so that it can react and make necessary changes.
Usage of this computer has been extended with the addition of an EDR or electronic data recorder that records the information being returned by the sensors. This module is also know as the "black box" of the automotive industry. Similar to the black box on commercial airplanes, semi truck accident lawyers know the ECM/EDR contains sensors that record information about the truck’s engine, operation, and more.
An ECM/EDR records data such as driver information, vehicle speeds, amount of time the vehicle is in operation, engine RPMs, idling time, and many other details. These devices record seatbelt usage, hard-braking frequency, and other factors that indicate vehicle performance and driver actions. The same information gathered on an EDR and used by mechanics to determine was is or was wrong with a vehicle is also critical to attorneys performing truck crash investigations to determine accident causation.
Why is an ECM/EDR Important to Accident Investigations?
When semi truck accident attorneys begin an investigation after a crash, they need all available evidence to understand what happened and why. To determine causation, semi truck accidents must be reconstructed by using forensics data and other gathered evidence.
An ECM provides critical insight into how the involved vehicle was performing at the time of the crash and what actions the driver took just before it happened. This information, along with other evidence such as physical damage and eyewitness accounts, lets forensics experts and semi truck accident lawyers know the chain of events that led to the crash.
Once causation is understood, it is then possible for attorneys to evaluate if there was any negligence and if so, which parties were responsible.
How is ECM Data Used?
The data extracted from an ECM/EDR is important evidence that semi truck accident attorneys use when discussing accident claims with the trucking companies involved and their insurance companies. It is also admissible as legal evidence for cases that go to trial.
ECM/EDR data offers those who review a crash an inside look at what happened from a scientific and forensic angle, without the influence or opinion of anyone related to the case. Lawyers greatly depend upon the data recorded on these devices since this information provides the answers to many questions regarding the accident.
Electronic control modules have been used in commercial trucks since the 1990’s, which is about the time that their value in helping semi truck accident lawyers investigate semi truck accidents was realized. The use of ECMs is not legally mandated, but attorneys know they are standard equipment on most vehicles with fuel injection motors, including big rigs. Tampering with an ECM is illegal since they are considered as crash evidence to be used by semi truck accident attorneys.
Considering all of the above, it is possible to see how the electronic control modules installed on tractor trailers to monitor and control engine functioning can also play a valuable role in allowing lawyers to decipher crash events. With this information, semi truck accident attorneys can work toward a suitable accident resolution on behalf of their clients!