In most car-truck accident cases, the trucking company is at a huge data disadvantage. While the truck’s electronic control module is a treasure trove of data for a claimant, the trucking company rarely has equivalent data from the claimant’s vehicle. That is quickly changing.

Like a semi’s ECM, a late model vehicle’s infotainment system contains voluminous data about the vehicle and its operation in the critical seconds before a collision. With a proper download, the infotainment system will reveal the vehicle’s second-by-second speed, its location, and other valuable data about braking, turning, and vehicle operation. If a driver or passenger connected their cell phone to the vehicle’s Bluetooth, the infotainment system download could also indicate whether the call, text, or internet functions were in use at or before the time of the impact.

The speed of the claimant’s vehicle is often a major factor in assessing liability. The infotainment download will provide key, significant data mere seconds before the impact. The download may also contain several days’ worth of the same information. The downloads are often several thousand pages in length. The amount of data depends upon the vehicle’s manufacturer. We have found Ford vehicles contain the most information, followed by GMC and Chrysler. Foreign vehicles generally do not contain as much information as American-made vehicles.

The Takeaway

Immediately after any accident, trucking companies and claims handlers should send a preservation letter and demand an inspection and download of the other vehicle’s infotainment system. If the other party does not agree, immediately seek court intervention. Additionally, care must be taken to ensure a proper download. A download can take up to 12 hours, and the system must be connected to a power source the entire time. Therefore, the best practice is to remove the infotainment system from the vehicle and have an expert engineer perform a bench download.

For more information about vehicle infotainment systems and how to use this data for accident investigation and claims handling purposes, please contact HeplerBroom attorney Michael Reda or Adam McGonigle of the firm’s Trucking & Transportation practice area.

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