In our last newsletter (winter 2015), we wrote about the importance of preserving black box data early in the claims process. The reason it is so critical to obtain black box data as soon as possible is because in some vehicles the data can be erased over time, especially data pertaining to a low speed collision. If a collision occurred which was severe enough to “wake up” the black box, but not severe enough to deploy the airbags, the black box will record what is called a “non-deployment event.” In most vehicles, data related to non-deployment events are not locked in the black box’s memory. This means that they can be overwritten if the vehicle is involved in another collision, or cleared if the ignition gets cycled through a certain number of times.
In some vehicles, non-deployment events are cleared after about 250 ignition cycles. Since vehicle ignitions are cycled about 40 to 50 times on average per week, black box data may be lost as soon as 5 weeks after a low speed collision. This is why it is so important to have the vehicle’s black box data downloaded as soon as possible after a low speed collision. The information contained within the black box often proves to be indispensible when it comes to properly qualifying claims where fraud or injury may be under scrutiny.
In cases where a collision was severe enough to deploy the airbags, the black box will have recorded a “deployment event.” Deployment events are locked on the black box and typically cannot be overwritten. Therefore, when it comes to more severe collisions, the data within the black box is not as volatile. However, repair shops may dispose of black boxes when replacing vehicle air bags, or the vehicles may be auctioned off or scrapped, so it is still important to get a forensic expert to download the data before the repair shop begins any work, or before the vehicle becomes unavailable.