Car Lawyer U.: Black Box Law

A car lawyer must be familiar with many types of laws. One New Jersey law that is of particular concern to any car lawyer concerns “black boxes.”

Modern cars, like commercial passenger aircraft, come with electronic data recorders. Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires the installation of electronic data recorders in automobiles. These electronic data recorders are commonly referred to as black boxes. The information gathered by a black box includes speed, location, time of use and the number of people inside the car.
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EVERY CAR LAWYER MUST KNOW THE BLACK BOX LAW

New Jersey has a law restricting access to information contained in black boxes. Under the law, information on a black box belongs exclusively to the owner of the car.  Generally, no one may release data from the device without the owner’s permission.

Under the law, with limited exceptions, police are only permitted access to black box data after getting a search warrant, a court order, or a grand jury subpoena. Moreover, A party in a civil lawsuit would have to obtain a court order to gain access to the data.

A car repair garage may download information from a black box with the owner’s consent.  EMTs can access the data. But only to render medical assistance in the event of a crash.

The law prohibits a car owner from destroying a black box within two years following an accident involving personal injury. An owner who violates the law is subject to a $5,000 civil penalty.

THE LAW MAY HELP OR HURT ACCIDENT VICTIMS

In my opinion, the law is unnecessary. It only makes it more difficult for innocent victims of careless drivers to obtain compensation. And for any car lawyer representing such a victim. Indeed, the only good part of the law is the section prohibiting the car owner from destroying the black box. But even that requirement is not as strong as it should be.

You can read the law on the New Jersey State Legislature’s website.

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