Fireball Crash In Vernon Parish

Police have few clues after a quadruple-fatal car crash in Vernon Parish on Highway 10. After a driver apparently lost control of his vehicle, his pickup left the roadway, careened through several trees, and burst into flame. All four vehicle occupants, who were trapped inside the burning pickup, died at the crash scene between Pitkin and Oakdale. Although police believe that excessive speed was the primary cause, they have not ruled out impairment. None of the names were released.

Evidence Collection in Car Crash Cases

The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a negligence case, which means that there must be compelling evidence of all five elements: if the defendant breached a legal duty, and that breach legally and factually caused injury, the defendant is liable for damages.

Traditionally, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence at the scene, like skid marks and crash damage, have been the only available types of evidence. Today, most passenger vehicles have Event Data Recorders, which are similar to the “black boxes” in commercial airplanes. The first EDRs did little more than record airbag deployment. Newer EDRs can capture and record much more information than before, including:

  • Brake application,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM,
  • Vehicle speed,
  • Certain mechanical faults, and
  • Seatbelt use.

Exact capability depends on the make and model vehicle.

Tapping Into An EDR

Many cases have few or no eyewitnesses and little or no physical evidence, so the EDR is essentially the only way that a plaintiff can build a case. While this device is a treasure trove of information, there are legal hurdles to overcome if the plaintiff is to use the data.

Louisiana does not have an EDR privacy statute, so the federal Driver Privacy Act of 2015 is the controlling law in this state. In most cases, only the owner or the owner’s directly authorized agent can access an EDR and download the information. Anyone else, such as a car crash injury victim, must obtain a court order. In addition to this difficulty, many insurance companies destroy totaled vehicles within a few days, so the EDR is lost forever.

In these situations, an attorney will send a spoliation letter to the vehicle’s owner or custodian. This letter serves as notice that a lawsuit may be filed and that the letter’s recipient has a duty to preserve all potential evidence in the case, including the EDR. If a lawsuit is filed later, the data is fully available during court-supervised discovery.

Modern evidence-collection techniques make it easier to obtain fair compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. An attorney can arrange ongoing medical care for victims, even if they have no money and no insurance.