Wrongful death: car’s “black box” used as evidence of speeding

Back in February 2010, a horrific Pittsburgh car crash claimed the lives of three people in one car. The driver survived and recently faced a criminal trial on three separate counts of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter. The charges grew out of a single-car accident on the Parkway West near the ramp for the Parkway Center Mall.

The 21-year-old driver lost control of his car, struck a barrier and flew over a snow-covered guardrail before landing and tumbling to a stop down an embankment. The three passengers perished, and, in any sense of the words, each suffered a wrongful death.

One of the issues in the non-jury trial was whether an electronic data recorder measuring the speed of the car leading up to the fatal collision could be used as evidence. A prior state police investigation concluded only that the vehicle was traveling at a speed of at least 49 miles per hour. However, the electronic data recorder documented that the car was traveling at a speed of 106 miles per hour just five seconds before the accident. The judge determined that the evidence could be used, and based on that evidence, he returned a guilty verdict. The ruling may be ground-breaking and lead other judges to also admit electronic data recorders as evidence in Pennsylvania.

While the victim’s families were pleased by the guilty finding, it will not bring their loved ones back. In the past two years they have likely suffered financially and emotionally as a result of the Pittsburgh tragedy. The law in our state permits the family of deceased victims to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against negligent parties. While such a claim will not atone for the fatal collision, it may offer some financial remuneration to help cope with any financial strain as well as provide some measure of solace in holding all negligent parties fully accountable for any misconduct.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Verdict in triple fatal relied on car’s electronic data recorder,” Bobby Kerlik, Feb. 22, 2012



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