Insurers Lose Black Box Fight In North Dakota

By Steve Tuckey

NU Online News Service, April 25, 4:15 p.m. EDT?Despite opposition from insurers, North Dakota Republican Gov. John Hoeven is expected to sign legislation restricting carriers’ rights to obtain accident information from late model car Event Data Recorders, a trade group representative said.[@@]

Both houses of the State Legislature approved recently the measure that would allow release of the so-called “black box” data only with the owner’s consent or a court order.

Insurance companies lobbied for an amendment that would grant them statutory rights to data from the “black boxes,” said Rey Becker, lobbyist for the Des Plaines, Ill.-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

Such a law has already gone into effect in Arkansas and California. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Nevada, New Hampshire, New York and Texas are looking at similar laws.

Mr. Becker said that currently insurance companies have the right to such information by policy language that requires cooperation from the policyholder in the event of an accident. He therefore believes that any legislation curbing that right might not withstand a court challenge.

The trend to seek legislation curbing insurer access is based on a misconceived notion by privacy advocates that financial or medical information is involved, according to Mr. Becker. “EDRs only record crash-related data, such as how brakes or airbags performed before or during a collision,” he said.

“Prohibiting access to this technological advance for claims adjusting and accident investigation undermines our ability to make streets safer and courtrooms equitable,” Mr. Becker complained.