Side-impact collisions, known as T-bone car accidents, are among the most dangerous on US roads. It mainly occurs when a driver does not yield to another driver and broadsides them, the vehicles forming a “T.”
In 2020, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recorded 5,475 passenger deaths from side-impact crashes. That is 23 percent of the total vehicle occupant deaths in the country.
T-bone accidents only come second to frontal impacts at more than 50 percent or 13,845 fatalities.
Unlike other collisions, a thin door and a window are the only barriers protecting T-bone crash victims. It makes it hazardous as a window can shatter on impact, showering shards of glass onto the victim. A car door made of a thin metal sheet can crumple like paper. It is especially true for vehicles without side-impact airbags or does not properly deploy.
When faced with that situation, immediately seek medical attention for any physical injuries you may have sustained. After which, consult with a personal injury lawyer who can guide you in building your case.
Find more information below about what to do in a car accident and how to navigate a T-bone accident case.
T-bone Accidents: What are they?
A T-bone accident involves one car striking the side of another vehicle. These collisions typically occur at an intersection. For example, a car runs a red light and crashes into another vehicle passing perpendicular to its position. The driver crossing the intersection illegally is at fault because they should have stopped at the red light.
Aside from intersections, T-bone crashes happen on highways or interstates when a driver loses control of their vehicle and skids sideways. It can also occur in parking lots. For example, a driver could be backing out from their spot, and another car strikes them on the side.
Who is liable for a T-bone accident?
T-bone type accidents account for roughly 13 percent of car crashes in the United States annually. But there is no definite answer as to who is liable for a T-bone crash. Any number of parties may share liability for this type of accident. It can be any driver involved in the accident, the vehicle manufacturer, or another driver not involved in the collision.
Knowing who is at fault for the side-impact crash is essential when building a car accident case. The most common causes of T-bone accidents are described in more detail below:
Most commonly, side collision accidents are caused by driving at high speed, ignoring a stop sign, and drunk driving. A driver assumes fault when they run a red light at the intersection and strikes another vehicle from the side.
However, sometimes, the one who got hit from the side was the driver who sped through a stop sign. In this case, the latter should be held liable. So, it is not always a question of who hit who and sustained the most damage.
Most often, the driver who did not have the right of way is at fault. But both drivers can share liability when both cross on a red light, causing a T-bone accident.
At this point, consulting a lawyer is best as drivers may dispute who had the right of way. A lawyer can help you obtain concrete evidence proving the other driver’s negligence. It includes eyewitness accounts, photographs, and an official police report. A crucial step in establishing fault is showing the crash from multiple angles and the damage to both vehicles.
The most common reasons that lead to failure to yield are:
- Blocked view
- Miscalculation of approaching traffic speed
- Aggressive or reckless driving
- Drunk driving
- Misjudgment of gap size when turning
- Distracted driving
Intersections are often the scene of T-bone collisions, and sometimes it is due to an issue with the intersection itself. A tiny mistake with an intersection’s layout, construction, or maintenance could increase the likelihood of a deadly crash.
Some crossings need more precise layouts and better signages that could prevent an accident. Thus, driving defensively past intersections is crucial to avoid collisions.
Other factors that could lead to an unreasonable risk of T-bone accidents include:
- Type of traffic control device installed
- Maintenance of lane markings
- Failure to fix or replace broken signals or missing signs
- Failure to remove visual obstructions that blindsides a driver
Sometimes, the driver at fault manages to avoid the crash itself. When a third driver cuts in front of the other driver, it causes the latter to hit another vehicle. Another example is when a driver makes an illegal left turn in front of an oncoming car. It causes that driver to swerve to avoid a collision, only to strike another vehicle from the side.
The driver who caused the car crash would have liability even if they did not collide with any of the vehicles. In such cases, the driver at fault has a legal obligation to remain at the scene. However, it doesn’t mean that they will do so.
You may help your lawyer identify the liable party by seeking witnesses that can comprehensively account for what happened during the crash. Additionally, documenting the immediate effect of the T-bone accident can help identify the at-fault party who fled the scene.
The driver is not at fault in some instances. Some cases involve brakes failing, the accelerator sticking, or airbags not deploying correctly. In such cases, the law can impose strict liability on the manufacturers.
Strict liability is also known as absolute liability. It does not consider the defendant’s intent in determining if they should be held accountable for an accident. Sometimes, the law requires them to compensate injured victims in a personal injury claim.
In T-bone accidents, the victims can file for a product liability claim. It arose when a person was harmed or injured by a defective product. The claimant can recover damages by using some legal theories. It includes negligent marketing, a failure to warn, or negligence that resulted in a design defect.
Strict liability also applies to product liability. It allows a plaintiff to claim personal injury without proving the defendant was negligent or acted intentionally. Instead, accident victims of a defective product can prove:
- They used the product as intended
- The product caused injuries when used as intended
- The product is unreasonably dangerous because of a defect
Anyone hurt by using a dangerous or defective product can file a strict liability claim against the manufacturer. It includes other users as well as the person who bought the product. An experienced car accident attorney can gather evidence and build a solid case when filing a product liability claim.
How do no-fault laws impact a T-bone accident case?
Some states implement no-fault insurance or sometimes referred to as Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP). It covers a driver’s and passenger’s medical cost and loss of income because of an accident, regardless of who is liable.
PIP insurance is unlike comprehensive, collision, and liability, which reimburse damages depending on who is at fault. The PIP pays for a driver’s and passenger’s incurred expenses as long as the accident is within the policy terms.
No-fault insurance covers several costs for policy owners and their passengers. It includes medical expenses from the accident, income losses from the inability to work, and funeral expenses. However, this insurance policy does not cover property damage. Your collision insurance or the other driver’s liability policy could cover damage to your vehicle.
Currently, 18 US states implement no-fault laws:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
Three of these eighteen states – Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – implement an “optional no-fault” or “choice no-fault” ruling. Drivers involved can opt whether they will be held to a no-fault system.
If you are not from these 18 states, you live in a “tort state.” The law in these areas requires the insurance provider of the person at fault to pay for all damage costs.
Types of T-bone Accident Injuries
Side-impact crashes almost always lead to severe injuries due to broken windows or crumpled doors. The risk of serious injury is even more significant for the people seated on the side where the impact occurs.
If you or a loved one suffered from car accident injuries, you could recover damages from the person at fault. Their insurance company would pay for expenses you may have incurred due to the motor vehicle accident. It includes medical costs, loss of income, pain and suffering, etc.
The most prevalent types of injuries sustained from a T-bone collision include:
- Bruises, lacerations, gashes, and cuts
- Fractured, sprained, and broken bones
- Back and spinal cord injuries, which can lead to paralysis
- Neck injuries, including whiplash.
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injury
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Soft tissue damage
How do insurance companies assign fault for a T-bone accident?
The driver whose car collides with the side of another vehicle is not always liable for the crash. There are instances where the driver who was hit is at fault, or perhaps the driver whose car is scratch-free.
Five parties typically decide who is liable for a T-bone crash:
- Drivers involved: The drivers in the car crash could concur on who is at fault while still at the scene of the accident.
- Law enforcement: The police officer at the scene will assess the accident and note all damages involved.
- Insurance companies: The drivers can file accident claims with their insurance companies, and they will determine liability.
- Arbitrator: Insurance providers can forward the dispute to arbitration, and the arbitrator will determine liability and damages.
- Jury: If your personal injury case goes to court, a jury will determine who will be liable and the extent of damages
If an insurance company resolves a dispute, they must speak with the people involved. Adjusters will contact the drivers to determine who is at fault for a T-bone accident. The insurers will inquire about the driver’s recollections of what happened during the time leading to the crash.
If you are in a similar situation, you should be wary of speaking with the other driver’s insurance company. Talking with your personal injury lawyer before talking with the insurance company is advisable. Insurance companies must go through your lawyer once you have an attorney-client relationship.
A few other documents can help insurance companies determine who is the at-fault driver for a T-bone accident. It includes:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
What should I do following a T-bone collision?
Involvement in a T-bone crash can cause confusion and uncertainty. However, it is crucial to stay calm and alert to get through the situation as safely as possible. If you have been involved in a T-bone accident, it is advisable to follow the steps listed below:
- Ensure you and your passengers are safe
Stay at the scene, but remember to go a safe distance from the road as soon as possible. It ensures that you do not suffer any further injuries. You should also check if you or your passengers sustained any harm from the crash.
- Call 911
Seek medical assistance even if you do not see any surface injuries upon initial checking. Consulting with medical experts as soon as possible can also affect your settlement in the future. Delaying to address your medical needs can be used as evidence against you regarding the seriousness of your injuries.
- Reach out to the police
Call police officers at the scene at the earliest opportunity to inform them of the accident and the parties involved. While at the location, the police officer assigned can also draw up a police report about the incident. The information can also help determine who is at fault in the T-bone accident.
- Gather evidence and get witness accounts
Collect as much evidence as you can at the scene of the incident. It includes taking photos of the vehicles involved, evidence from the road, and the surrounding traffic devices, including traffic lights. You can also look for witnesses and ask for statements about what happened. Remember to ask for their personal information, including their name and contact details.
- Exchange information with the other driver
For accountability, you can exchange personal details with the other driver involved. You can provide your full name, contact details, driver’s license, and vehicle registration number. If needed, you can exchange insurance information, including your provider and insurance number.
- Contact your insurance provider
It is crucial to contact your insurance company in the event of an accident. It ensures that your insurance policy can cover any medical costs you might incur due to the incident. It is also a significant factor in reaching any settlement for your injuries.
- Consult with a personal injury lawyer
Seek legal advice and consult with a trusted personal injury attorney. It drastically improves your chances of receiving a fair settlement for your injuries. An experienced car accident lawyer can build a solid case so that insurance companies do not devalue your claim.
Find an Experienced T-Bone Accident Lawyer
The things you need to remember about T-bone accidents can be overwhelming. Compound that with the pain and mental anguish of such a traumatic incident, and you can shut down.
Preventing such accidents is still the best way to avoid these circumstances. But hiring a T-bone accident lawyer is the best approach in the worst-case scenario.
The Personal Injury Center is a repository of legal resources to help you navigate a T-bone crash accident. You can also get a free consultation to connect you to a reputable personal injury law firm in your area. While the choice is yours, we can ease your burden by pointing you in the right direction.
FAQs on T-Bone Accidents
Every state requires a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) report for an accident that involves injury, death, or property damage. More importantly, an accident with a police report is automatically filed with the DMV.
However, some states forego this requirement if the value of damages incurred is lower than a specific limit. Similarly, the statute of limitations, or the timeframe in which the victim needs to file a report, varies per state.
A side-swipe accident is a collision in which the side of one vehicle strikes the side of another. This type of accident typically occurs when two cars travel in the same direction, and one vehicle attempts to change lanes without checking for other vehicles in its blind spot.
On the other hand, a t-bone accident is when the front of one vehicle hits the side of another car. This type of accident often occurs at intersections when one driver fails to yield the right of way to another.
In both types of accidents, the risk of serious injury is high because the sides of vehicles offer less protection than the front or rear.
Economic damages are the most common type of compensation that a victim can recover in the event of an accident. These cover direct costs incurred due to an injury. It includes medical bills, vehicle damage, lost earnings and loss of future wages, physical therapy, and future care costs.
Victims can also recover non-economic damages, which can be more challenging to prove as these are subjective. It includes pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship, enjoyment, and inconvenience.