Fault in Side Impact (T-Bone) Car Accidents

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Side impact collisions -- more commonly called t-bone accidents -- can occur in a number of different traffic situations. And, depending on the circumstances of the crash, either the driver who was broadsided or the driver who did the broadsiding may be at fault. You could have been crossing an intersection with a green light and the other driver blew through a red when he hit you broadside.  Or you could be driving through a different intersection and the other driver cuts in front of you on an unprotected right turn, causing you to hit him. In either situation, the other driver is at fault. 

Side Impact Collisions are Uniquely Dangerous

When a vehicle hits the front or back of your car, there are several feet of steel, bumper, engine, trunk, and seats protecting you.  But when your car is t-boned, there’s only a door and a window (and the passenger seat, depending on which side of your car is struck) between you and the other vehicle.  It’s no wonder that side impact collisions kill between 8,500 and 10,000 Americans a year.  While all cars sold in the United States must meet certain federal side-impact safety standards, the age of these standards and the ever increasing weight of the average American car have led some to question whether these standards are really that safe.

Proving Fault in Side Impact Accidents

Sometimes liability is obvious just based on how a side-impact accident happened, and the other driver will admit fault.  But in either of the most common t-bone situations -- where the other car hit your car, or cut in front of you so that you were almost forced to hit the other car -- the other driver will often claim that he had the right of way, that he had the signal and that you were at fault. 

You may be at the scene and wondering what to do after a car accident. The rules for a side impact collision are largely the same as for other car accidents.  Call the police (who may be able to determine who was responsible), get contact information from anybody who witnessed the accident, do not admit liability to the other driver, and take pictures of the scene and damage if you are able. 

If there could be a question regarding the traffic light (you had a protected green but the other driver claims he had the right of way), try to take special note of the time of the accident.  While not a surefire tool, it can be possible in some circumstances to compare this time against the traffic light’s automated programming.  For instance, if the accident occurred at 10:15 AM, that time could be compared against the programming to show that oncoming traffic always has a red light at that time. Again, this is not a perfect solution, but can give your attorney another tool to help show that you were not at fault.

A common complication in side impact collision cases comes in the various manifestations of defective parts.  The other driver may have run the red light because his brakes failed -- but is that a problem with the manufacturer, with the driver for failing to get routine maintenance, or the shop that inspected and declined to replace them?  Perhaps the injuries were so bad because the collision broke somebody’s seatbelt or damaged the side impact airbags and prevented them from deploying.  In this case, you may want to get the manufacturer or repair shop involved as parties that potentially share some liability for the accident or for the severity of the injury.

Getting Legal Help

If you’ve been involved in a side impact collision, the police may not make a determination of fault in the accident report, if they make the wrong determination. And if different witnesses say different things, it won’t take much for the other driver to claim that the accident was your fault. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you establish that you weren’t the one responsible for the accident, and can help you navigate every stage in your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.

Updated by: , J.D.

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