Who Is at Fault in a T-Bone Car Accident?

T-Bone accidents are unfortunately far more common and far more deadly than most people know.

Accounting for about half of the crashes occurring at intersections, this type of accident has a high likelihood of producing severe injuries to the occupants of the side of the vehicle that was struck. This is particularly true when there is a large size discrepancy between the vehicles.

Read on for more information about why fault matters in T-bone accidents and the process of obtaining compensation for the expenses and quality-of-life impacts you have incurred because of your injury.

What Is a T-Bone Collision?

A T-bone accident, also commonly referred to as a broadside or side-impact collision, occurs when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. This type of crash is overrepresented in fatality statistics, with 8,500 to 10,000 people a year dying in a T-bone.

Why Are T-Bone Accidents so Dangerous?

The most common reason for a T-bone collision is that a driver failed to yield the right-of-way to another motorist. This type of accident most often involves an intersection, and other hazards such as speeding, which is a factor in over a quarter of all the accidents occurring on U.S. roads each year. As previously mentioned, you are at a greater risk of becoming injured in this type of accident if you are an occupant sitting on the side of the vehicle that was struck broadside.

The growing popularity of SUVs and light pickup trucks in the U.S. has resulted in an influx of larger vehicles on the roadway. Bolstered by the sense of confidence experienced in a vehicle that sits higher than many others and offers power and cargo space to spare, these drivers often take risks, such as racing to make it through an intersection before the light turns red or rolling through a stop sign believing their car is high powered enough to make it.

When an SUV or pickup truck broadsides a smaller passenger car, the risk of catastrophic injuries or even death increases exponentially. The airbags and other car parts, including the bumper, engine, and dashboard, protect the occupants of a vehicle hit in the front.

However, occupants in a vehicle struck on the side often have very little protection. The heavier and bigger the vehicle is that strikes the broadside of a smaller passenger car—and the faster the vehicle is moving—the more likely it is to cause severe injuries.

Determining Liability

Who is at fault for a T-bone accident? The answer is never as simple as it seems. Accidents do not always feature one liable party and one victim.

In some cases, multiple drivers or entities committed errors that factored into the crash. In other cases, someone other than a driver can be liable. Examples include accidents involving a defective auto part or a hired driver—such as a truck driver or a delivery driver—whose employer can also be vicariously liable for damages.

Why It Matters

Liability is another word for legal responsibility. To obtain compensation for the expenses and impact of your injury, you must prove that someone else was liable for the accident.

In most states, you can be partially at fault and still seek compensation from another party.

To prove that another party is liable, you must show:

  • The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care is what a reasonable person would do in similar circumstances. A driver owes other roadway users a duty to operate his or her motor vehicle safely and legally.
  • There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions the at-fault party took that violated the duty of care and include any unsafe or illegal behavior.
  • The breach in the duty of care resulted in the accident, which caused you to sustain injuries and incur expenses and impacts because of those injuries.

When your attorney begins working on your case, he or she will carefully evaluate the details of the accident to determine:

  • If the other driver (or you) committed an unsafe or illegal action that contributed to the accident.
  • If other factors indicate additional liable parties, such as a driver who was too young to drive, or the accident was the result of defective brakes on one of the vehicles, which could then give rise to a claim against the manufacturer or distributor of the faulty brakes.

You need to identify not only all potential sources of liability, but all associated insurance resources that can compensate you. One of the problems with insurance policies is that they have limits, meaning only a certain amount of money is available through that policy.

If the costs of your injury exceed the policy limits, you must pay uncovered expenses, or look for other potential sources of liability with insurance policies that can share the responsibility of providing you compensation.

The Most Common Factor Resulting in a T-Bone Accident

The most common factor in broadside collisions is one driver failing to yield the right-of-way to another. Intersections are among the most chaotic situations a motorist can encounter on the roadway, as they feature many vehicles going different directions.

Many people, while understanding the concept of stopping on red and moving on green at a traffic light, are not completely aware of other right-of-way rules, such as:

  • If you make a left turn on a green light that does not give you an arrow, you must give the right-of-way to vehicles traveling straight in the opposite direction.
  • If the light turns yellow, it does not actually mean that the driver should speed up to make it through the light before it turns red. A yellow light indicates that approaching traffic should slow and stop, only moving through the intersection if he or she was already in it or just about to enter it when the light turned yellow. Because many people either do not understand this rule or are not willing to wait through another red light, one can never assume what another driver will do when the light turns yellow.
  • At a four-way stop without a traffic light, the first driver to arrive at the intersection has the right-of-way. If two motorists approach the intersection at the same time, the motorist on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on his or her right. If two vehicles arrive at a
  •  T-intersection (which are essentially three-way stops in which one roadway ends) simultaneously, the driver on the road that is ending must yield the right-of-way to the driver who is traveling the through-road.
  • If there is a marked crosswalk, drivers must yield to pedestrians who are at or in the intersection when the vehicle approaches.

Other Considerations in Determining Liability

While failure to yield is the most common factor resulting in T-bone accidents, other factors can also create the conditions for this type of crash. This is where liability gets tricky, because while one driver can bear liability for failing to yield, another driver can also bear liability—for example, for not paying attention to the road. In this case, who is more at fault for your injuries—the driver who failed to yield, or another driver who made the collision worse by not paying attention?

One of the many important services a car accident attorney can provide for you is to determine all sources of liability based on accident investigation reports, witness testimony, and other evidence, as well as all insurance resources that can compensate you.

You’re Injured—Now What?

If your injuries resulted from the carelessness or recklessness of another driver who failed to yield the right-of-way to you, a car accident lawsuit can establish liability and recover your expenses.

The Process of Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit

Once your attorney has found the at-fault party and established a value to your case based on the financial and psychological costs of the injury, your attorney will prepare the demand package to send it to the at-fault party’s insurance provider.

The demand package outlines the events leading up to the accident and explains the expenses and impacts that have resulted from the injury. The insurance provider may accept the claim and pay it, reject the claim, or offer a settlement. Often, these early settlement offers are quite low, but provide a place for your attorney to begin negotiating.

At some point, but within the statute of limitations, if negotiations don’t yield an adequate settlement, you and your attorney may decide to file your lawsuit in court and will begin the discovery phase of accessing evidence from the defendant and deposing witnesses in preparation for litigation. Settlement negotiations usually continue after the lawsuit is filed and a settlement agreement can be reached at any time before a judgment comes—even after the trial begins.

The vast majority of car accident cases settle before the trial begins. However, if your case does not settle by this point, your attorney will provide litigation services for you, such as the delivery of opening and closing arguments, the presentation of evidence, and the examination of witnesses.

Compensable Damages

Accident claimants are permitted to seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. The term damage refers to a payment made in compensation for expenses (economic damages) and impacts (non-economic damages) of your injury.

Commonly included in damage claims are expenses and impacts such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering

Contact a car accident lawyer today to discover what damages you can seek after you suffer injuries in a T-bone car accident. Most car accident lawyers don’t charge for your initial case evaluation, so you have nothing to lose by calling for more information.

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