Who Is at Fault in a T Bone Accident?

May 8, 2024 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Who Is at Fault in a T Bone Accident?

Who May Be Held Responsible For a Florida T-Bone Accident?

After a T-bone car accident, it may be challenging to determine who was at fault. T-bone accidents derive their name from the “T” shape formed at the point of impact when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. These collisions can occur in a variety of situations, such as when two vehicles enter an intersection or when a mechanical problem causes a vehicle to lose control.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can gather information about your T-bone accident to build a personal injury claim and help you recover compensation from whoever was responsible for your collision. For example, evidence from the scene of the crash, photos of the vehicles involved, and official police report information can provide important details to help determine how the accident occurred and who should be held responsible.

Where Can a T-Bone Accident Happen?

Who Is at Fault in a T-Boned Car Collision?

Aside from intersections, T-bone accidents can occur on a highway when one driver loses control of their vehicle and swerves into the side of another car or in parking lots when one driver reverses out of a parking spot and is struck from the side by an approaching vehicle. Also, a driver may fail to yield to another after disregarding a stop sign or running a red light. Exercising bad judgment when making a left turn is also a common cause of a T-bone accident.

These collisions are relatively common. They are also among the most dangerous types of crashes because the physical impact can occur very near the occupants, whether that is the driver's door, passenger door, or backseat.

Many factors can contribute to a side-impact collision or T-bone accident, and each factor can indicate that different parties are at fault. To learn more about your legal rights after a T-bone accident in Florida, speak with an experienced car accident lawyer. With several convenient offices state-wide, contact the personal injury law firm of Dolman Law Group for a free consultation today.

How Dangerous is a T Bone Car Accident?

T-bone car accidents, also known as broadside collisions, side-impact crashes, or angular accidents, occur when the side of one vehicle is impacted by the front or rear of another vehicle, forming the traditional "T" shape. Car damage and personal injuries are more likely to be severe in these types of accidents. The severity of damage and injuries will depend on the part of the vehicle that is struck, the safety features available, the speeds of the vehicles, and vehicle weight and construction.

Most people are fortunate enough only to imagine what such a T bone crash would feel like. However, those who have lived through it know the version you might see in a movie pales in comparison to the actual violence and agony experienced during the course of a real T-bone crash. These are among the deadliest and most devastating of all traffic accidents. 

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), side-impact collisions accounted for 25 percent of car occupant deaths in one recent year, including drivers and passengers. Crashes at intersections, where most T-bone accidents occur, claim the lives of hundreds of Floridians and injure tens of thousands more every year.

Who is Most Likely to Be Injured in a Side-Impact Collision?

In typical T-boned car accidents, the driver and passengers in the car that is struck on its side suffer the greatest amount of harm and injuries. The driver of the other vehicle benefits from the safety features common to all cars that protect against injuries in a front-end accident (for example, seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones). This is not necessarily the case for the occupants of the car struck on its side, whose belts and airbags can't protect them from a jarring impact against a side panel measuring just inches thick.

Victims of T-bone accidents caused by another driver's negligence deserve compensation for their injuries and losses. Our civil personal injury system exists largely to compensate injured parties for their monetary damages after experiencing harm at someone else's hands. This compensation can be in the form of a car accident settlement or may involve litigation, depending upon the particular circumstances.

How Do No-Fault Laws Affect a T-Bone Accident Case in Florida?

As owners of a car or truck registered in Florida should know, the Sunshine State follows “no-fault” insurance laws. Pursuant to the terms of Florida Statutes § 627.736, all registered motor vehicle owners must carry no-fault auto insurance that, among other types of coverage, includes mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

Prior to seeking compensation from any third parties for injuries or property damage in a Florida car accident, the victim must first turn to their own no-fault insurance company or the no-fault insurance of the owner of the car if they were a passenger. No-fault insurance is the “primary” insurance utilized for the purpose of paying the cost of medical care and medical bills related to the accident, as well as for a portion of the injured person's lost wages (if applicable).

Under Florida law, a person injured in a car accident can only seek compensation from the other driver (assuming that another driver was “at fault”) if:

  • The cost of their injuries exceeds their own PIP coverage
  • Their injuries were “serious” (life-threatening, disfiguring, leading to long-term disability) or
  • The injuries were fatal or led to a wrongful death

Exceeding PIP coverage is common in side-impact crashes because injuries may be significant. The no-fault law does not apply to a T-bone car crash victim's right to seek compensation from other non-driver parties who may have caused the accident, such as car part manufacturers or road engineers. Third parties may cause some auto crashes, but the carelessness of other drivers is the most common cause of side-impact collisions.

Who May Be Responsible For a T Bone Car Accident?

Let's examine who may be held legally responsible for a T-bone car wreck at a standard four-way stop intersection. It may surprise you how many potentially at-fault parties could be involved.

1. The Other Driver

Let's start with the obvious premise that in a T-boned collision, the driver of at least one of the vehicles is going to be found at fault for the accident. Traffic should not cross an intersection at right angles at the same time, which means one of the two drivers involved should not have entered the intersection. 

What might cause a driver to enter an intersection in a wrongful manner? Here are some common factors that may occur in combination with one another:

  • Speeding: Drivers who approach an intersection at a high speed may be unable to stop in time to avoid entering the intersection and causing a T-bone collision. Speeding poses particular dangers when a driver accelerates to attempt to beat a stoplight or sneak through an intersection just ahead of crossing traffic rather than attempting to slow down.
  • Inattention or distraction: One of the most common reasons for T-bone accidents is when a vehicle is in an intersection when it is not their turn. This happens when drivers fail to observe stop signs, traffic lights, or red lights.
  • Impairment: Driving while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs—or even just experiencing fatigue—can also lead to T-bone collisions at intersections. Impaired drivers make risky, dangerous decisions that can easily end with their vehicle colliding with oncoming traffic. Drivers should never get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol, illicit drugs, certain over-the-counter or prescription medications, or while drowsy.

Of course, these are just a few of the factors that can contribute to a driver making a poor decision at an intersection that results in a T-bone car accident. Yet, they illustrate just how varied the explanations might be for why someone mistakenly drove into an intersection and caused a collision.

2. Others Who Could Be Legally Responsible for the Other Driver's Conduct

Sometimes, a driver's conduct at an intersection that leads to a T-boned car accident is the result of a factor beyond that driver's control. For example, we all know it is illegal to drive while impaired, but what about a situation where the other driver had been prescribed a new medication but wasn't warned about the dangers of driving while they adjusted to the medicine? 

What if the other driver was operating a commercial vehicle despite their employer being aware that they had an unsafe driving record? Suppose the other driver was a 15-year-old joyriding in their parent's car while they were away on vacation without express permission.

An experienced car accident attorney knows to look beyond the actions of the other driver. Doing so allows them to determine whether there is another party who may share fault for a T-bone car accident by virtue of not having taken the necessary steps that may have prevented it.

For example, in almost all commercial driving circumstances, the driver's employer can be vicariously liable for any injuries suffered in a collision by the employed driver, such as a big-rig trucker. This is because of the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, which holds the employer responsible for the actions of their workers when they are on the clock and handling job-related tasks.

3. Road Engineers and Designers

You may intuitively sense that some intersections are more dangerous than others. This isn't just based upon a gut feeling—researchers analyzing traffic and accident data can clearly identify intersections where accidents occur more frequently than they should. The more difficult task, however, lies in figuring out precisely what makes an intersection dangerous and who could have (and perhaps should have) acted to prevent those risks and hazards.

Below are some intersection features that road engineers and designers exercise can control. These features can contribute to making an intersection unreasonably susceptible to T-bone car accidents:

  • Inappropriate signage/signaling: The more traffic expected to flow through an intersection, the more robust the signals should be. Sometimes, engineers simply make the wrong decision, such that drivers approaching the intersection do not appreciate and appropriately respond to danger from crossing traffic and end up going through a red light or making a wrong left turn.
  • Poor sightlines: Drivers approaching an intersection should be able to see and adequately assess oncoming traffic. Sometimes, however, engineers make poor judgments regarding where to locate an intersection, resulting in a “point of conflict” between crossing traffic that increases the danger that a car or truck will mistakenly enter the intersection, thereby causing a T-bone collision.
  • Confusing layout: Drivers should be able to quickly figure out—without spending a significant amount of time and brainpower—where they are permitted to drive through and/or turn at an intersection. Needless to say, confusing traffic patterns can result in drivers making mistakes, entering intersections, and causing collisions.

Drivers should never automatically assume that an intersection is well-designed. Every intersection represents a dangerous conflict point that requires a driver's full and undivided attention in order to navigate safely. Driving defensively through intersections could prevent collisions.

4. Automotive Parts Manufacturers

What if, as you approached an intersection, you tapped on the brakes, and nothing happened? What if you began driving through an intersection only to have your car suddenly come to a dead stop? If a T-bone collision follows on the heels of a mechanical failure, the manufacturer of the vehicle or its component auto parts may have legal liability for making and selling a defective part.

Unlike other types of personal injury-related legal claims, proving a defective part caused an accident typically results in “strict” liability for the manufacturer. This means that simply proving that they sold a defective vehicle or component is sufficient to prove that they were at fault. 

Of course, figuring out precisely how and why a part failed and showing that the failure caused the accident also presents a number of complications. An experienced T-bone car accident attorney can help you determine whether a defective part was the cause of your collision.

You may also have a viable claim against a parts manufacturer or motor vehicle company if another driver's vehicle fails because of a defective part. In this case, everyone involved in the collision could pursue a claim against the manufacturer whose dangerous product caused the T-bone crash.

Common T-Bone Accident Injuries

Of course, the first thing you should do after any type of car accident is to seek medical attention for any injuries sustained. While each case is unique, common injuries in T-bone accidents include:  

Many of these severe injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, can be fatal, resulting in a wrongful death claim. Occupants of the side-struck vehicle who survive a T-bone accident often face lasting physical and emotional trauma, not to mention the substantial financial burdens that an unexpected, catastrophic injury can impose upon a victim and their family.

Injury victims could miss days, weeks, or even months at work and have many thousands of dollars in medical and rehabilitation expenses. This may be true even if they fully recover. In addition, they may have a significantly damaged or totaled vehicle, as well as additional expenses. 

Types of T-Bone Car Accident Damages

A T-bone car accident can lead to a host of damages that can turn someone's life upside down. The most obvious financial losses are medical bills that often end up being the largest portion of a typical T-bone accident settlement. Even people with good health insurance and money saved for emergencies can have a difficult time contending with the wave of bills that can easily drown someone in debt. 

T-bone accidents that cause catastrophic injuries can result in long periods of time in treatment and recovery, which means a lot of lost income that is desperately needed to cover other expenses. In addition to lost wages, they may also miss out on benefits, raises, and other forms of income, such as commissions or promotions. 

Injury victims might even lose their jobs outright because of the effects of a severe car accident injury that can force them to abandon their entire careers. T-bone accident injuries can also cause non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or mental anguish, due to the trauma such a violent event can inflict.

What Dolman Law Group Can Do for You

Matthew Dolman, Florida Personal Injury Attorney
Matthew Dolman, T-bone Accident Attorney

T-bone car accident victims are not expected to identify all at-fault parties on their own. The complex process of investigating, locating, and pursuing car accident cases in a side-impact collision or T-bone collision is a job for experienced Florida personal injury lawyers. At Dolman Law Group, your dedicated car accident attorney will:

  • Identify every party with potential legal liability for your T-bone car accident;
  • Investigate which of those parties has the resources (either through insurance or assets) to pay damages;
  • Contact and (hopefully) negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement with each of those parties; and
  • If appropriate, take further legal action against those parties in order to hold them accountable.

T-bone car accident victims should work with an experienced attorney who has represented dozens of clients in similar accidents and who has a proven track record of success in recovering compensation in these cases. You can ask friends and family for recommendations or do a search online. Researching law firms should allow you to make a shortlist. Then, you can meet with each of them to learn more about their approach to these cases.

How Much Does a Car Accident Lawyer Cost?

Highly respectable car accident law firms offer a free consultation to learn more about you and your unique situation. They also accept cases and represent victims on a contingency fee basis. They do not charge crash victims and their families money upfront. Instead, they use firm resources to develop the claim and navigate the claims process. They only get paid as a percentage of the compensation they recover for the client and do not receive any attorney's fees unless they successfully resolve the case.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Car Accident Claim

If you have been in a t-bone car accident, hiring an experienced car accident lawyer is the optimal way to give yourself the best chance and the greatest likelihood of receiving maximum compensation for your losses. The lawyers at Dolman Law Group provide complimentary case assessments for crash victims. A great attorney-client relationship is important to us, and we are here to help you understand your options for pursuing justice and compensation. 

Contact an experienced Florida car accident attorney from Dolman Law Group today if you need legal advice, answers to your personal injury questions, or when you are ready to get started. You can reach our office at any time by calling (727) 451-6900 or by filling out the contact form on our website.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More