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Who Is at Fault in a T-Bone Collision?

A t-bone crash is a type of car accident that derives its name from the “T” shape which is formed at the point of impact when the front of one vehicle smashes into the side of another vehicle. They can occur in a variety of situations, such as at an intersection with one driver failing to yield to another driver after disregarding a stop sign, or one driver can run a red light and fail to yield to another driver. Exercising bad judgment on a green light when making a left turn is also a common cause of a T-bone wreck.

Aside from intersections, T-bone collisions can occur on a highway when one driver loses control of their vehicle and swerves to the side, or in parking lots when one driver reverses out of a parking spot and is struck from the side by another approaching vehicle.

Determining Fault for Side-Impact Collisions

There is a type of side-impact car accident scene that has become common on TV and in the movies. It’s the one where the camera is in the vantage point of a passenger in the front seat of a car, pointed at the driver. All of a sudden, another vehicle comes hurtling toward the driver’s side of the car (and toward the camera) and collides with the side of the car in a shattering impact. As commonplace as this sort of scene has become on-screen, it never ceases to shock and terrify.

Most people are fortunate enough to only imagine what such a side-impact collision would feel like if experienced in real life. However, those who have lived through it know the on-screen version pales in comparison to the actual violence and agony experienced during the course of a real T-bone (a.k.a. “side impact” or “angular”) collision. These are among the most deadly and devastating of all traffic accidents. Side impact collisions account for close to 1/4 of vehicle occupant deaths, including drivers and passengers. Crashes at intersections, where the vast majority of all T-boned collisions occur, claim the lives of hundreds of Floridians and injure tens of thousands more every year according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

In this blog post, we take a close look at who is at fault in a T-bone auto accident. The answer, as you might imagine, depends upon the particular circumstances of an accident. A wide variety of factors contribute to the occurrence of side-impact collisions and t-bone collisions, and each of those factors can point to different parties being at fault. To learn more about your legal rights after a T-bone accident in Florida speak with an experienced car accident lawyer. Contact the personal injury law firm of Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation today.

Types of T-Bone Car Accident Injuries

A T-bone accident is so named because, from an overhead perspective, the two vehicles colliding would form the letter “T.” In other words, the front of one vehicle crashes into the side of the other vehicle. As discussed above, T-bone car accidents happen most often at places where lanes of traffic intersect (i.e., a traffic light) at a right angle, such as four-way intersections or the ends of arterial roads where they connect to thoroughfares, often involve making a left turn or running a red light and are also common in parking lots.

In typical T-bone car accidents, the driver and passengers in the car struck on its side suffer the greatest amount of harm and T-bone accident 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 (i.e., 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 do less good in protecting them from a jarring impact against a side panel measuring just inches wide.

Injuries common in T-bone accidents include:

Many of these injuries prove to be fatal, resulting in wrongful death. Occupants of the side-struck vehicle who survive a T-bone collision 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.

Types of T-Bone Car Accident Damages

With these t-bone car accident injuries come a host of damages that can turn someone’s life upside down. the most obvious of these injuries are medical bills that often end up being the most expensive. 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 wages that are desperately needed to cover other damages.

It isn’t unusual for people to lose their jobs outright because of the effects of a severe car accident injury that can cause 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.

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

Victims of T-bone accidents often hope to receive compensation for their injuries and losses. There is nothing unusual about this. Our civil legal system exists in large part to make injured parties “whole” through money damages after experiencing harm at someone else’s hands. This compensation can be in the form of a T-bone car accident settlement or may involve litigation, depending upon the particular case at hand.

But as any owner of a car or truck registered in Florida likely knows, the Sunshine State follows the “no-fault” insurance law. Pursuant to the terms of this law, all registered motor vehicle owners must carry no-fault auto insurance that, among other types of coverage, includes mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

In a Florida car accident, anyone who is either injured or suffers property damage must first turn to their own no-fault insurance (or the no-fault insurance of the owner of the car in which they were a passenger), prior to seeking compensation from any third parties. No-fault insurance is the “primary” insurance utilized for the purpose of paying the cost of medical care and medical bills necessitated by 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 and, further, if their injuries were catastrophic (i.e., life-threatening, disfiguring, leading to long-term disability) or fatal, such as wrongful death.

The no-fault law has no effect on a T-bone car accident victim’s right to seek compensation from other, non-driver parties who may have caused the accident.

T-Bone Accident Liability Theories

Let’s take a look at who may have fault (in the sense of legal liability) for a T-bone car accident that occurs at a standard four-way-stop intersection. It may surprise you how many potentially at-fault parties there are.

1. The Other Driver

Let’s start with the obvious premise that in a T-bone collision, the driver of at least one of the vehicles is going to be deemed 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 should not have entered the intersection. What might cause a driver to enter an intersection in a wrongful manner? Here are some common factors, many of which often occur in combination with one another:

  • Speeding: Drivers who approach an intersection at a high speed risk not being able to stop in time to avoid entering the intersection and causing a T-bone collision. Speeding poses particular dangers when a driver accelerates in order to attempt to beat a stoplight or in order to sneak through an intersection just ahead of crossing traffic, rather than attempting to slow down.
  • Inattention or distractionOne 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 car and truck drivers fail to observe stop signs, traffic signals, or red lights.
  • Impairment: Driving while impaired by the effects of alcohol, drugs, or 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.

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 Legally Responsible for the Other Driver’s Conduct

Sometimes, the poor decision a driver makes at an intersection that leads to a T-bone 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 was prescribed a new medication but wasn’t warned about the dangers of driving while they adjusted to the medicine? Or what if the other driver was behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle, despite his employer being aware that he had an unsafe driving record? Or suppose the other driver was a 15-year-old joyriding in his parents’ car while they were away on vacation without their express permission.

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

3. Road Engineers and Designers

We all share an intuitive 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 specifically what makes an intersection dangerous, and who could have (and perhaps should have) acted to prevent those risks and hazards.

Below are some of the features of intersections that road engineers and designers exercise control over, and which can contribute to making an intersection unreasonably susceptible to T-bone car accidents:

  • Inappropriate signage/signaling. The more traffic that is 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 such danger from crossing traffic, and end up going through a red light or making a wrong left turn.
  • Poor sight-lines. Drivers approaching an intersection should be able to see and properly 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 and entering intersections when they shouldn’t.

Drivers should never automatically assume that an intersection is well-designed by nature. Every intersection represents a dangerous conflict point that requires a driver’s full and undivided attention in order to navigate safely.

4. Automotive Parts Manufacturers

What if, as you approached an intersection, you tapped on the brakes and nothing happened? Or 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, then 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, meaning 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.

Speak with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Matthew Dolman, Florida Personal Injury Attorney

Matthew Dolman, T-bone Accident Attorney

T-bone car accident victims are not expected to identify at-fault parties on their own. The complex process of investigating, locating, and pursuing legal claims against parties that causes a side-impact collision or t-bone collision is a job for an experienced Florida car accident attorney. The car accident attorney aims to:

  • Identify every party with potential legal liability for a 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 legal action against those parties in order to hold them accountable.

T-bone car accident victims should seek out an experienced attorney who has represented dozens of clients in similar accidents, and who has a proven track record of success in recovering compensation for T-bone car accident victims. Having experienced legal counsel on your side is the optimal way to give yourself the best chance and the highest likelihood of receiving maximum damages for your T-bone car accident injuries. Contact an experienced Florida car accident attorney today if you need answers to your legal questions.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (866) 995-2950

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