A T-bone accident is sometimes called a side-impact collision, a broadside collision, or angle collision. This type of car accident occurs when two vehicles collide perpendicularly, resembling the letter T. These accidents are often caused by reckless, negligent actions and can result in severe injury or death. But proving fault in T-bone accidents can be complicated in a “no-fault” state like New York. There are many factors to consider, and either driver can be held liable.
T-Bone Accident Facts and Statistics
According to the National Safety Council, T-bone/angle crashes caused about 7,400 deaths in 2018. To put that number in perspective, T-bone accidents were responsible for 44.6% of all fatalities in vehicle collisions.
About 4.5 million injuries were sustained in 2018 from motor vehicle collisions. Side-impact collisions caused about 40.7% of these injuries, coming second to rear-end collision injuries at 42.4%.
T-bone accidents mostly occur at intersections. As such, they often involve more than two vehicles. So, it’s important to note the high risk of another follow-up collision that can lead to further injury. It’s not uncommon for these collisions to push vehicles into oncoming traffic, off the roadway, or into guardrails or other structures, any of which may involve a third vehicle.
Determining Liability in a T-Bone Accident
T-bone collisions usually take place at intersections where traffic flows in different directions. Sometimes they are caused by poor road conditions, obstructed or unclear traffic signage, or vehicle malfunction. However, most of the time they are due to a driver’s negligence.
Examples of negligence in T-bone accidents include:
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Failing to obey a yield sign
- Failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection
- Turning left to cross a flow of traffic
- Distracted driving
Right-of-way refers to the traffic law that determines when a driver or pedestrian may proceed ahead. In certain situations, a driver must let another person go first. If an accident occurs when a driver fails to properly yield to another, they may be held liable for any injuries sustained.
Important things to know about how fault is determined in right-of-way situations:
- Oncoming traffic always has the right of way, not the vehicle attempting to merge or turn across an oncoming lane
- Green lights indicate a right of way, but drivers must still be attentive and cannot simply proceed carelessly
- Yield means to stop or slow down, only to proceed with moving traffic allows it. Always yield to moving traffic when moving into traffic from a driveway or private road
- Always obey any directions from law enforcement and yield to any emergency personnel vehicles
Though related to right-of-way rules, left turns are a particularly common cause for T-bone accidents. In most cases, left turns require the driver to yield to oncoming traffic. Aggressive drivers will often attempt to turn across oncoming traffic and misjudge the speed of oncoming vehicles, causing a T-bone collision. Invariably, the crossing vehicle is struck by the approaching driver. It’s also possible for the vehicle proceeding straight to be at fault if they enter the intersection illegally and the turning driver has a green light.
Red Lights and Stop Signs
One of the most common causes of T-bone collisions is running a red light or stop sign. Accidents occur when a high-speed vehicle attempts to “make a light” or disregards a stop sign, colliding with another vehicle properly using the intersection. In this case, the driver failing to obey the traffic signal is typically at fault.
Comparative Negligence and Sharing the Blame
New York is a comparative negligence state, which means that even if you are partly to blame for the accident, you can still be awarded damages. If you’re injured and it was partly your fault, you still have a right to recover compensation. However, damages may be reduced based on how much your actions contributed to the accident.
Building a Claim and Proving Fault in T-Bone Collisions
Right after the accident, carefully get yourself to safety and call 911 to request the necessary emergency services. Do NOT admit fault or discuss the situation in detail with the other party. If possible, call your insurance company at the scene, as it’s likely they can begin processing your claim and talk you through what to do. Do not admit blame or take any responsibility when talking to your insurance company.
What to Do at the Scene of a T-Bone Collision
Filing a claim to prove someone else’s negligence resulted in your injuries requires strong evidence. The most important information you can collect should be taken from the scene of the accident. This information should include:
- The date, time, and location of the collision, including street names
- Details regarding the direction you were heading and what lane you were in
- Contact information from all other parties involved
- Contact information and statements from any witnesses
- Pictures from the scene, including any injuries and property damage
- Weather and traffic conditions at the time of accident
Building Your Case After the Accident
Keep a record of your recollection of the accident and any information that follows. Use a notebook to organize notes of your symptoms, doctor appointments and mileage (if you have to travel to treatment), medications, and any emotional reactions. This will help your lawyer maximize the value of your compensation.
Save any paperwork: police reports, disability insurance, medical paperwork like discharge papers, bills and pharmacy receipts. Again, this information will help your lawyer build a strong case for you to recover these expenses.
Work with your doctors by following orders for any treatments and appointments. Keep your doctor up to date with any new symptoms or side effects. Failure to follow your doctor’s orders will weaken your case and lessen your chance for a settlement.
Potential Injuries in T-Bone Collisions
These types of accidents are considerably more dangerous because victims are only protected by a door and window. Despite ongoing vehicle safety feature developments, T-bone accidents can be severely destructive. Risk of injury from a T-bone collision depends on several factors surrounding the accident. Injuries may vary depending on:
- Vehicle make and model
- Seat belt use
- Speed at time of collision
- Angle of impact
You can claim damages for any injury severe enough that impacts your ability to go about your daily life. You have a legal right to seek compensation for any expenses related to your injuries.
Head and Neck Injuries
T-bone accidents commonly cause whiplash. The impact often causes the head to forcefully strike the door or other parts of the car. This often results in lacerations to the face or face, potentially leaving lifelong scars. In worse-case scenarios, the victim may suffer a concussion or other traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Impact from a T-bone collision can cause serious spinal cord issues and nerve damage. It’s not uncommon for victims to sustain herniated disks, pinched nerves or fractured bones in the spine.
Chest and Abdominal Injuries
Since the body is only protected by the door and window in a side-impact collision, the core of the body is susceptible to significant damage. Broken ribs may puncture or damage lungs and other organs. There is also a risk for internal bleeding.
Arm and Leg Injuries
Depending on angle of impact, the upper or lower part of the body can sustain serious injury. Doors may crumple toward the body and cause broken bones, dislocated joints, or entirely crush a limb. Crush injuries cause significant damage to bones, nerves, and muscles. Shattered glass may also cause severe lacerations to the arms and legs.
In the traumatic event such as a T-bone accident, the brain finds ways to cope with fear. After sustaining physical injuries, victims may suffer psychological effects such as:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder flashbacks or nightmares
Compensation for T-bone Collision Injuries
New York’s car insurance requirements ensure that every driver maintains a minimum coverage in order to legally drive. The mandatory policies include No-Fault Personal Injury Protection and liability coverage.
The mandatory No-Fault policy is designed to quickly compensate bodily injury regardless of who is at fault. This policy covers up to $50,000.00 per person. This policy strictly covers bodily injury.
The minimum amount of liability coverage is:
- $10,000 for property damage for a single accident
- $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for death for a person involved in an accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for death for two or more people in an accident
However, depending on the severity of your accident, your damages may be more than these minimum policies. You may wish to claim damages that are not covered. Damages can be both economic and non-economic. Common compensatory damages for T-bone accidents are:
- Hospital charges and other medical bills
- Medication and medical supplies
- Lost wages from missing work
- Lost earning capacity
- Rehabilitation programs or physical therapy
- Future care or assisted living
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
Hiring Legal Representation
Hiring a lawyer will help you navigate the burden of determining cause and liability for the injury you sustained. T-bone accidents are notoriously complicated and it’s in your benefit to consult with an experienced lawyer to secure maximum compensation. The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three years from the date of your injury. Do not hesitate to take legal action.
The attorneys at Sobo & Sobo have over 50 years of experience handling T-bone collision lawsuits across the Hudson Valley and the Bronx. Contact them today for a free consultation to begin reviewing your case and learn about your legal options.