Updated May 25, 2020
A T-bone accident, also called a broadside collision or side-impact crash, involves a vehicle crashing head-on into the side of another vehicle. T-bone car accidents often occur at intersections, crossing a multi-lane highway, or when a driver loses control of his or her vehicle.
The driver at fault in a T-bone accident is liable to the other drivers or passengers for any injuries or damages. Fault in a T-bone accident may depend on which driver was negligent in causing the accident. Accident injury victims may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to be compensated for their damages in a T-bone accident, including medical expenses, lost wages, and vehicle damage.
Below, our California personal injury lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about T-bone collisions and car accident settlements:
- 1. Who is at fault in a T-bone accident?
- 2. What damages are available in a T-bone collision lawsuit?
- 3. Injuries in a T-Bone Collision
- 5. Can I file a lawsuit if I was partly to blame the accident?
- 6. Do I have a claim if I was T-boned by an uninsured driver?
- 7. Should I hire a lawyer after a T-bone crash?
- 8. What can I do if my child or spouse was killed in a T-bone accident?
If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
Injuries in a side impact accident can be more serious than some rear-end collisions or head-on collisions because the side of the vehicle only has a narrow layer of protection between the outside of the car and the passengers. These can also make the injuries more severe because the vehicle occupants may be trapped inside until they can be rescued by emergency responders.
Fault in motor vehicle accidents, including T-bone collisions, is based on negligence. The negligent driver is liable to the other drivers and passengers for any damages suffered as a result of the accident. Negligence can be based on violating a traffic law or failing to drive with due care.
Fault in a T-bone accident can depend on a range of factors, including road conditions, traffic signals, and vehicle defects. However, the majority of T-bone accidents are caused by one or more drivers operating without due care for others on the road. Common causes of T-bone accidents include:
- Running a red light,
- Mistakenly thinking the light is green and driving,
- Texting while driving,2
- Distracted driving,
- Drunk driving, or
- Failing to yield the right of way.3
Under California’s negligence laws, the negligent driver in a car accident is liable for any injuries and damages caused to another. To get compensation in a personal injury lawsuit after an accident, the injured victims need to show the defendant was negligent in causing the accident. The elements for negligence are:
- The driver owed the victim a duty of care;
- The driver breached that duty of care through negligence; and
- The driver’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the victim’s injuries.4
Failure to use reasonable care when driving a vehicle is negligence. The duty of care for driving requires:
- Using reasonable care when operating a vehicle;
- Looking out for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles; and
- Controlling the speed and movement of the vehicle.5
Damages are the losses associated with an accident. With car crashes, damages can include both property damage and injuries. The injured victims in a T-bone collision can file a personal injury lawsuit to sue for damages.
Damages in a personal injury lawsuit include economic and non-economic compensatory damages. Economic damages are generally those that have a clear dollar value. Examples are medical bills or car repair expenses. Non-economic damages can be more difficult to assess, and include things like pain and suffering.
Compensatory damages in a T-bone collision can include:
- Medical bills,
- Vehicle repairs,
- Lost wages,
- Lost earning capacity,
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of consortium for a spouse or partner,
- Wrongful death damages if someone dies,
- Survival cause of action damages,
- Emergency medical treatment,
- Physical therapy,
- Medication and medical supplies, and
- Future care and treatment.
Injuries in a T-bone collision can vary depending on several factors, including:
- Speed of the collision,
- Angle of impact,
- Seatbelt use, and
- Vehicle type.
Certain safety features can greatly reduce the risk of serious injury in a side-impact crash. Especially newer features like side-curtain airbags and high side-impact ratings. However, even with these safety features, a T-bone collision can lead to severe injuries, including:
- Head injury
- Brain injuries (including traumatic brain injury)
- Neck injury
- Back injury
- Broken bones
- Facial trauma
- Internal injuries
- Severe bruising
These car accident injuries in a T-bone collision can be made worse when the occupants become trapped in the vehicle. A side-impact crash often makes it difficult or impossible to open the door after an accident and the injured passengers and driver cannot get out to seek medical attention. It may take emergency responders’ use of tools like the “jaws of life,” to free the occupants. Time trapped in the vehicle after an accident can increase the risk of serious injury or death.
There are many causes of T-bone collisions. Some accidents are caused by poor road conditions, faulty vehicle parts, or unclear traffic signage. But most T-bone type of accidents are still caused by bad driving. Common causes of T-bone collisions can include:
- Failure to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic,
- Both drivers thinking they have the green light,
- Making cross-traffic left turns when it is not safe,
- Drunk driving,
- Driving under the influence of drugs,
- Distracted driving,
- Texting while driving,
- Running a red light, or
- Dangerous intersections.
The right-of-way is a rule of the road and traffic law that allows a given driver or pedestrian to go first. When the law requires a driver to yield the right-of-way to another, the driver must let the other person go first. If a driver does not yield the right-of-way to another driver when required and causes an accident, the driver who did not yield may be negligent.6
Most state “Right-of-Way” laws also apply to left turns or U-turns across traffic. The driver attempting a left turn or complete U-turn shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction until the turn can be made with reasonable safety.7
Running a red traffic light or running a stop sign is one of the most common causes of dangerous T-bone collisions. In these accidents, a driver could slowly enter an intersection when a vehicle traveling at high speed, in an attempt to make the light, hits the crossing vehicle at full speed. In T-bone accidents where a driver runs a light or a stop sign, the driver who did not obey the traffic signal is generally at fault.
In an accident where both drivers were partly to blame or the drivers are unsure who caused the accident, an injured driver can still recover damages. Under California’s “comparative fault” law, an at-fault driver can still be awarded damages even he or she is partly to blame for the accident. The damages may be reduced in a comparative fault accident based on each party’s level of fault.
In some cases, the injured party may be considered negligent even if he or she did not cause the accident. For example, it may be an affirmative defense to the driver who caused the accident that the other driver was not wearing a seat belt.9
The plaintiff may have been negligent if he or she:
- Had a working seat belt;
- A reasonably careful person in that situation would have used the seat belt;
- The plaintiff failed to wear a seat belt; and
- The injuries would have been avoided or less severe if he or she had used the seat belt.
Negligence and fault in a T-bone collision can be complicated, especially when each side tells a different story. Talk to your personal injury accident lawyer about your case to get a good idea about what damages you can be awarded after an accident.
California law requires drivers to carry a minimum level of car insurance coverage. California also requires insurance companies to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. However, UM/UIM coverage is optional.
Throughout the United States, uninsured motorist insurance pays for damages when another driver is at fault for the accident, but does not have insurance. Underinsured motorist insurance pays for damages when another driver’s insurance policy does not provide enough coverage to pay for the total damages.
If a driver is injured in an accident by a driver without insurance (or without enough insurance), he or she may have to file a claim against the driver personally. However, many drivers without insurance do not have much in the way of money or assets to cover the costs of medical bills and other injury damages.
In a minor fender bender, a driver may not need to hire a car accident lawyer. However, when a driver has serious medical bills, days or weeks off of work, and possibly permanent injuries, there is a lot more at stake.
The automobile insurance company could deny the injured driver’s claim or offer only a small amount of money to settle the case. The insurance company could keep delaying payment until the injured driver has no choice but to accept the offer. Remember that the insurance company is a business and they are not acting solely in the driver’s best interests.
Before accepting the insurance company’s offer or signing away your rights in a settlement, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Accident attorneys understand T-bone accident causes, injuries, policy limits, and police reports, and can deal with the insurance adjuster to get their clients maximum compensation with minimal stress.
If a spouse or child is killed in a T-bone accident, that person is not around to file a personal injury claim against the person responsible. However, surviving family members may be able to file a claim under wrongful death laws or a survivor cause of action. This may be the only way for the family to hold the responsible person liable for their negligence.
The damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit can include:
- Burial expenses,
- Funeral expenses,
- Lost financial earnings the victim would have earned had he or she survived, and
- Compensation for the loss of companionship and support.
The family members who are able to file a wrongful death claim typically include:
- Domestic partner,
- Child or children,
- Grandchildren (if the children are deceased), or
- Anyone else entitled to the property of the deceased under intestate succession laws.
Call us for help…
Were you or a loved one in a T-bone accident? For questions about side-impact collisions or if you want to discuss your personal injury case with one of our skilled California car accident attorneys, please contact us at Shouse Law Group. We offer free case evaluations and legal advice on your accident claim. Should you wish to create an attorney-client relationship, we will get started on your auto accident case right away.
Our personal injury attorneys have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- California Vehicle Code 22350 (“No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.”)
- California Vehicle Code 23123.5(a) (“A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.”)
- California Vehicle Code 21801 (“(a) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property, or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety. (b) A driver having yielded as prescribed in subdivision (a), and having given a signal when and as required by this code, may turn left or complete a U-turn, and the drivers of vehicles approaching the intersection or the entrance to the property or alley from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the turning vehicle.”)
- California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a) (“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”)
- CACI 700. Basic Standard of Care. (“A person must use reasonable care in driving a vehicle. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence.“)
- CACI 701. Definition of Right-of-Way.
- California Vehicle Code 21801, see footnote 3.
- CACI 704. Left Turns. See also CACI 705. Turning (“A driver must use reasonable care when turning or moving to the right or to the left.”)
- CACI 712. Affirmative Defense-Failure to Wear a Seat Belt.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent’s personal representative on their behalf: (a) The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”)
- California Insurance Code 11580.1b