Motor vehicle accidents can leave you with serious injuries, thousands of dollars in damage to your vehicle, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Depending on the severity of the crash, you might not be able to return to work, could suffer paralysis, or could lose a loved one or your own life. One of the most common and most dangerous types of crashes is the side-impact crash (T-bone).
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provided the following data for side-impact crashes in 2019 across the country:
- Side-impact crashes accounted for 23 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in 2019
- 5,187 people died in side-impact crashes in passenger vehicles in 2019
- 3,397 of those fatalities came from cars (sedans and coupes)
Why are side-impact crashes so deadly?
The main reason why a side-impact crash is so deadly is that there is less protection on the side of a vehicle when it is struck by another vehicle. Airbags, seatbelts, and other safety features are not strong enough to handle the impact of a crash from the side. Even vehicles with side-impact airbags might not offer enough protection in such a crash.
Side-impact crashes are so violent that they often lead to secondary crashes involving one or more of the original vehicles. Because of this, the vehicle that was struck could wind up being spun into oncoming traffic and struck a second time by a third vehicle. The second impact in a side-impact crash can cause what might have been a minor accident to become serious or even deadly.
Injuries caused by T-bone accidents
The occupant on the side of the vehicle that was struck is more likely to suffer serious injuries compared to the occupant on the other side of the vehicle. Side-impact crashes can cause the following injuries:
- Pelvic damage
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Damage to the shoulders, knees, elbows, and other joints
- Nerve and disc damage to the neck and back
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
Causes of side-impact crashes
Some of the most common causes of side-impact crashes in Phoenix include:
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Distracted driving
- Intersection crashes
- Failure to follow speed limits
- Reckless driving while changing lanes
- Impaired driving
Inclement weather can also cause a side-impact crash, especially if the driver’s view is obstructed by torrential rain, sun glare, snow, or debris blowing across the road. These items can cause a driver to struggle with maintaining a good stopping distance.
Not all T-bone crashes are caused by negligence, though. Missing streetlights, inadequate signage, overgrown landscaping and broken signals can also lead to a side-impact collision with a car, truck, or even a train.
Right-of-way and T-bone crashes
Right-of-way plays an important role in determining fault in a T-bone crash. Here are some ways right-of-way comes into play in a T-bone accident:
- The right-of-way is indicated by a traffic signal. However, even with a green light, drivers should not enter an intersection without being aware of their surroundings.
- Oncoming traffic always has the right-of-way, which means you must yield before making a left turn.
- Drivers should always slow down when approaching a yield sign and only proceed when oncoming traffic permits.
- Drivers must yield to all emergency vehicles with warning lights activated. Drivers must also follow all directions given by first responders when operating their vehicles.
- When traffic is blocked, no vehicle is to enter an intersection despite what the traffic light indicates.
- When entering a road from a driveway or private road, drivers must always yield to oncoming traffic.
- The vehicle on the left in an intersection that entered into an intersection at the same time as a vehicle on the right must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.
How to prove fault in a side-impact crash
Sometimes, it can be cut and dry as to who is at-fault for the crash. There will be circumstances in which fault is not clear cut. The driver who struck you might claim they had the right of way, or both drivers may have been engaged in a little distracted driving. In some cases, there may be a third party to blame.
In any event, there are some things you can do to show you were not at fault:
- Take pictures of your car, the road, and the other vehicle to show where the damage occurred, and any skid marks on the road. This can help prove how fast the other car was moving, and at what angle you were hit.
- Collect the names and numbers of any witnesses who can support your claim.
- Make sure to get an accident report from police.
- Seek medical attention, to show that your injuries were consistent with what a side-impact collision usually causes.
Whatever you do, don’t admit to fault and don’t apologize. People have a tendency to blurt things out, like “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” even when they’re not to blame, but that can really harm you in a car crash claim.
If you or your loved one was hurt in a side-impact car accident, you deserve an attorney who will fight for your future. The Phoenix car accident lawyers of Plattner Verderame PC are here to help. Please call us at 602-266-2002, or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team in either our Tempe or Phoenix office.
I have been active in leadership in the Arizona Association for Justice (lawyers who represent injured folks, and formerly known as the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) since 1985. I served as President in 1991. I was an active participant in battles to protect the Arizona Constitution from the insurance industry and big business interests in 1986, 1990 and 1994.
Read more about Richard Plattner