Who Is at Fault in a T-Bone Car Accident?
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Although there’s no such thing as a safe car accident, T-bone collisions (also known as side-impact collisions) are especially dangerous.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019 around 31% of multi-car collisions involved an angled impact with the front of one car driving into the side of the other car. However, these same angled-impact collisions account for 46% of the fatalities. And even for those who are fortunate enough to survive, severe injuries such as broken bones, internal injuries, and spinal cord injuries are common.
If you’ve been injured in a T-bone accident and someone else was responsible, you deserve compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Unfortunately, proving that the other driver was at fault in a side-impact collision can be challenging and frustrating, and often requires strong supporting evidence.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how fault is determined in T-bone car accidents, and what you can do to maximize your chances of getting a fair recovery.
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How Fault is Determined in T-Bone Car Accidents
Fault in a car accident is based on the legal concept of negligence. In order for a driver to be held at fault and pay damages, the following three conditions must be met:
- The driver owed a duty of care to the person who was hurt. This condition is usually not in question—all drivers have a responsibility to drive safely and take reasonable precautions to protect the safety of others on or around the roadway.
- The driver breached that duty of care. In other words, the driver should have known better and did not take the appropriate steps to prevent the accident. For example, if the drive blows a stop sign or traffic light, pulls out in front of traffic, or commits any other traffic violation due to being distracted, drunk, or simply reckless, they clearly breached their duty of care. On the other hand, if the crash occurred because of an unexpected vehicle failure (faulty brakes, exploded tire, etc.) the driver may not be held responsible.
- The accident resulted injuries or other damages. You can’t seek compensation against a person who didn’t actually injure you, even if they were driving at 100 mph and missed your car by an inch.
RELATED POST: How Fault and Liability Is Determined In A Car Accident
How Do T-Bone Accidents Happen?
The vast majority of T-bone accidents occur at intersections, as this is the only place where you’d normally find cars travelling perpendicular to one another before a collision.
Some common scenarios include:
- A vehicle blowing through a red light and striking a vehicle legally proceeding through the intersection.
- A driver making a left turn directly in front of oncoming traffic.
- A driver pulling out of a side street or driveway without making sure that the main road was clear of traffic.
As you may note, depending on the context, in some cases the driver who T-boned the other car is responsible, while in others the driver who was T-boned is responsible. This is unlike rear-end collisions, where the trailing car is at fault the vast majority of the time.
Quite often in T-bone accident cases, factors such as drugs, alcohol, and distracted driving (such as texting while driving) are a factor.
Who Can Be at Fault in a T-Bone Accident?
One of the tricky things about determining fault in T-bone accidents is that, depending on the context, either driver might be the one responsible. On top of that, sometimes both drivers share some degree of responsibility, while in rare cases other third parties might be at least partially to blame.
Here are just a few possibilities for who might be at fault:
- One or both drivers involved in the collision. Again, most T-bone accidents occur at intersections, and in most cases only one driver will be held responsible. However, in some cases both drivers may share blame if both were negligent. For example, it may be determined that while one driver was speeding the other driver also failed to make sure the way was clear before proceeding through the intersection.
- A vehicle or other equipment manufacturer. Perhaps you intended to stop, but your brakes failed—even though you properly maintain your vehicle and had no reason to suspect any problems. Or maybe your seatbelt failed, or your airbag didn’t deploy, and your injuries were substantially worse as a result. In such cases, the car manufacturer may be held responsible for faulty and unsafe equipment.
- A third driver not involved in the collision. In rare cases, another driver may begin a chain of events that result in a side-impact collision. For example, imagine that a car in front of you performed an illegal or reckless maneuver, such as turning left into your lane of travel. You were then forced to swerve to avoid a collision, which caused a third car to strike yours. In this scenario, the driver of the first car could be at least partially at fault even if they didn’t hit anyone.
What Happens If Multiple Parties Are at Fault? Can I Still Recover Compensation If I’m Partially to Blame?
That depends on what state the accident took place in. Both Georgia and South Carolina use a system known as modified comparative negligence to determine who can receive compensation from a T-bone car accident case, and how much.
The basic rule is that the damages you’re claiming will be reduced by your share of the fault. So, to use a simple example, if you’re claiming $1 million in damages but a court finds you to be 25% at fault, you will only receive $750,000 (that is, $1 million minus 25%).
However, if your share of the fault is too high, you are prohibited from recovering anything. In Georgia, you cannot receive any compensation if you are at least 50% at fault. In South Carolina, you must be more than 50% at fault to barred from compensation.
The main difference here is what happens if fault splits 50-50. In South Carolina, both parties can recover half their damages. In Georgia, both parties walk away with nothing.
Proving the Other Driver’s Fault in a T-Bone Collision Can Be Very Challenging
It may be completely obvious to you that the other driver was the primary cause of the T-bone accident. But that’s no guarantee that the other driver (or their insurance company) will see it that way or admit to any culpability.
Again, with most T-bone accidents, the root cause is that the driver who was supposed to yield to the other vehicle at an intersection failed to do so. Usually, that’s because someone was speeding, driving distracted, driving under the influence, or failed to property stop at a stop sign or red light.
But if, for example, there were no eyewitnesses, the driver of the other vehicle may try to pin the blame on you. They may outright lie and say they were the ones with a green light. And if you don’t have strong evidence to back up your side of the story, they may well get away with it.
And in fairness, the other driver doesn’t have to be knowingly lying, either. Car accidents are traumatic experiences for everyone involved. They may simply remember the crash differently than you do. That’s another reason why proving fault can be such a challenge.
So, if you think you can sit back and trust that your good word and the official police report will be enough to carry the day in court, think again.
How A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Prove Fault in a T-Bone Accident
A skilled and experienced car accident attorney will have a variety of tactics at their disposal to investigate the case and uncover the truth about what happened. These include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Making every possible effort to contact any eyewitnesses and get their statements.
- Identifying and obtaining any surveillance tapes that might be available, such as nearby security cameras or dashcam footage, as quickly as possible (before the footage is erased).
- Working with a traffic accident reconstructionist to piece together the most likely cause of the crash, by observing debris patterns, skid marks on the road, photographs, and other available evidence.
- Picking carefully through conflicting statements and testimony for weaknesses in the other driver’s version of events.
- Aggressively investigating whether other third parties (such as a car manufacturer who built a faulty seatbelt, or a bar that knowingly overserved a drunk driver) could be liable as well.
Your car accident lawyer can also help you avoid falling into traps that the insurance adjuster might set for you, such as getting you to make a statement on the record that could be used against you—for example, getting you to state that it’s possible you might share some of the fault, or that your symptoms might not be as bad as they seem.
Remember, the insurance company has been playing this game for a long time, and their goal is to get rid of your case as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Meanwhile, you’re just trying to get your life back together, and need to focus on your healing—not on fighting the insurer, on their terms, on their turf. They will not hesitate to take advantage of your situation and inexperience to get you to settle for a much smaller amount than you deserve—or deny your insurance claim entirely. That’s why you should always seek legal assistance.
How Much Should I Claim? Will My Case Go to Trial?
In addition to helping you determine fault in the accident, your attorney will also calculate how much your case is worth. Assessing the value of your damages can be difficult, as it often requires estimating future medical costs and lost wages, careful accounting of all your symptoms, and subjective evaluation of your pain and suffering. However, this is critically important work, as once you settle with the insurance company, you are unable to go back and ask for more later.
Once you and your attorney arrive at a number, you will make a demand for compensation. Sometimes the insurer will agree if the evidence is overwhelming, but often they will counteroffer to try to get you to take a lowball settlement.
If the two sides can’t come to a fair agreement, then you may have to file a lawsuit. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean your case will end up at trial. The two sides can still negotiate all the way up to the trial date, and most cases do eventually settle before then.
However, it’s still important to hire an attorney with trial experience, as this shows the insurance company that you’re not afraid to fight for what’s fair and discourages them from making bad faith settlement offers.
RELATED POST: Should I Take the First Settlement Offer in My Injury Case?
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Injured in a T-Bone or Side-Impact Accident? Call The Brown Firm Today
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The sooner you contact an attorney after your T-bone car crash, the better your chances of maximizing your recovery. So don’t take the risk—contact The Brown Firm today to request your free consultation. You can reach us at (912) 324-2498 or completing our simple online form.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data (Table 29: Crashes, by First Harmful Event, Manner of Collision, and Crash Severity, 2019). Retrieved from https://cdan.nhtsa.gov/tsftables/tsfar.htm
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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