Who Is At Fault for a T-Bone (Side Impact) Car Accident?

When one vehicle hits another at a 90-degree angle, it can be a challenge to sort out liability for the crash.

By , J.D.
Was a police report filed?
  • When it comes to car accident scenarios, side impact or "t-bone" crashes can result in some of the most serious car accident injuries. Secondarily, side impact crashes can also lead to some of the most challenging car accident injury claims when it's time to figure out (and prove) who was at fault. Here's what to know at the outset:

    • Side impact crashes are particularly dangerous, and accounted for 27 percent of passenger deaths in vehicle accidents in 2019, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
    • Establishing fault for a side impact car accident usually means assessing a variety of evidence to assemble a clear (or close to clear) liability picture.
    • Having an experienced lawyer on your side might be the best way to ensure the best result if your car accident claim stems from a side-impact crash.

    What Is a T-Bone (Side Impact) Collision?

    In a side-impact accident, two vehicles collide at something close to a 90-degree angle, with the front end of Vehicle A striking Vehicle B on the driver's or passenger's side. These kinds of crashes can occur in any number of contexts, but perhaps two of the most common scenarios are:

    • Driver A enters a four-way intersection (let's say heading north or south), at the same time that Driver B enters the same intersection, from one side or the other (west or east in this example), and the vehicles collide at a 90-degree angle.
    • Driver A is waiting to make a left turn at an intersection. Driver B, heading in the opposite direction, enters the same intersection. Before Driver A can complete the left turn, the vehicles collide at something close to a 90-degree angle.

    Proving Fault for a Side Impact (T-Bone) Car Accident

    With some kinds of car accidents, the position of the vehicles at the time of impact tells the fault story. For example, in a rear-end accident, the tailing driver is almost always at fault. But you can't usually infer much from vehicle position in a side impact accident, and so if the drivers involved can't agree on who was at fault, where do you look to try to prove liability for the crash? Potential evidence and avenues of proof include:

    • statements from passengers, pedestrians, onlookers, and anyone else who might have observed the crash (or at least part of it) and can add any amount of detail to the fault picture.
    • surveillance or security camera footage that might show all or part of the collision, perhaps cross-referenced with automated traffic light programming or other available traffic device data, and
    • investigators or crash reconstructionists who might be able to analyze physical evidence from the scene, including skid marks and location of crash debris to figure out who might have been at fault (or at least who did more to try to avoid the accident).

    A Lawyer's Help Can Be Crucial In a Side-Impact Car Accident Claim

    If you've been injured in a side-impact car accident, it's important to have a lawyer on your side, especially when it comes time to establish who was at fault for the crash and properly characterize the nature and extent of your losses, including not just your medical bills and lost income, but also more subjective kinds of damages like "pain and suffering". The right car accident lawyer will know how to put your best case together, and will have the settlement negotiation skills to fight for the best result.

    If you're ready to connect with a lawyer in your area, you can use the chat and information submission tools right on this page. Or check out our companion article on when you need a car accident lawyer.

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