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How do Side-Impact Car Accidents Occur And Who is Liable?

Jul 2, 2020 | Car Accidents

Side-impact, broadside or ‘T-bone’ accidents are the result of vehicles crashing head-on into the side of other vehicles, generally at an angle of 90-degrees. This causes the namesake T-shape accident. Side-impact car accidents are the cause of 10,000 deaths in the United States each year. This accounts for one-fourth of the total traffic fatalities in a given year in the country. Hundreds of these accident victims get severely injured.

There are several ways in which T-bone accidents take place. However, the most common is when drivers due to some reason fail to yield while crossing intersections and ram into each other. Side-impact accidents can cause more grievous injuries as compared to rear end collisions. In some cases, they are known to be more dangerous than head-on collisions.

The reason these types of crashes are so dangerous is because there are not many safety features on the side of a vehicle. This makes occupants vulnerable to death or catastrophic injuries when hit from the side. However, there are a few newer car models that come equipped with side airbags. Unfortunately, these airbags are not enough to withstand the deadly force of another car on their own. Also, majority of cars do not have side airbags at all. This means the occupants are at the mercy of the car door’s strength.

Safety Risks Associated with Side-impact Collisions

At least 496,000 people were injured and 6,354 died in 2017 because of side-impact collisions in the country according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report. This data claimed broadside accidents to be the leading cause of motor vehicle accident deaths.

These facts may be unpleasant, but they do make sense, especially when you consider the greater risk of fatality in side-impact collision. As per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is responsible for conducting vehicular safety tests, it is important to protect occupants in a vehicle from T-bone crashes because the crumple space between the car and the occupant on the side is considerably less as compared to the rear or front of the vehicle.

Additionally, most cars do not have as many safety features as necessary to maintain the safety of occupants during T-bone accidents. Since 1998, federal law requires all vehicles to have frontal airbags. On the contrary, side airbags are relatively new and not mandated. While side airbags are now a standard in most new vehicles, it is not a guarantee that your car is equipped with it, especially if you drive an older model.

In any case, side airbags are not nearly sufficient enough to protect a vehicle’s occupants from accidents, even if they may be considered standard. According to an IIHS report about side-impact crash testing, automobiles need to combine side airbag protection with a strong structure to reduce the risk of injury to driver and passengers.

Broadside car accidents are known to cause devastating damage and injuries because a vehicle’s side offers next to no protection to those inside. The front of an oncoming vehicle is far more powerful as compared to the side of a car into which it rams. In addition, the odds of being struck by a large vehicle are more with the many trucks, vans, and SUVs on the road. This presents a truly greater danger to drivers of smaller vehicles.

Liability in Side-impact Collisions

Liability in a side-impact crash may seem straightforward. Obviously, the person that crashed into you is at fault. However, side-impact accidents can be complicated and that is usually not the case. New York follows comparative negligence law, which may require you to share liability for the crash, even though it was your automobile that got struck.

Few factors that exacerbate this complication are as follows:

  • Defective parts: It is possible that the car that hit you did not jump a red light due to negligent or reckless driving. It is possible that the driver attempted to stop but the brakes were not working as they should have. It is also possible that the driver failed to see you because your headlights were not working. Defective automobile can easily complicate liability since there are parties other than the driver that can be at fault for the crash.
  • Poorly maintained roads: The entity responsible for road maintenance can be at fault when the accident occurs because of the road condition, such as the tire was caught in a pothole, the car slipped on a patch of black ice, or any other reason.
  • Right of way/ traffic signals: The right of way is a strongly contested topic during accident liability discussions. Both parties feel they had the legal right of way. It can be difficult to prove fault when you claim the light was green or a protected green for your side of the traffic with the other driver arguing the light was green for them. Liability may not be clear if there is no evidence supporting the claims, such as proof of the traffic light’s cycles or traffic camera footage.
  • Accident timing: It is possible for you to get T-boned by another motorist as they made a sharp turn. You may staunchly hold that you could not have prevented the accident since they suddenly cut in front of you while making the turn. It could be difficult to prove the at-fault party in such a situation.

Common Side-impact Accident Injuries

T-bone or broadside collisions can result in more serious injuries as compared to similar crashes in other parts of the car. When an automobile strikes the rear or the front of another vehicle, there is a large margin of crumple zone. The vehicle’s boot space, hatchback engine compartment and bed create a significant buffer zone. However, this buffer or crumple zone is really small on the side of a vehicle. Often, the space is no more than the width of the car door.

Occupants of side-impact accidents are at a higher risk of injury even with the addition of side airbags in vehicles. These are a few common injuries that can be caused in a side-impact crash:

1. Hip and Leg Injuries

Hip and leg injuries are common when the impact is at the bottom of the car’s door or close to it. As the car caves or bends under impact from the side crash, flying debris and force of the accident can cause penetrating injuries, lacerations, and broken bones. Crash injuries may occur in a severe accident causing significant damage to nerves, soft tissues, muscles and bones.

2. Abdominal and Chest Injuries

Center of the body can suffer significant damage in a side-impact crash because of relatively little protection. Injuries in the form of crushed ribs, broken bones, organ damage, such as heart, kidneys, liver, and punctured lungs can occur. Spleen injury is also fairly common in T-bone accidents and can have serious consequences.

3. Shoulder and Arm Injuries

Injuries to arms and shoulders are similar to the injuries that could affect the hips or legs. This includes dislocated joints, broken bones and crush injuries. Flying glass and other debris may cause severe lacerations on the arms. It is possible for the arm to get trapped, crushed, or pinned in some car body part as well.

4. Neck and Head Injuries

Whiplash during side-impact accidents is fairly common. Force of a side impact can cause the head and neck to painfully whip sideways, causing a serious neck sprain. Traumatic brain injury or a concussion may occur if the head collides with the car frame or door and suffers a blow. Cuts and lacerations on the head, face and neck may cause immediate injuries and lifelong scarring. It may also result in the loss of some organ, like ears or eyes.

5. Psychological Injuries

It is normal to experience traumatic responses after a traumatic experience. They are part of your self-defense mechanism and are your brain’s attempt to ensure that you survive the life-threatening episode. Unfortunately, the brain may not be able to return to equilibrium once the physical danger has passed. Symptoms of post-traumatic disorder, such as nightmares, flashbacks, depression, insomnia, mood swings, and anxiety are real medical conditions. Often, they can be treated with some help.

Find Experts to File Your Side-impact Accident Lawsuit

You have a greater chance of protecting yourself and your rights after a T-bone accident with the help of a personal injury attorney. Retain the services of Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP if you or a loved one has been injured in a side-impact collision. Our dedicated and experienced lawyers can help you understand your options better, know your rights, and advise on the best possible way to attain justice. We like to help our clients acquire the most compensation for their accident injuries at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP. Our competent side-impact accident attorneys will assist you with your claim right away. It’s vital that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Book a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys by calling at (347) 504-1246.