Who is At Fault in a Tbone Accident?

Imagine this: You’re on your way to the grocery store, or to see a friend, or maybe to pick up your kids from soccer practice. Your eyes are on the road; your hands are at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, where they’re supposed to be, on the steering wheel. You’re alert, staying within the speed limit, and being a good driver. Then, all of a sudden, it happens: A vehicle suddenly appears in your path without warning. You mash down the brake pedal, but there is not enough distance in front of your car to avoid a collision. You hear the sickening thud of metal-and-fiberglass on metal-and-fiberglass as your vehicles crash. Congratulations — you have been T-boned.

T-bone, also known as broadside or side-impact, collisions are common, can result in serious injuries and death, and are (frustratingly) usually completely avoidable. They are caused when one driver, generally attempting to make a left-hand turn, fails to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.

They are referred to as “T-bone” collisions because the shape that results from one car crashing into the passenger side of another resembles a “T.” Obviously, these are frightening and often devastating situations for everyone involved.

The one good thing about T-bone collisions is that as long as the facts are clear and not in dispute, it’s usually pretty easy to pin down who is at fault. If you were the driver with the right-of-way, you’re not at fault. The person in the other vehicle who negligently failed to yield and drove into oncoming traffic is at fault.

There are also situations where both drivers fail to yield — for instance, the driver heading straight may run a red light or be distracted — and in those cases, both parties are likely to be deemed at least partially responsible.

Here Are Some Common Scenarios Where T-bone Collisions Happen:

  • At intersections, when one driver ignores a traffic signal or otherwise makes an unsafe left turn without checking to see if the path is clear.
  • When one driver is distracted, such as by text messaging on their smartphone, fiddling with a radio or climate controls, or eating or drinking.
  • When a driver is extremely fatigued or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • When at least one driver is traveling over the speed limit.
  • In bad weather, such as heavy rain or fog, where visibility on the road is poor.
  • When a driver attempting to make a left turn is doing so from behind an obstruction, such as a double-parked truck, which impairs their ability to see whether a car is coming down the road.

To protect your interests, it is important to establish a clear record of the details of the incident, in order to allow insurance companies and motor vehicle departments to make the right call on who is to blame. If you are physically able to do so, you should speak to anyone in the vicinity of the accident, such as pedestrians, who witnessed what happened and who are willing and able to corroborate your account.

If the other driver remains on the scene of the accident, you should exchange contact and insurance information. Also, file an incident report with the police, and report the matter to your insurance company. You may also wish to contact an attorney if you have a legal claim against the other driver to determine your potential options.