In Ligonier Township, PA, a 26-year-old state trooper was killed, and his partner suffered serious injuries, when the marked patrol vehicle they were riding in was struck on the side by a sanitation truck. The deceased trooper was trapped inside the vehicle and succumbed to blunt force trauma to the head while still at the scene. The accident occurred as the patrol vehicle was cruising southbound on a state route road in the region. The sanitation truck turned left out of a parking lot to head north when it struck the patrol car in what authorities described as “nearly a T-bone.” The patrol car sustained significant damage on the side of the vehicle in which the deceased trooper was riding.
A T-bone accident, also known as a side impact or broadside accident, occurs when the front of one vehicle crashes into the side of another. This type of accident generally occurs at an intersection when one of the vehicles fails to stop at the stoplight or stop sign. The most serious injuries are usually suffered by the occupants sitting on the side of the vehicle that was struck broadside. Due to size and weight differences, when a truck is involved in a T-bone accident, the results can be catastrophic. If you or a loved one has been injured in a side-impact collision involving a commercial truck, an experienced truck accident attorney can help you determine your eligibility to seek compensation for your injuries.
What Causes T-Bone Accidents?
As previously stated, these accidents typically occur at intersections and involve one vehicle failing to yield the right-of-way to another by either running a red light or a stop sign or not coming to a complete stop. Because commercial trucks require so much distance to come to a complete stop, many truck drivers choose to perform a rolling stop, which is both illegal and dangerous. Other causes of T-bone accidents include:
- Improper left turn: If the driver turns left when he or she doesn’t have a green arrow, there is a risk of broadsiding another vehicle or being broadsided. This often occurs because of trucks’ limited stopping ability, their slow acceleration, or a miscalculation as to how fast oncoming traffic is approaching.
- Inclement weather: Low visibility conditions can impair a driver’s ability to see if it is safe to make a left turn through traffic lanes. Slippery road conditions can cause a car or truck to slide through an intersection and into a vehicle that is lawfully passing through it.
- Faulty or poorly maintained braking and steering: Trucks frequently travel long distances and require regular maintenance to keep systems such as braking and steering functioning properly. The drivers of these trucks and the trucking companies who employ them rely on safe manufactured parts that perform according to their stated purpose. If the brakes or steering goes out while at an intersection or while attempting to complete a turn, it could lead to a T-bone accident.
- Lack of signs and blind intersections: If either driver is unable to accurately see whether there is oncoming traffic, it can lead to both vehicles entering the intersection at the same time, resulting in a collision.
Other factors that could lead to a T-bone accident include alcohol impairment, fatigue, and distraction, which all impact a driver’s ability to focus on the roadway and make safe driving decisions.
What Happens if a Truck T-Bones a Passenger Car?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, of multi-vehicle truck accidents where the point of impact on the truck was in the front, 15 percent featured a left-side (driver’s side) impact to the other vehicle, and 11 percent featured a right-side (passenger’s side) impact point.
A major part of what makes any truck accident so dangerous is the size of the truck. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. In contrast, the average passenger vehicle weighs around 3,400 pounds. Add to that the fact that the truck is striking a less-protected area of the vehicle—the doors and window—and you have passenger car occupants that are in a very vulnerable position. Occupants of the passenger vehicle are also at risk of their vehicle sliding beneath the front of the truck or the truck running over the top of the car.
What Happens if a Passenger Car T-Bones a Truck?
It is not as common as a passenger car being struck broadside by a truck, but accidents in which the passenger car broadsides the truck do happen. Of fatal crashes involving large trucks that are impacted on the left or right side by a vehicle that is impacted in the front, it is more common for the broadside to occur on the left side. This accounted for 9 percent of fatal multi-vehicle truck crashes in the NHTSA report. Right-side collision to the truck from the front of a car accounted for 5 percent.
One of the biggest risks for the occupants of a passenger car that T-bones a commercial truck is truck underride, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes. In an underride crash, the passenger car goes partially or completely underneath the truck or tractor-trailer. A 1997 study of fatal crashes between large trucks and passenger cars revealed that about half of the crashes involved an underride, with 20 percent of the fatal underrides occurring on the truck’s left or right side. Other studies have shown that requiring underride guards for the sides and fronts of commercial trucks would make many accidents involving trucks survivable. The U.S. currently does not require underride guards for the side or the front of commercial trucks.
Common Injuries Suffered in T-Bone Accidents
T-bone accidents that involve a size incompatibility between the two vehicles commonly result in traumatic injuries, including:
- Brain injuries caused when the occupant strikes his or her head on the window or other objects as well as due to the extreme jolt caused by the force of the collision. Blunt force trauma can be caused if the broadsided car underrides the truck.
- Crush injuries from the encroachment of the vehicle through the relatively weak door structure of the broadsided car. Crush injuries are also possible due to the risk of the truck running over the top of the vehicle.
- Deep lacerations.
- Broken bones. A common injury suffered by victims of T-bone accidents is a broken femur, which is the large bone in the thigh. Hip and pelvic fractures to occupants on the side of the car that was struck are also common.
- Neck injuries, caused by the jolt of the collision or the head and neck being pushed sideways by the broadside encroachment.
- Spinal cord injuries that may result in lifelong paralysis.
Many of these injuries require months or years to heal from, surgeries, extensive hospitalizations, and even permanent disability.
Some Real-Life Examples of T-Bone Truck Accidents
Here is a look at more news stories from around the nation that demonstrate how these crashes occur and the extreme risk that occupants of passenger cars face in this type of accident:
- A semi-truck driver was cited for failing to stop at a red light after he T-boned a police car in an intersection in Wisconsin. At the time of the crash, the roads were slick with snow. Although the officer was trapped inside his police car for a while, he was uninjured in the crash. The police department where he worked warned drivers on Facebook to travel within safe speeds on snow-covered roads to have the ability to stop.
- A T-bone accident involved a semi-truck when the driver of a pickup truck failed to defrost her window before departing in her vehicle. With poor visibility due to a frosted windshield, the driver ran a stop sign and hit a flatbed semi-truck broadside. The force of the crash caused the semi to overturn, dumping a load of lumber that the truck was hauling onto the roadway. Both the pickup driver and the semi driver suffered minor injuries in the accident.
- A driver of a sedan suffered serious injuries after an eastbound semi truck crashed into the side of the driver’s car. The driver was unconscious during transport to the hospital. A passenger in the car also suffered mild injuries in the crash. The semi driver was uninjured.
- The driver of a sedan was killed in a T-bone accident with a tractor-trailer. The accident occurred when the driver drove off the side of the road into a wet ditch. The vehicle re-entered the roadway, going into a spin and was struck broadside on the passenger side by a tractor-trailer. The force of the collision caused the sedan to shear in half and both axles from the semi to become detached from the truck. The front of the car came to rest in the ditch, while the back part of the vehicle came to rest in the southbound lane of the roadway. The truck came to rest upright in the ditch. The 30-year-old driver of the sedan was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the truck was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
Determining Liability in a T-Bone Accident
To obtain compensation for injuries suffered in a T-bone accident, you must prove liability on the part of the other driver or other individuals or entities whose negligent actions contributed to the crash. Negligence is key to proving liability; you establish negligence by proving that the following three events occurred:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. This duty could be to stop at a stop sign as the law requires.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. For example, the driver of the truck rolled through the stop sign rather than coming to a complete stop.
- This breach caused the accident, which resulted in your injuries.
In T-bone accidents, because they often occur in intersections, liability usually belongs to the driver who failed to yield the right-of-way. This includes drivers who run red lights, stop signs, or who turn across traffic lanes without having a green arrow. Drivers who are traveling too fast for the conditions and lose control of their vehicles may also face liability. Other potentially liable parties in a T-bone truck accident include:
- The trucking company who hired the driver, provided training on safe driving practices, and became vicariously responsible for the driver’s actions while the truck was transporting goods.
- The entity or individual responsible for maintaining the truck, including ensuring that the brakes, steering, and other vehicle systems were working properly.
- The manufacturer or distributor of brakes or other parts of the vehicle that may have been defective at the time of the crash.
- The governmental agency responsible for the roadway if a blind corner without posted warning signs was a factor in the crash.
An experienced truck accident attorney can help you determine all liable parties and sources of insurance policies in your crash. In Pennsylvania, even if you were partially responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, you can still seek compensation for your injuries, depending on the specific circumstances of your accident.
Obtaining compensation for injuries suffered in a T-Bone truck accident often begins with a third-party claim against the insurance policies of the liable parties. Your attorney can assist you in establishing a value to your case based on the expenses you’ve incurred, your prognosis, the work you’ve missed due to your accident injuries, the loss of future job opportunities or earnings due to the disabilities you may have been left with, and the impact that your injury has had on your personal life.
If you were injured in a T-bone or other accident involving a commercial truck, a truck accident lawyer can help you understand all of the options available to you.