Who Is Liable in a T-Bone Car Accident?

PA Auto Crash Lawyers

A 22-year-old man was arrested and charged with homicide by motor vehicle after he allegedly drove through a red light and T-boned a vehicle driven by a newlywed mother of three at a Chester County intersection. The 45-year-old woman in the vehicle that was struck was on her way to work at the time of the collision. She died in the hospital of her injuries a short time after the accident. The man who caused the accident fled on foot but was soon found hiding in the backyard of a home a short distance from the accident site. The man was also charged with other offenses related to the auto accident, including driving with a suspended license.

T-bone accidents are one of the most commonly occurring multi-vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reported that there were 34,346 angle accidents statewide during the year, resulting in more than 250 deaths. The term “angle accident” generally refers to an accident that happens at an intersection in which the front of one vehicle strikes the side of another, forming an angle, or a T. This type of accident is also commonly referred to as a T-bone, broadside, or side-impact collision.

If you’ve been injured in a T-bone car accident in Philadelphia, an experienced car accident attorney can help you to determine if you’re eligible to receive compensation through an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit to cover the expenses you’ve incurred due to your injuries.

Who Is Liable in a T-Bone Car Accident?

Although there are some exceptions, the majority of T-bone accidents take place at intersections where one driver has failed to yield the right-of-way to another driver. Pennsylvania traffic laws state that drivers must yield the right-of-way in the following situations:

  • The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, which is so close as to constitute a hazard.
  • Drivers approaching a stop sign must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian in the crosswalk.
  • At the stop sign, the driver must also yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute a hazard when the driver is moving across or within the intersection. The driver must always ensure that the intersection is clear before entering it.
  • Drivers must also stop at red lights to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles in different directional lanes of travel whose light is green.
  • Drivers must also yield the right-of-way to approaching emergency vehicles displaying flashing lights or sounding a siren.
  • When making a left turn in which the vehicle must cross an oncoming traffic lane and there is a green light but not a green arrow, drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to vehicles approaching the intersection from the opposite direction.

Failing to yield the right-of-way when legally required to do so is a traffic offense. What this means is that, if an accident occurs during the commission of a traffic offense, the driver committing the offense is at fault.

As previously mentioned, not all T-bone accidents occur in an intersection. Other examples include:

  • An unrelated accident causes a vehicle to spin into oncoming traffic, where it strikes the side of another car or is struck broadside by another traveler. In this instance, liability is not as clear, as there was really no right-of-way involved. In these circumstances, often a careful look is given to the cause of the initial accident that resulted in the car spinning out of control.
  • Wet or icy roads that cause a driver to lose control of his or her vehicle and either hit the side of another car or cause another vehicle to hit the side of his or her vehicle. Generally, liability will fall on the individual whose car slid on the ice, as he or she was likely traveling too fast for the conditions of the road and thus was unable to retain control of the vehicle.

Why T-Bone Accidents Are so Deadly

Auto Collision Attorneys PAIn spite of advancements in the design of vehicles that provide additional protection against side-impact collisions, the side of a vehicle still remains a particularly vulnerable area to be hit, especially for vehicle occupants who are sitting on the side where the impact occurs. This is because there is less structure on the door panels to absorb the energy of the crash than there is in front-impact accidents, where the bumper, engine, and dash are absorbing some of the energy, or rear-end impacts, where the trunk is absorbing some of the energy.

The risk of serious injury increases depending on the speed of one vehicle as it slams into the side of the other. The risk also increases if there is a large discrepancy in the size of the two vehicles that are involved. For example, an accident involving a semi-truck striking the broadside of a small passenger car will likely result in more serious injuries than an accident involving a small passenger car striking another small passenger car.

Common Reasons for Intersection Accidents

Traffic control devices, such as red lights and stop signs, are put in place to make an intersection safer for those traveling through it. Yet, according to statistics provided by the Federal Highway Administration, 40 percent of all traffic accidents and more than one-fifth of all fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. take place in intersections. Why is that? Consider the following:

  • Distractions. Distracted driving has become a major source of traffic accidents, as the lives of drivers become busy, and they attempt to multitask while behind the wheel. Some examples of driver distractions include texting and other cell phone use, such as talking on the phone, checking one’s email, or browsing the internet; eating or drinking; adjusting vehicle controls, such as the heater or the stereo; visiting with other passengers; tending to children in the backseat; daydreaming; and external distractions, such as billboards, other cars, people on the roadside, work zones, and even previous accidents.
  • Aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is operating one’s vehicle in an unsafe manner with little regard for the safety of others. Many people drive aggressively to escape traffic or because they’re running late. Red light running is one of the common exhibitions of aggressive driving and is also one of the most common ways for an intersection accident to occur.
  • Speeding. Speeding is another form of aggressive driving. The faster a vehicle is moving, the harder it is to come to a safe stop, as speeding reduces the time a driver has to perceive a hazard—such as a light changing from yellow to red—and react to it. Speeding also increases the distance the vehicle requires after the driver has reacted by pressing on the brakes.
  • Improper surveillance. When a driver comes to a stop sign, he or she is required by law to make sure that there is no approaching traffic that is close enough to become a hazard upon entering an intersection. Yet due to several issues, including distraction, fatigue, impairment from drugs or alcohol, or other reasons, many drivers fail to ensure that the intersection is clear before pulling out into it.
  • Brake failure. Failed or faulty brakes can render a driver unable to stop his or her car at a red light or stop sign.
  • Icy or wet roads. As with brake failure, road conditions can also cause a person to be unable to yield the right-of-way, creating an enormous potential for an intersection accident.
  • Getting lost. Missing a turn or being unclear as to where you are going often leads to careless driving behavior, such as improper turns, which could result in an angle accident.

All of these reasons are the result of driver negligence and spell liability for the driver who committed them.

Ways to Avoid Collisions in an Intersection

Car Accident Lawyers PA

You cannot control the actions of other drivers on the road. However, here are some tips that may help you to prevent becoming a victim of this type of accident or from causing a T-bone accident yourself.

  • Avoid distractions. Being a safe driver not only requires you to ensure that you’re driving safely, but also that you’re fully aware of what is going on in the traffic around you. It is hard to do that while texting, reading your email, or daydreaming.
  • Always obey traffic control devices. This means slowing down at yellow lights, and stopping at stop signs, flashing red lights, and red lights. However, don’t assume that everyone else will take these precautions. Even if you have the right-of-way, you should always be aware of vehicles who seem to be approaching the intersection at a speed that will make it difficult for them to stop. If the light turns yellow, be wary of those who may be attempting to “beat the light” by speeding into the intersection.
  • When you’re making a left turn on a green light instead of a green arrow, you must yield the right-of-way to vehicles approaching in the travel lanes that you’re about to cross. Ensure that you have enough of a gap in traffic to get completely through the intersection. If you have to wonder whether you have enough time to complete your turn safely, it’s probably a better idea to wait.
  • Don’t speed. It is harder to come to a safe stop and is also harder for drivers who are entering the roadway to gauge whether they have enough space to do so. Both of these issues can lead to broadside accidents.
  • Avoid driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol or when extremely tired. All of these conditions cause deficits in a driver’s ability to control speed, make safe decisions, and properly scan intersections.
  • Use extra care at blind corners where you can’t see if there is an approaching vehicle. Ease forward into the intersection until you’re able to obtain the visibility needed to safely cross. The same rule applies if you are backing out of your driveway onto the road or backing out of a spot in a busy parking lot. Never dart out into a travel lane without first ascertaining that no vehicles are approaching from other directional lanes.
  • Do not follow other vehicles too closely, as this presents a distraction to them and may cause them to enter an intersection without properly scanning for approaching vehicles.
  • If you see flashing emergency vehicle lights or hear the siren of an approaching emergency vehicle, do not enter the intersection until it has safely passed through it, even if you have a green light. You must always yield the right-of-way to police, ambulance, and fire vehicles.
  • Avoid making U-turns where prohibited to do so. Just as with left-hand turns at an intersection, you must ensure that the roadway is clear and the right-of-way is yours before you attempt the U-turn.
  • If you find yourself unduly stressed about driving in traffic, plan a route that will allow you to avoid it. Traffic congestion is one of the main causes of aggressive driving, which is a major contributor to intersection accidents.

When it comes to investigations into T-bone accidents, generally both parties will claim that they had the right-of-way and that the accident was the fault of the other. Police report narratives, any traffic citations that were issued or arrests that were made, photos of the vehicle damage, and the statements of witnesses often become very important in these cases. Your car accident attorney will go over every detail of your case to help you prove that the liability fell to the other driver when negotiating a settlement with your insurance company or when presenting your case to a judge or jury in court.

Were you injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault? Ask a car accident lawyer to help you understand your legal options.