T-Bone Accident Injuries, Causes And Fault (2024)

Jocelyn Mackie


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 7 mins

T-bone or side-impact accidents occur when a vehicle hits another vehicle in the side panel. The collision forms a “T” shape, which is why the accident type is called a T-bone.

These impacts are the second deadliest crashes in the U.S. In 2021, side impacts accounted for 22% of driver and passenger deaths and 44.7% of injuries.

Since these are usually serious accidents, injured victims should know their legal options and how to receive compensation. Here is an overview of the causes of t-bone accidents, resulting injuries and how to proceed after a side-impact accident. If you’ve been injured in an accident, fill out the form on this page to consult with an experienced attorney.

Causes of T-Bone Accidents

T-bone accidents may occur due to:

  • Failure to obey traffic signals or signs
  • Weather conditions, especially snow or ice
  • Failure to yield the right of way to another vehicle
  • Mechanical failures in vehicles
  • Speeding
  • Impairment due to drugs or alcohol

Most T-bone accidents happen at intersections. Drivers may run a red light and hit a driver proceeding on a green light. They may also speed up at a yellow light right before it turns red or drive too fast to stop in time at a sign or light.

Sliding through intersections during icy conditions can also cause T-bone accidents. Some municipalities attempt to reduce T-bone collisions by installing roundabouts, which force drivers to slow down. However, there has never been a perfect solution to these frequently deadly and devastating accidents.

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T-Bone Accident Injuries

Since side-impact collisions hit the most vulnerable part of a car, injuries are often severe. Death is also common in these accidents, especially in high-speed collisions.

Common injuries from T-bone accidents include:

  • Neck and back injuries: Collisions lead to spraining and straining joints and vertebrae, often leading to whiplash injuries and herniated discs. Patients face reduced range of motion and pain. Treatment is usually over-the-counter pain medication and physical therapy.
  • Head injuries: If the accident drives a car without side airbags, they may hit their head on the window after impact. The results are everything from mild concussions to traumatic brain injuries.
  • Internal injuries: These are often high-impact accidents, so internal injuries are often possible. Victims may face internal bleeding, bowel perforation, organ damage, and punctured lungs. Patients need immediate treatment.
  • Bone fractures: T-bone accidents often result in broken arms, legs, and ribs. Victims may also experience long-term nerve damage and deep lacerations.
  • Psychological issues: Many people emerge from bad accidents with depression, anxiety and panic disorder. They may also develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) These issues often arise with the worst accidents and long injury recovery.

Determining Fault

Unlike in rear-end accidents, fault is not always apparent in a T-bone accident. Depending on the circumstances, either driver may be liable for the damages.

The fault usually depends on two factors: who had the right of way and who failed to exercise reasonable care under negligence standards.

All states have statutes concerning the right of way or the circumstances under which drivers must yield to other vehicles. Right of way is relevant at all intersections, even if they don’t have signs or signal lights. For example, if a driver is last to stop at a four-way stop sign, the other drivers have the right of way before them. If the latest driver proceeds before any other cars and hits one, they are likely at fault for the accident.

When an intersection has traffic signals, the driver with a green light has the right of way. However, if a driver rushed a yellow light and was in the intersection when it turned red, they would be at fault.

However, even drivers with the right of way can face some fault. Some intersections may require extra caution due to a curve, hill or poor design. They may be negligent and share some fault if they did not exercise that caution.

Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care. For example, if a driver sees another driver’s car slide into an intersection during icy conditions and proceeds anyway, they could share negligence with the driver who couldn’t stop in time. Parties may share fault, which can eliminate the chance of compensation in a pure contributory negligence state (where an injured party can’t recover damages if they share fault, even if it is only 1%.)

Compensation and Damages From a T-Bone Accident

Personal injury claims, including car accidents, pay two types of compensation: economic and noneconomic damages.

Economic damages are objective compensation easily documented with statements, receipts or bank charges. They include:

  • Medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Extra costs arising from injury, e.g., yard care, childcare, etc.
  • Rehabilitation costs (if the accident causes disability)
  • Therapy expenses
  • Diminished earning capacity

Noneconomic damages are subjective and harder to prove. They focus more on how people feel and endure mentally after an accident. Some attorneys use a formula to place a monetary value on them based on the severity of the injuries, e.g., two or three times the economic damages.

These damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of previous hobbies or activities
  • Emotional anguish
  • Loss of companionship (for accidents ending in a wrongful death)
  • Humiliation

The final settlement in a T-bone accident depends on injury severity. Someone with whiplash and soft tissues will receive less compensation than an accident victim with broken bones and a head injury. The latter victim likely faces higher medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering than one who sustains sprains and strains.

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Filing a T-Bone Accident Claim

Drivers receive compensation for T-bone accidents by filing a claim against the other driver's insurance company. This claim starts with the other driver’s insurance company and may need to escalate to the court system if the parties don’t agree to a settlement. Here is what to know about filing these claims.

Statute of Limitations

All states have statutes of limitations on accidents. A statute of limitations is a time limit for filing a lawsuit. Depending on your state, it may be two to four years after the date of your accident. For example, if a state has a two-year statute of limitations, a driver has until April 1, 2026, to file a lawsuit if the accident occurred on April 1, 2024.

Refrain from confusing the statute of limitations with the insurance company reporting time limits. Most insurance companies want accidents reported within two to seven days. The best practice is to contact the insurance company immediately after an accident.

Potential Opposing Parties

T-bone accidents may have multiple opposing parties to pursue for damages. The other driver is always a target, but there are other possibilities, too:

  • Employer: If the other party was working for their employer during the accident, the employer may also be held liable. This liability especially applies if the employer fails to properly train an employee or equip a fleet vehicle.
  • Auto or auto parts manufacturer: T-bone accidents may also occur due to product defects. For example, if an auto or parts manufacturer installed defective brakes, they may also share in the liability.
  • Landowners: The landowner may be liable if a T-bone accident occurs on private property. That is possible if the landowner is responsible for deicing their private roads or keeping hazards out of drivers’ paths.
  • Municipalities: Municipal governments can also fail to maintain roads or keep them safe. Possible causes may include malfunctioning traffic lights, road debris, a lack of deicing, or other road maintenance issues.

Attorney Involvement

Do T-bone accident claims require attorneys? The answer depends on the complexity of the case. Minor fender-benders with no injuries are usually straightforward and easily managed by drivers.

However, a personal injury attorney can make a big difference in some circumstances, including:

  • Disabling injuries
  • Head injuries with memory impairment
  • Accidents involving auto or auto part defects, including brakes, airbags or seat belts
  • Aggressive or noncommunicative insurance adjusters
  • Fault disputes
  • Claims against government entities

Remember that insurance companies wish to pay as little as possible on claims. This can prove devastating if injuries lead to substantial income loss and high medical bills. Hiring an attorney makes navigating these claims easier and more likely to be successful.

If there is doubt, it’s best to fill out the form on this page to consult an experienced car accident lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • T-bones are the second most common type of accident in the U.S. In 2021, 33% of car accidents were side or angle collisions.

  • Head-on and rear-end collisions involve vehicles hitting each other at their most reinforced parts. However, a broadside accident consists of the front of a car hitting the vulnerable side panel, which is also closest to the driver or passengers. This increases the chance of broken bones and head injuries.

  • Yes. Many people associate whiplash with a back-and-forth snapping action during an accident, but a sudden side-to-side movement causes the same symptoms. Accident victims can also suffer headaches, pains, and reduced range of motion in their necks after a t-bone accident.

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