T-bone accidents—sometimes called side-impact accidents, broadside collisions, or angle collisions—occur when one vehicle collides perpendicularly with the side of another vehicle, resembling the letter T. These collisions can cause significant vehicle damage and severe injuries, but there are steps you can take to avoid them.
Most T-bone accidents are caused by drivers failing to yield the right of way, often at a traffic light or stop sign. Regardless of who is at fault, these are some of the most common and most dangerous types of car crashes, often resulting in serious injuries (like whiplash, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries) and even wrongful death.
Common causes of T-bone accidents
Like most types of accidents, side-impact crashes typically occur when one or more parties are driving negligently and/or avoiding the rules of the road. Often, the at-fault driver in a T-bone collision is found to be:
- Using their cell phone while driving
- Adjusting vehicle controls (like the sound system or air conditioning) while driving
- Taking their eyes off the road while driving
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Drunk driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs
Of course, accidents can also occur because of situations outside of your control, such as a brake failure or inclement weather that makes stopping difficult or impossible. Additionally, if you’re rear-ended by one vehicle, you could end up T-boning another vehicle.
Who is at fault for a T-bone accident?
Typically, the driver who fails to yield the right of way will be found at fault for a T-bone accident, but it depends on the circumstances of the collision.
Determining fault after an auto accident often requires a thorough investigation, so it’s important to file a police report and contact your insurance company right away.
How to avoid a T-bone accident
The best way to avoid side-impact collisions—and traffic accidents, in general—is to always practice defensive driving techniques. Following these specific tips can help you avoid being T-boned (or T-boning someone else):
- Obey all traffic lights and signage.
- Come to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs.
- Do not enter an intersection with hopes of making a left turn after the light turns red; instead, wait for a gap in traffic or an appropriate signal before entering the intersection.
- Do not expect other drivers to always obey traffic lights and signage; instead, always check that an intersection is clear and that cross-traffic is completely stopped before entering the intersection, even at a green light.
- Exercise additional caution at intersections controlled only by stop signs, as drivers are more likely to roll through stop signs than red lights.
- Approach all intersections at a speed appropriate for the conditions and be prepared to stop if necessary, even if you have the right of way.
- Be extremely careful if visibility is impaired and/or if weather conditions have decreased road traction.
Keep in mind that—despite your best efforts—vehicle accidents are sometimes unavoidable. Investing in a car with ample safety features and always wearing your seatbelt can keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible should a collision occur.
What to do after a T-bone accident
Getting into a T-bone crash can be incredibly scary and overwhelming. If you’ve been involved in a side-impact accident, do your best to follow these steps as quickly and calmly as possible:
- If possible, move to a safe place that’s close to the accident but out of the way of oncoming traffic.
- Evaluate yourself, your passengers, and the other involved parties for any injuries. If any of the accident victims require medical attention, call an ambulance so they can get to the hospital immediately.
- Exchange insurance information with the other party involved.
- File a police report. This may help you in your insurance accident claim.
- Take plenty of pictures and/or videos of the accident and resulting damage.
- If necessary, call your roadside assistance provider or a tow truck to remove your vehicle from the scene of the accident.
- Contact your insurance company to file an accident/injury claim.
- Seek medical attention. Even if you feel fine after an accident, some injuries—such as spinal cord injuries, concussions, and other traumatic brain injuries—are not apparent for several days.
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Are T-bone accidents fatal?
Unfortunately, many of the safety features—such as seatbelts and airbags—that protect drivers and passengers in rear-end collisions aren’t as effective in T-bone accidents. For this reason, the most severe side-impact crashes can absolutely be fatal.
What injuries can you get from being T-boned?
Broadside collisions can cause an array of injuries, but those most commonly associated with these types of accidents include whiplash, concussions, broken bones (typically in the hands, legs, forearms, and ribs), spinal cord injury, paralysis, nerve damage, chronic pain, and mental illness related to trauma.