Road accidents are common in the greater California area with many varied causes to them. Road accidents often result in many consequences as well as damages to the victims. T-bone accidents are those accidents where another hits a vehicle on the side, and they are common in intersections. Like other accidents in California, a victim of the accident is permitted by the law to seek compensation for the damages suffered. The party at fault is usually expected to pay damages to the other party. However, in T-bone accidents, establishing the party at fault is not as easy as it is assumed. Losses for the accident are recovered depending on the driver at fault. Pursuing your compensation sometimes is not as easy and requires the skills of an experienced attorney. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we have years of experience in getting our clients the compensation due to them.
Determining the at Fault Party in a T-Bone Accident
A T-bone crash or accident has other names it is referred to with. Some call it broadside collision, while others term it as a side-impact crash. Regardless of the name, this is one of the most severe accidents that results in great bodily harm or fatality in more severe cases.
In this type of accident, a vehicle is crashing directly into another car but on its side. These accidents are more common at crossroads when crossing a highway with multiple lanes or at an intersection. Sometimes due to various reasons, a driver is unable to control their car and ends up causing this type of accident.
Injuries sustained from this kind of a crash tend to be more significant compared to injuries from head-on or rear-end collisions. This is because the person hit on the side has less protection compared to other crashes. Often, occupants in the car end up being trapped within the vehicle until emergency responders come to their rescue.
Fault in an auto accident, even in T-bone crashes, is pegged on negligence. A negligent driver is held accountable for the accident and all the damages suffered by those involved. Negligence is often demonstrated when a driver violates traffic law and fails to drive with the care needed.
Several factors can also be the reason for a T-bone accident. Some of these include dangerous road conditions, vehicle defects, as well as faulty traffic signals. However, most T-bone accidents are as a result of a driver or more motorists operating their cars without giving due care to their fellow motorists. As earlier stated, there are many causes of T-bone accidents with some of the common ones being:
- Speeding – when a driver is moving at high speed, he or she might find an intersection ahead where another car was already crossing. Due to the high speed, it becomes difficult to stop suddenly and instead crashes on the side of the other car.
- Disregarding a red light. – Traffic lights are designed to control traffic and bring order on our roads. A red light to a motorist means stop and give way. Some drivers, when they don’t see cars nearby or assume other vehicles are far off and decide to cross anyway. They miscalculate the speed of the other vehicle or fail to see another car that had the right of way approach. This can quickly get vehicles crashing into each other at an intersection.
- Texting while driving – using your phone is an act of recklessness or negligence. Some drivers get so distracted by the phone that they do not see another vehicle approaching. At times, they do not realize when they reach an intersection and are expected to stop and give the right of way. This is another cause of T-bone accidents on our roads.
- Drunk driving – the state of California prohibits motorists from operating vehicles while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. When a person is intoxicated, most often than not, they are unable to control their actions. Their reaction time to an emergency is slowed and often fails to comprehend what is going on around them. Drunk drivers cause a lot of accidents, even T-bone accidents.
- Failing to yield way – there are times on the road a driver has to give another right of way. When this is ignored, the other driver still expects it, and it often leads to a collision between the two motorists.
Based on the negligence laws of California, when a car accident occurs, negligence is established, and the driver found at fault is held accountable for the damages caused to others. For a victim of an accident to get compensated when a lawsuit is filed, the victim must demonstrate the negligence of the other party. To show the other party was negligent, one must display the following elements of negligence to be true:
- The alleged negligent driver owed a duty of care to the victim
- The driver violated the duty of care by being negligent
- The oversight by the driver was significant in causing the injuries to the victim
In California, drivers are required to practice reasonable care when operating their vehicles. When they fail, they are then negligent in their responsibility. When driving, a duty of care requires:
- A motorist to use reasonable care when driving
- A driver to be on the lookout for pedestrians, other motorists, and obstacles on the road
- A driver to be in control of the speed they are moving at and how their vehicle moves
When all drivers practice the duty of care and drive with reasonable care, accidents on our roads will reduce significantly.
Damages Available following a T-bone Accident
When a person is involved in a T-bone accident, the law permits them to sue for damages from the entity at fault. Both non-economic and economic damage compensations are available for victims of these kinds of accidents. Costs that are quantifiable, such as medical expenses or lost income, fall under this category. Non-economic damages are more challenging to assess. The jury or judge must decide on how much to award a victim based on how compelling their case seems. These are compensations for the suffering a victim goes through or the companionship lost in case of a fatality.
Some of the damages one can recover compensation for include:
- Medical bills – these are all the costs associated with your injuries from the T-bone accident. From the moment you step into the ER to when you will heal completely from those injuries, the costs are included here. Your doctor must give a clear record of the injuries you sustained, the treatment given, and if there is a need for more treatment. If your doctor can indicate how long you will need to be treated would also help. The estimated cost of your future medical costs concerning the injuries must also be included.
- Vehicle Repairs – automatically, when the collision happens, there will be damage to your car. You need your vehicle repaired, and because it is not your fault, it is unfair to be expected to carry the burden of the car repair. This is why the law permits one to seek compensation for damages to their car. Your auto shop or mechanic will give a detailed assessment of the damages and the cost of repair. This is also presented to the insurer, and also to the court should there be a trial.
- Lost Wages and Earning Capacity – how significant your injuries are will determine how long you stay out of productive work or if you will be able to work again in your life. Injuries can take between a day and a lifetime to heal. The number of days you will not go to work recovering from the injuries will mean you lose your income for the days. Sometimes the injuries can be substantial to the level where a victim will never be able to earn a living through gainful employment. All these losses are calculated and compensated for.
- Suffering and pain – injuries can result in excruciating pain to the victim. They suffer through the healing process both physically and psychologically. Because it is not easy to quantify these injuries, the jury or judge will decide on the amount to award in damages based on the seriousness of the injuries suffered.
- Lost consortium – when a person loses a spouse or a partner, it can be emotionally traumatic. A victim can sue the party at fault for the loss of love and companionship from their partner or spouse. The decision of how much to award is again left to the court.
- Wrongful death – the surviving family of a victim of the accident that killed can also present a claim over their life. If the person before their death incurred medical expenses, the family could seek compensation for them as well. The compensation awarded is on burial and funeral expenses, the companionship and guidance lost, and the income the person would still be earning if they were alive.
- Physical therapy – individuals that lose their limbs may need prolonged time to heal and get used to using their prosthetics. Others may end up being in the hospital for a long time such that when they heal, they must start learning how to do things all over again. The cost of this therapy is also included in the compensation a victim seeks.
- Future care and treatment – if your injuries will require further attention in the future, you will need to be compensated for the medical bills as well.
While these are some of the areas, one can seek compensation from, speaking to your lawyer is helpful because each case is different and comes with its own unique compensation needs. The list can be explored in various ways, depending on the damages suffered.
Common Injuries in a T-bone Accident
As earlier stated, each crash is different from the other. The injuries sustained depend on several factors. Some of these are:
- Speed – if the car that hits the other on the side was moving at high speeds, the impact will be significant compared to a slower moving vehicle. The injuries sustained from a speedy car are also more substantial and likely to result in death.
- The angle of the impact – the corner at which the car was hit will affect the damages and injuries sustained. If the effect is more to the front of the vehicle, the occupants may sustain less significant injuries compared to when the collision directly to the side of the car, where there is less protection.
- Airbags – if the airbags can inflate on time, they can protect the vehicle occupants from more severe injuries, but if they fail to rise as expected, the injuries can be significant. Sometimes the speed at which they inflate can also affect increase injuries to the occupants of the vehicle.
- Seatbelts – safety belts are crucial in holding the occupants of the car in place. When a crash occurs, the occupants, if not belted, can be thrown around the car. When the impact is more severe, sometimes they can be thrown out of the vehicle depending on the impact. Seat Belts can save the victim from sustaining more significant injuries when a T-bone accident occurs.
- Vehicle Type – the impact a vehicle sustains determines the injuries the occupants will suffer from. Some cars are light, small, and quickly get damaged while others are bigger and stronger such as trucks, and the impact may not be as significant. The type of vehicle that hits into the other also determines the kind of injuries you would sustain. Supposing the victim is driving a regular saloon car and a truck comes at it and crashes it on the side. The damages and injuries will be more significant compared to if the situation was reversed and the smaller car hit the truck.
Vehicles fitted with various safety features reduce the risk of substantial injuries to their occupants when a T-bone accident happens. Some cars are equipped with side airbags and increased safety features to counter high impact crashes. These will significantly reduce the degree of injuries suffered. However, irrespective of these measures, T-bone crashes can result in serious injuries such as:
- Head injury – these may include fractures to the skull that can cause serious problems
- Brain Trauma – these are serious injuries that may alter the life of the victim forever
- Neck and back injury – trauma to the neck or back can result in severe consequences. If the victim is injured in their spine, sometimes they may lose the use of their legs and are confined to a wheelchair
- Broken bones – victims can suffer broken ribs, legs, hands or other bones and require surgery
- Facial Trauma – some impacts can disfigure a victim to the extent that they may require reconstructive surgery
- Internal injuries – these are injuries to the body organs or when an effect raptures a vein and causes bleeding inside the victim’s body. These are hard to detect injuries yet very fatal. This makes it essential to go to the hospital immediately after a crash happens.
In most T-bone accidents, the occupants get trapped inside the vehicle. This situation makes their injuries worse because until rescue comes, it is difficult to open the doors of the car. Emergency responders when they arrive at the scene, they may need specialized tools to get the victims out. The longer the process, the worse the injuries get.
When you Share Blame, Can you get Compensated?
The state of California adheres to the comparative law theory. This means that even when a driver is partially to blame for the accident, they can still seek compensation for the damages they suffer from the accident. Sometimes, drivers are not sure who was responsible for the accident. But, this does not mean they miss out on getting their compensatory damages.
There are times the injured party is to blame for the accident because it happened due to their negligence, while other times it is the other party to blame. An injured party can also be negligent if they refused to adhere to safety requirements while driving, such as having their seatbelts on.
The defendant can also argue that the victim would have avoided many of the injuries, or they would have been less significant if they practiced due care. This, mostly, they will argue that the failure of the victim to wear a seatbelt was the reason the injuries were severe. If their investigators establish your belts were faulty or the airbags, they can claim that you failed in maintaining your car. This failure resulted in defective airbags and seatbelts that would have prevented significant injuries from happening.
When the case goes to trial, the burden to show fault is left to the defendant and the plaintiff. Based on the evidence presented, the judge or jury will decide who is accountable for the crash and the damages thereafter. If the court establishes that both parties are to blame, the responsibility is apportioned. This is done according to the degree of fault for each party.
In a court of law, each party will give a story that is favorable to their side. This becomes more difficult to prove negligence, but with some evidence, the court can establish the party at fault. There are various things one can use to prove fault or negligence on the part of the other driver. Some of these are:
- Photos or videos from the accident scene – it is always advisable to take pictures or videos of the accident scene. Even when the accident is too severe such that the victims cannot take pictures, the police always do, and they are available for your lawyer to use. The images can show what happened and help reconstruct the accident in trying to establish the at-fault party.
- Police reports – when the police arrive at the scene of the accident, they try to collect all the evidence available to try and establish the cause of the accident. They will take pictures and videos, interview witnesses, if any, as well as the victims of the accident. The police will also want to eliminate drunk or drugged driving. This will cause them to administer a blood test to establish if any of the drivers were intoxicated. Driving while intoxicated is one of the major causes of accidents in California. The penalties for a DUI offense and the compensation following a drunk driving accident are different from normal accidents. The police will write a detailed report of their findings, which will help determine who was at fault.
- Testimony from doctors – you can only seek compensation from injuries suffered from the accident but not on past injuries. The doctors that treat you must give a detailed account of your injuries and the treatment procedures that you have undertaken. The other party can argue that the injuries you sustained were not as significant, but with your doctor’s testimony, you can prove the injuries.
- Videos from street cameras – some intersections have street cameras. Your lawyer can request those responsible for providing the footage leading to the accident and submitting it to the court. This visual evidence will go a long way in showing the jury who was responsible for the crash.
When the T-bone Accident is with an Uninsured Driver
It is an offense for a driver to operate a vehicle when they do not have the minimum auto insurance coverage. The state of California makes it mandatory for vehicle owners to have a minimum cover. The state also requires insurers to offer underinsured and uninsured cover, but this is optional.
Uninsured cover pays for losses incurred when another party is responsible for the crash, and they do not have a cover. The underinsured auto insurance compensates for damages if the insurance cover for the other party is not sufficient to cover all the costs.
The law permits a victim to sue the other party directly for damages if they do not have insurance, or their cover is not sufficient to cover all the costs. Unfortunately, a driver without an insurance cover may have nothing to pay the victim with.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Specializing in Car Accidents Near Me
Of the many road accidents, T-bone accidents are known to cause some of the most significant injuries to its victims. The damage to the vehicles is equally substantive and requires enormous sums of money to repair as well. Fatalities are also common in T-bone accidents that leave families devastated. Seeking compensation for the damages and losses suffered is one way to help cope with the aftermath of the accident. A personal injury lawyer is well placed to advise and help you pursue your rightful compensation. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we have a team of experienced and compassionate lawyers ready to help you with your claim. Call us at 714-876-1959, and allow us the privilege to discuss your case in detail.