When the front end of one car crashes into the side of another at a 90-degree angle, people usually call the crash a “T-Bone.” These accidents usually happen at intersections where the at-fault driver has run a red light or stop sign.
What Causes T-Bone Accidents
T-bone accidents tend to happen at intersections but, like most car accidents, usually involve one or more parties driving negligently.
Typical underlying causes of T-bone accidents are much the same as those in any other car accident.
The difference in a T-bone is that the accident almost always occurs at a marked intersection where the at-fault driver has disregarded a traffic sign or signal.
- Distracted driving - Distracted driving is one of the fastest-growing causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Everyone recognizes the drunk-appearing driving moves of the distracted driver but believes that they can drive while texting, making phone calls, putting on makeup, eating, adjusting the onboard entertainment, and taking one’s attention away from the road.
- Driving under the influence - These days, DUI means a lot more than just having too much to drink. DUIs also include driving under the influence of drugs, whether legal or illegal.
- Speeding - All too often, the at-fault driver in a T-bone accident tries to beat a light and speeds through the intersection, hitting someone who had the right of way to be in the area. The frequency of speeding in T-bone accidents contributes to the general severity of the injuries.
- Running a red light or stop sign - Again, failing to give the right of way to the driver to whom it belongs is a significant cause of T-bone accidents. The driver who gets hit obeys the traffic signals, feels safe, and experiences a sudden collision with another vehicle.
You should also keep in mind that a secondary risk of a T-bone accident is that the car struck by the at-fault driver may then move into more oncoming traffic while being completely unable to maneuver away from it.
Negligence in Bronx Car Accidents
Under New York law, negligence arises out of the carelessness of an individual. To prove negligence in court, you must show that the negligent party (the at-fault driver) had a duty of care to others on the road, that the driver breached that duty, that the breach was the direct cause of your injury, and that you incurred damages as a result.
Ability to Sue for Negligence in a Car Accident in New York
New York is a “no-fault” state with required minimums of insurance coverage. However, there are certain narrow exceptions for serious injuries.
Under New York law, the serious injuries that may permit a lawsuit in a car accident include those that result in:
- Serious disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus or miscarriage
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ or member
- Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body function or system
- Medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature that prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts that constitute usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days of the 180 days following the injury or impairment (the 90/180 rule)
The meaning of some of these terms is less than crystal clear and insurance companies or defense attorneys can dispute them. If you think one of these less obvious items—or even one of the straightforward ones - may apply to your Bronx T-bone accident injury, a skilled and experienced car accident attorney will be invaluable in assisting with your claim.
How Bad Are T-Bone Accidents
When you suffer injuries in a T-bone accident, the injuries can be spectacularly severe. First, the other driver is usually violating one or more traffic laws and engaging in behavior that you do not anticipate and therefore cannot avoid. Second, the sheer physical consequences of a speeding 4000-pound lethal weapon slamming into the side of your car cannot be disregarded. Finally, the physics is even worse when the at-fault vehicle is substantially larger than the struck vehicle. This risk is particularly high for passengers who, unless the car has side-impact airbags, have only the strength of the passenger door between themselves and an onrushing vehicle. People get severely injured in T-bones, especially those on the passenger side of the car.
Common T-Bone Accident Injuries
The injuries most commonly experienced in a T-bone accident are severe and are likely to produce life-altering adverse effects on their victims. And they are not dissimilar to the types of injuries that will permit you to sue for negligence in a New York car accident case. Among these injuries are:
- Concussion, Head Injury, or Traumatic Brain Injury - A head injury in a T-bone accident can be as simple as a mild concussion or as life-altering as a severe traumatic brain injury that destroys substantial portions of your motor or cognitive function. Other head injuries can include skull fractures and injuries caused by flying debris in the accident, such as windshield glass landing in the eyes and blinding the victim. It is not difficult to imagine that these types of injuries would easily fall under one or more of the “serious” injury exceptions to the no-fault law.
- Whiplash - Because whiplash is easy to fake and hard to prove, it has become the standing joke of the car accident injury world. However, whiplash, a soft tissue injury to the tendons and ligaments in the neck, can leave the victim with a lifetime of chronic pain and limited range of movement.
- Neck and Spinal Cord Injuries - These injuries, probably the most common in T-bone accidents due to the strong forces exerted in a T-bone accident, can lead to loss of motor function and even temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Crushing Injuries
- Paralysis - which may include paraplegia or quadriplegia
- Injuries to the torso and chest - these injuries can not only result in fractures of ribs, pelvis, and hips, but they can also cause permanent damage of loss of function to internal organs
In short, most of the injuries likely to happen to a driver or passenger in a T-bone accident are also likely to qualify for one or more of the exceptions to the no-fault lawsuit rules in the State of New York.
Long-Term Consequences of T-Bone Accidents
Not only are T-bone accidents severe at the moment they occur, but their long-term consequences can be devastating.
The initial injuries of a T-bone accident may heal, but they will always leave residue behind. Car accidents can cause fires and flying debris, resulting in scarring and disfigurement. Broken bones can permanently reduce the motor functions of an individual or result in amputation.
Similarly, head, neck, and spinal injuries can reduce motor and cognitive function and even result in permanent paralysis or coma. Even seemingly minor soft tissue injuries can linger on with chronic pain and movement limitations for years and even decades. Indeed, the medical community is considering defining chronic pain as a separate disease or syndrome because of its many overarching effects on the human body system.
Most physical consequences of an accident fall under the category of damages known as special or economic damages.
These are the kinds of damages that come with a receipt or paid invoice and include things like:
- Hospital and medical bills
- Drugs and medications
- Lost wages
- Property damages
- Rehabilitation services
- Assistive equipment
Because of the nature of the evidence supporting them, special damages are usually fairly simple to prove in court. There are no damage caps for special damages in New York.
Emotional and Mental Consequences
T-bone accident injuries don’t just have long-term physical consequences, however. Chronic pain, loss of earning capacity, loss of consortium, paralysis, and reduction in cognitive functioning can cause long-term and lasting injuries to the emotional and mental well-being of those who suffer them. These long-term consequences come under the heading of general or non-economic damages. Because they, and projected futures medical and rehabilitation costs, are more subjective and do not come with their own paper trail, they are far more subjective and difficult to calculate. There is no cap on non-economic damages in New York.
Punitive damages may be available in certain personal injury cases in New York. According to the New York courts, punitive damages may be available where the at-fault party showed a high degree of moral turpitude or an act or behavior that gravely violates the community’s accepted standards. Other state courts refer to egregiousness as conduct that shocks the conscience. It is worth considering, along with your Bronx car accident lawyer, seeking punitive damages in a T-bone accident.
You should think about doing so because the standards for receiving punitive damages in a car accident in New York include:
- Excessive speed
- Criminal actions by the at-fault driver defendant
- Previous awards of punitive damages in similar cases
As noted above, the at-fault driver in a T-bone accident has often disobeyed a traffic signal or sign, failed to yield the right of away, is speeding, or some combination of the above. You should discuss with your attorney whether the at-fault driver’s conduct in your case rises (or falls?) to these standards and thereby supports a claim for punitive damages. There is no cap for punitive damages in New York.
Who Is Liable In a T-Bone Accident?
In most T-bone auto accidents, one driver had the right of way and the other, who probably ran a red light or stop sign, did not. The driver who did not have the right of way will be at fault and liable for damages in the accident. On the other hand, of course, if the driver who was hit was the one who ran the red light or stop sign, then the driver who hit that car but had the right of way is not likely to be liable for the damages. Sometimes, more than one driver may or third-party be at fault.
If one driver goes through a green light at an intersection and is hit by a driver going through a red light in that same intersection, liability is probably pretty clear. On the other hand, if the driver who got hit is the one who ran a red light, then that driver will be liable. In other words, any of the drivers in a T-bone accident can, in the right circumstances, be liable for the damages. Nonetheless, there may be other parties equally or more liable.
Sometimes the at-fault driver isn’t even one of the cars that were hit or doing the hitting. A driver may, for instance, make an improper turn in front of an oncoming car. That car’s efforts to avoid hitting the improperly turning vehicle could end up causing the driver to T-bone another car. The driver whose action started this process will be the liable one.
Maker of the Car
Suppose that the accident happened because one or both cars in the accident had something wrong with them. If, for example, one of the car’s brakes did not function as the driver attempted to stop at the intersection, then you might hold the company that manufactured that car or its components liable for accident damages.
Similarly, if the accelerator jammed or some mechanical or digital malfunction of the car caused the accident, you might hold the manufacturer liable for injuries caused by unsafe products.
As with the automaker, if the city or its maintenance company failed to keep the traffic signal functioning properly and that failure caused the accident, then liability may also exist there.
How Can An Attorney Help You After a Bronx T-Bone Accident
As you’ve seen, calculating what your actual damages are and who may be liable to pay them can be a complex question in a no-fault state like New York. Who is liable? Can you sue? What does the 90/180 rule mean? All of these are questions that your Bronx car accident attorney can help you resolve. Contact us today to arrange a free initial consultation.