A T-bone accident occurs when two vehicles collide at a perpendicular angle. Because T-bone collisions usually happen where traffic intersects, a driver involved in the crash who fails to follow or consciously disregards traffic laws will frequently bear responsibility for causing the crash. T-bone accidents can lead to significant property damage and life-altering injuries.

Determining liability for a T-bone accident will require examining elements of the incident, such as the causes of the crash and other contributing factors.

Law enforcement may decide which party was at fault when they issue a traffic citation or arrest a driver for a violation or crime that led to the accident.

Insurance companies will also make a fault determination to decide whether they bear liability and must pay an accident claim.

If you’ve been involved in a T-bone car accident, reach out to an experienced car accident attorney for legal assistance and support.

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What Are T-Bone Accidents?

A T-bone accident, also called a side-impact collision, occurs when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. The two vehicles form a T shape at the moment of impact, giving the accident its name.

T-bone accidents most frequently happen at intersections since intersecting traffic creates the ideal conditions for a side-impact crash. T-bone accidents can occur when a vehicle turns left into a side road or driveway.

Low-speed T-bone accidents also happen in parking lots and garages, especially when a vehicle pulls out of a parking spot or enters an access road from the parking aisle.

T-bone accidents tend to cause more severe injuries and damage than other kinds of motor vehicle accidents for several reasons. First, T-bone collisions usually occur at average traffic speeds. Drivers involved in T-bone accidents frequently don’t recognize an impending collision until moments before the crash, leaving no opportunity to brake or swerve to mitigate the force of the collision. In some cases, drivers have no warning until the moment of the collision.

Second, occupants of the vehicle that gets T-boned (the vehicle hit on its side) can suffer more catastrophic injuries because vehicles have less crash protection on their sides than in front or back. As a result, more of the force of the vehicle colliding head-on into the side of the other vehicle gets transferred to the T-boned vehicle’s occupants, causing more catastrophic trauma.

Common Causes of T-Bone Accidents

T-bone accidents frequently occur due to one driver’s negligence or recklessness. The top factors that contribute to the occurrence of T-bone accidents include:

Disregarding Traffic Signs and Signals

Many T-bone collisions happen when a driver runs a red light or stop sign at an intersection, either due to the driver’s negligence in failing to notice the traffic sign/signal or attempting to beat a yellow light.

Reckless drivers may consciously disregard a red light or stop sign and proceed through an intersection at speed without regard for crossing traffic that has the right of way.


Drivers who exceed the speed limit or fail to slow down when approaching an intersection increase the risk of a T-bone accident. When a driver speeds, they have less time to react to slow down or stop for a yellow or red light or traffic in the intersection.

A speeding driver may choose to try to beat a yellow light when speeding rather than slamming on their brakes to stop for the impending red light. Speeding makes it more likely that drivers will proceed through the intersection without the right of way and collide with traffic entering the intersection.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving behaviors such as handheld use of a cell phone, adjusting the radio/navigation/climate control, reaching around the passenger cabin, eating/drinking, or grooming/applying make-up make it more likely that a driver will miss a yellow/red light or stop sign and proceed through an intersection when crossing traffic has the right of way.

Distracted driving also makes it less likely that a driver will notice an impending T-bone collision in time to try to brake or swerve to avoid or mitigate the severity of the crash.

Drowsy/Fatigued Driving

Similarly, drowsy/fatigued driving increases the chances that a driver may miss a traffic sign or signal and proceed through the intersection without the right of way.

A fatigued driver’s reduced reaction times also make it more likely that they may not notice an impending collision and attempt to brake or swerve. This failure to try to avoid the collision can result in a significant full-speed impact that could maximize the severity of the crash.

Driving Under the Influence

Like distracted or drowsy driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs perception and reaction times, increasing the likelihood that a driver may miss a stop sign or traffic signal or fail to react to an impending T-bone collision.

Alcohol or drug intoxication can also lower inhibitions and increase risk-taking behaviors, making intoxicated drivers more likely to speed or consciously disregard stop signs or red lights.

Failure to Yield the Right of Way

Drivers who fail to follow right-of-way rules can cause T-bone collisions. For example, a driver approaching a stop sign-controlled intersection can cause an accident by not yielding to traffic to the right or to a vehicle arriving at the intersection first.

Similarly, a driver turning left into an access road or driveway may cause a T-bone accident by not yielding to oncoming traffic.

Poor Weather or Visibility

Bad weather or visibility caused by precipitation, fog, or low lighting can contribute to a T-bone accident when drivers cannot see a traffic sign, signal, or other vehicles to which they must yield.

Mechanical Issues

Vehicle mechanical issues, including brake or engine issues, caused by a design or manufacturing defect or inadequate/negligent maintenance can contribute to a T-bone accident when a vehicle suffers a problem, such as a brake failure or unintended acceleration that leads to a collision.

Who Determines Fault for a T-Bone Accident?

Determining fault for a T-bone accident falls on several different parties. The insurance company will review the circumstances of the crash, video footage, and any accident reports to discover whether their insured was liable.

The attorneys for both the injured party and the at-fault party will dig through the evidence to try to find information that supports the fault of the opposing party. The court will review evidence if the parties cannot settle the case and it goes to trial.

Each of these different parties can use witness testimony, accident reports, medical records, accident reconstruction reports, and other types of evidence to discover which party caused the crash.

Who May You Hold Liable for a T-Bone Accident?

In most cases, one or both drivers involved in a T-bone collision will bear liability for injuries and property damage arising from the accident. However, other parties may also share liability for injuries and losses in certain circumstances.

For example, the owner of the at-fault driver’s vehicle may bear liability for an accident victim’s injuries and losses when the owner negligently entrusted their vehicle to the at-fault driver.

A car owner may negligently entrust their vehicle to someone when they know (or should know) that the driver poses a substantial risk of causing an accident due to the driver’s extensive accident history or record of traffic violations or when the driver has become intoxicated due to drugs or alcohol.

An at-fault driver’s employer may also bear liability for a T-bone accident when the collision occurs during the driver’s work. For example, an on-duty delivery driver who causes a T-bone collision may subject their employer to liability for the crash.

A driver traveling between their employer’s workplaces, to a client site, or out of town for work-related travel may also subject their employer to liability for a T-bone accident.

Legal Consequences of T-Bone Accidents

A T-bone crash can have civil and criminal consequences for the driver at fault for the collision. In many cases, a driver who causes a T-bone accident may receive a traffic ticket for a motor vehicle code violation that led to the crash, such as a ticket for speeding, running a red light/stop sign, or failing to yield the right of way.

However, egregious behavior by an at-fault driver, such as reckless driving or driving while intoxicated, can lead to an arrest on criminal charges, especially when a T-bone accident causes severe injuries or fatalities.

An at-fault driver will also have liability for property damage and injuries caused by a T-bone accident.

The occupant(s) of a vehicle involved in a T-bone crash may file a legal claim against the at-fault driver to recover compensation for physical injuries and emotional trauma caused by the accident and repair or replacement expenses for vehicle damage or other damaged or destroyed property.

Nearby property owners who suffer property damage due to a T-bone collision may also seek compensation from the driver or drivers responsible for causing the crash.

The Role of Insurance Companies in Determining Fault for T-Bone Accidents

Most T-bone accident claims get paid by the drivers’ insurance companies. An injured party may file a claim against an at-fault driver’s bodily injury or property damage liability insurance coverage or seek coverage from their insurance policy if the injured party has MedPay or collision coverage.

When an auto insurance company receives a liability coverage claim, the insurer must determine whether its insured bears fault for causing the T-bone accident. Insurance companies have teams of adjusters and investigators who will collect and review evidence from the accident to determine what happened in the crash and identify the party or parties responsible for causing the collision.

Insurance company investigations usually take a couple of weeks. Following the investigation, the insurance company will either determine that its insured caused the crash and accept liability for accident victims’ injuries and losses or deny liability if the insurer concludes that the accident victim or another party bears most or all the fault for the collision.

An accident victim who receives an unfavorable determination from the insurance company can follow the insurer’s internal appeals process or pursue a T-bone accident lawsuit against the driver they believe caused the accident.

Financial Recovery Available for Victims of T-Bone Accidents

A person who suffers injuries and property damage in a T-bone crash caused by another driver’s negligence or recklessness can pursue compensation for their financial and personal losses in a T-bone accident claim.

A financial recovery in a T-bone accident case can provide money for a crash victim’s:

  • Vehicle repair expenses, including ancillary expenses like car rental fees or other alternative transportation costs
  • Reimbursement for the actual cash value of their vehicle if totaled by the accident
  • Medical treatment and rehabilitation, including ambulance/emergency care, surgeries, hospitalization, prescriptions, and physical/occupational therapy
  • Long-term care and support services for prolonged or permanent physical disabilities caused by accident injuries
  • Lost income when a crash victim must miss time from work or temporarily transfer to a lower-paying part-time or light-duty position due to their accident injuries
  • Lost future earning capacity and employment benefits due to permanent disability from one’s pre-accident job and other kinds of work
  • Physical pain and anguish from injuries and subsequent medical treatment
  • Emotional trauma and distress caused by the accident and injuries or disabilities, including reduced enjoyment or quality of life from disabilities or permanent scarring/disfigurement

Handling the Aftermath of a T-Bone Collision

A T-bone accident usually occurs due to the negligence or recklessness of a driver who fails to follow traffic rules or signs/signals. However, other circumstances can affect the apportionment of liability for T-bone accident injuries. When you’ve suffered vehicle damage and injuries in a T-bone accident in Augusta caused by another driver, you should discuss the circumstances of your accident with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Jacque Hawk, Car Accident Attorney in Augusta
Jacque Hawk, Augusta Car Accident Lawyer

A seasoned personal injury lawyer can provide empowering legal advice and solutions to help injured people stand up for their rights and interests with confidence.

Your priority after any vehicle crash should be to safeguard your health. Your next task should be to gather and preserve as much evidence of the crash as possible.

This could include taking pictures of the scene, even if it’s not the day of the crash, gathering medical documentation, and keeping track of all the money you spend on medical expenses or personal property repair or replacement. You’ll need all that information for your claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company.