A side impact accident, also known as a t-bone accident can occur in a number of ways, depending on which driver broadsided which car and which driver is at fault. In some accidents, it is obvious which driver is at fault. 

For example, the defendant driver may hit the plaintiff driver’s vehicle or force the plaintiff driver to hit another vehicle. This type of accident causes the vehicle’s side to become damaged from the impact. It is important to note, however, that even if the cause of the accident appears obvious, the plaintiff must still prove liability in a lawsuit for damages.

What is Liability in a T-Bone Accident?

Liability is a determination of which individual was at fault for the automobile accident. Fault is not necessarily determined by which driver intended to cause an accident, but by which driver was negligent at the time of the accident.

Negligence is a legal concept that is defined as a defendant failing to use the same reasonable care an ordinary individual would use in the same circumstances. It is based on the duty a driver has to act as a reasonable driver in the same or similar circumstances. 

In order to prove which driver was at fault for an accident, drivers collect evidence such as: 

  • Physical evidence from the accident scene;
  • Copies of traffic laws that may have been violated at the time of the accident;
  • Copies of automobile accident police reports;
  • Eyewitness testimony;
  • Hospital documentation of injuries sustained as a result of the accident;
  • Accident reconstruction reports; or
  • Photographs or videos of the accident or the accident scene.

How is Fault Proven in Court?

In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  • There was a duty of care;
  • The defendant breached that duty;
  • Causation; and
  • Damages.

The defendant has a duty of care not to harm the plaintiff while operating an automobile. Drivers also owe a duty of care to other drivers to obey traffic laws and signs.

The plaintiff must show the defendant breached the duty of care. This may be demonstrated by using evidence discussed above for proving fault.

It is important to note that just because the defendant breached the duty of care while driving does not mean they necessarily caused the accident. The plaintiff must also show that the defendant was the actual and proximate cause of the accident. 

Lastly, just because the defendant caused the accident does not necessarily mean they caused all injuries or property loss. The plaintiff must show the accident was the cause of their injuries or property loss.

In some automobile accidents, a driver may have a claim for negligence. A negligence claim can be made when another driver engages in actions while driving, including:

  • The other driver fails to stop and look both ways at a stop sign prior to proceeding;
  • The other driver is using a cellular phone while driving instead of watching the road; or
  • The other driver is eating food while driving; or
  • The other driver uses their hands for any activity other than driving.

What Damages are Available for Auto Accident Claims?

A t-bone automobile accident may lead to a civil lawsuit for damages. In these lawsuits, the driver responsible for an accident may be required to reimburse the other driver for losses, including:

  • Costs associated with injuries resulting from the accident, such as hospital bills;
  • Damage to the automobile or other property;
  • Lost wages or lost earning capacity of the injured driver as a result of the accident; 
  • Pain and suffering resulting from the accident;
  • Emotional distress as a result of the accident; or 
  • In cases involving drunk driving, possible criminal penalties.  

What Defenses are Available in Car Accident Lawsuits?

There are many defenses available in car accident lawsuits. In car accidents where more than one driver is at fault for injuries or damages from the accident, a driver may be excused from liability if there is a legal defense that applies. Defenses to an automobile accident lawsuit may include:

  • Lack of proof the driver was at fault;
  • Lack of fault of the defendant;
  • Emergency circumstances occurring at the time of the accident;
  • One driver assumed of the risk;
  • Contributory or comparative negligence;
  • The statute of limitations has expired;
  • The driver was involuntarily intoxicated; or
  • The injured driver failed to mitigate damages.

A lack of proof defense applies when one of the elements of negligence is not proven. It may also occur in cases where there is not enough evidence to prove a driver’s liability. This can be used as an affirmative defense to protect a driver from being held liable for an automobile accident.

A lack of fault defense may limit the amount of damages for which a defendant driver is responsible. This defense applies in accidents where the defendant can show that the plaintiff actually caused the accident.

In some cases, emergency conditions may have been occurring at the time of an accident. This  may include emergencies such as rushing an individual to the hospital for medical care. If emergency conditions were present, it may be possible to drop the case entirely.

Assumption of the risk may be used as a defense when the defendant can show that the plaintiff, or other driver, knew of the risk and still acted regardless of that knowledge. For example, if a driver attempts to cross a busy highway and knows they may not have enough time to safely cross, but does so anyway.

Some states prohibit a plaintiff from recovering damages if the plaintiff contributed to their own injury or injuries. In other states, damages are reduced based on a percentage of fault attributed to each party.

Most states have a statute of limitations, or time limit on filing a claim involving an automobile accident. A statute of limitations for an automobile accident claims usually varies from 2 to 6 years. Should the plaintiff file their claim outside the provided time frame, that may be used as a defense.

Involuntary intoxication can be a defense if the defendant can show they were intoxicated against their will or had no knowledge of the intoxication. This intoxication must have been the cause of the accident. An example of involuntary intoxication occurs when a drug or substance is placed in someone’s beverage or food without their knowledge.

In some cases, the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages may be used as a defense. This is  difficult to prove, but may be used in cases where a plaintiff does not attempt to lessen the damages. For example, if the plaintiff fails to seek medical care which leads to more serious injuries, that  would be considered failing to mitigate damages. 

Should I Get Legal Help from a Lawyer about My T-Bone Accident?

Yes, if you have been involved in a t-bone accident, it is essential to seek assistance from a car accident lawyer. An attorney can help whether you are suing another driver for damages or you are a driver being sued. 

If you are suing another driver for damages, an attorney can review your case, present the best evidence of fault, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. An attorney can also help you negotiate with the other driver or the insurance company if you would like to attempt to reach a settlement and avoid trial.

If you are being sued for damages as a result of a t-bone accident, an attorney can review the case, determine if any defenses are available, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. An attorney can also assist you in negotiating a settlement with the other party.