A T-bone collision is a specific type of auto accident, in which the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another. This creates a “t” shape at the impact point. A t-bone collision commonly happens after a driver fails to yield or stop at an intersection. However, they may also occur on highways or other places when a driver loses control of their vehicle, skidding sideways into another vehicle. It is also common for t-bone collisions to occur in parking lots when one driver is backing out, and another vehicle strikes them in the side.
In order to prove fault in a t-bone collision, the plaintiff has the responsibility of proving who was at fault for the crash. Fault does not always involve whether the accused party intended to t-bone the other vehicle; rather, fault is often based on negligence in a t-bone collision.
In legal terms, negligence refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care. This failure results in the damage or injury of another person. Negligence is based on a person’s failure to take reasonable precautions, as opposed to a person’s direct actions. An example of this would be if the driver of a speeding car caused an accident. The driver would most likely be found negligent because they failed to exercise the same care as that of a driver who was obeying the speed limit.
A lawsuit involving negligence in a car accident is based on the legal theory that the injured party can recover their losses. As such, most car accident lawsuits are based on negligence. As previously mentioned, negligence does not involve intentional acts, because it is not common that someone intends to get into a car accident.
In order to successfully claim negligence, it must be legally proven that the other party involved in the accident was at fault. Because of this, negligence claims generally involve complex analysis in order to determine whether the defendant failed to follow their duty of safety.
What Are Some Defenses Available in a T-Bone Collision?
A driver accused of causing a t-bone collision may have certain defenses available to use in a personal injury lawsuit. The most common defenses associated with vehicle accidents involve fault, and comparative negligence. A simple explanation of these theories will be further discussed below. Some other common defenses that may apply to an auto accident claim include:
- Contributory negligence;
- Lack of proof or fault;
- Assumption of risk;
- Statute of limitations;
- Emergency situation;
- No injury sustained;
- Involuntary intoxication; and
- Failure to mitigate damages.
Comparative negligence is an affirmative defense. The basic concept behind this theory of legal defense is that the plaintiff to the lawsuit has somehow contributed to their own injuries, and, thus, the plaintiff should be liable to their share of fault. An example of this would be if a defendant driver was speeding, but the plaintiff pedestrian crossed the street without looking both ways. Although the driver would be more at fault in such a situation, the negligent actions of the pedestrian also contributed to the accident. This is because their injuries could have been prevented if they had looked both ways.
Contributory negligence is only available as a defense in a select number of states. With that said, contributory negligence is very similar to comparative negligence. However, when argued successfully, it will entirely bar a plaintiff from bringing a lawsuit in the first place. An example of this would be how in a comparative negligence state, a jaywalker who is 25% at fault for causing an auto accident will still be able to recover some damages. Those damages would be reduced accordingly, by 25%. However, a jaywalker who is 25% at fault in a state that follows a contributory negligence theory will be completely barred from bringing a lawsuit. As such, they will recover nothing.
When a person suffers injuries as a result of an auto accident, they have a legal duty to minimize the damages. This is commonly referred to as the duty to mitigate. This legal obligation is intended to reduce any damages that could have reasonably been avoided. As such, a person who intentionally makes their injuries worse or fails to seek medical treatment for their injuries could be barred from recovering any damages. However, their actions could lead to having their damages reduced, as opposed to being completely barred.
An example of this would be when an injured person initially seeks medical treatment, but then fails to follow the required treatment plan. The defendant may be able to claim this “failure to mitigate” as a defense.
Whether a defendant can use lack of proof will depend on the circumstances and facts of the accident. In order for a plaintiff to win or settle a claim, they must show that the defendant:
- Owed the plaintiff a duty;
- Breached that duty;
- This breach caused the side impact collision, or t-bone; and
- Caused the damages suffered by the plaintiff, such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and property loss.
If one or more of those elements are missing from the plaintiff’s negligence claim, a defendant could utilize the lack of proof defense. They may also use the defense if the plaintiff does not have enough proof to show the defendant was at fault for the accident.
How Is Liability Determined in T-Bone Collisions? How Is Fault Proven in Court?
Liability refers to the determination of who was at fault for the accident or collision. To reiterate, fault is not always determined by who had an intent to cause an accident, but by who was negligent at the time of the accident. In order to determine fault, many drivers collect evidence to prove their case. Some examples of such evidence include, but may not be limited to:
- Physical evidence, such as the vehicle itself;
- Copies of traffic laws to show that those laws were violated;
- Copies of police reports;
- Witness testimony, when available;
- Hospital documents, as well as any other receipts or documents resulting from the accident;
- Accident reconstruction models; and
- Video or photographs of the accident scene.
To prove negligence, there are four elements which must be met. These elements are:
- Duty of Care: The defendant had a duty to not to harm the plaintiff while operating a motor vehicle;
- Breach of Duty: Once duty is established, the plaintiff must show how that duty was breached. This could be done through the types of evidence mentioned above to prove fault;
- Causation: Simply because the defendant breached their duty to protect the plaintiff from harm does not always mean that they caused the accident. A plaintiff can prove causation either by showing actual or proximate cause. Both forms of cause show how the accident happened; and
- Damages: It is not necessarily proof enough if the defendant caused the accident; this does not mean that they are the cause of the damages, such as injuries or property loss. It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove the type of damages that occurred directly because of the breach of duty on the part of the defendant.
Do I Need an Attorney for Assistance with T-Bone Collision Defenses?
If you have been involved in a t-bone collision, you should immediately consult with an experienced local auto accident attorney. As state laws can vary widely regarding determining fault in a personal injury case, a local attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your state’s specific laws and how those laws may affect your case.
If you are found to be at fault for the collision, your attorney can determine what legal defenses may be available based on the specifics of your case. If you are the party not at fault, an attorney can help you work towards a suitable damages award. In any case, a personal injury attorney will be able to also represent you in court.