T-bone accidents, also known as side impact accidents, are one of the most dangerous types of car accident to be involved in. Studies have shown that side impact crashes cause a greater number of serious injuries and fatalities than nearly any other type of vehicle collision. This is not surprising given the way T-bone accidents occur.
In the average side impact accident, the front of one vehicle, traveling in a given direction, collides with the side of another vehicle that is traveling at a right angle to the first vehicle. The collision produces a line of force that is perpendicular to the direction of travel. When this line of perpendicular force travels through the vehicle, momentum keeps the vehicle and the bodies within it moving forward along the original direction of travel. Then, in a split second, the force of the collision overcomes the vehicle’s momentum.
The sudden change in direction and momentum subjects the body to a whip-like effect. The occupants of the vehicle are violently moved back and forth or side to side. Air bags and seat belts help to mitigate some of the violence of these forces, however, there is a limit to the amount of force that the human body can take. When that limit is reached or exceeded, damage to the body begins to occur. Injuries like whiplash, sprains, fractures, head trauma, internal organ damage, and even death all are possible in the average T-bone accident.
Side impact collisions nearly always occur at an intersection. In general, all intersections in California are governed by the concept of right-of-way. Right-of-way is a method that allows all drivers at an intersection to understand who gets to continue traveling first. In the typical T-Bone accident, one vehicle violates the right-of-way laws that apply to that particular intersection. That violation is what precipitates the accident. Understanding these types of violations can not only help you avoid causing a side-impact collision, it can also help you avoid becoming the victim of one.
Many times, drivers will make a “lazy stop” and simply slow their vehicle down at an intersection controlled by a stop sign. This failure to stop is not only a violation of the vehicle code, it is also a major cause of side-impact accidents.
In California, all vehicles approaching an intersection controlled by a stop sign must come to a complete stop before proceeding. In situations where two vehicles arrive at an intersection controlled by a stop sign at the same time, the vehicle to the left is considered to have the right-of-way and can proceed through the intersection first. In situations where only one direction of traffic is controlled by a stop sign, drivers traveling in that direction must come to a complete stop and remain stopped until traffic conditions make it safe to proceed.
Furthermore, some intersections that are not controlled by stop signs are marked with yield signs. Drivers approaching these intersections must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle traveling on the other road.
Nearly all T-bone accidents are caused by drivers who fail to yield the right-of-way to drivers who legally have the right to proceed through the intersection. When you are driving, it is important to exercise caution when approaching an intersection, even when you have the legal right-of-way. You can never assume that any driver traveling on the other road will stop or yield the right-of-way to you.
Many times side impact collisions are caused when a driver makes an inaccurate estimate of the distance between their car and an approaching vehicle, especially when making right or left hand turns. When the approaching vehicle is actually much closer than estimated, or is traveling faster than expected, a T-bone accident is the result.
Driver inattention, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and aggressive driving all contribute to the occurrence of side impact crashes. Weather, especially snow, ice, rain and fog, can lower visibility and make road surfaces slick, which also can make T-bone accidents more likely to occur.
Due to the extreme amounts of force present in a typical side impact accident, serious injuries are common. In this section, we’re going to take a look at some of these injuries and how they affect the human body.
Whiplash is an impact injury that damages the soft tissue of the neck and upper part of the back. When the impact occurs in a car accident, your head will either fly forward and then whip back, or the opposite will occur – your head will fly back, then forward. This stretches and tears the ligaments in your neck and upper back, and whiplash is known for being extremely painful and slow to heal.
The impact that creates whiplash can also create other back and neck injuries, depending on the rate of impact as well as the direction your vehicle is hit from. Many of these injuries are not immediately present and will pop up later, sometimes within weeks or even months later.
Lacerations and scrapes also occur frequently during a car accident. If you think about the things you generally have within your car – sunglasses, your phone, maybe a briefcase or purse, CDs in hard plastic cases, loose change – it all becomes weaponry when the force of a crash occurs. Those things being flown around in your car with force can cause cuts, bruises, and scrapes when they contact your body.
Your airbag and flying broken glass can also cause injury during an accident that may require stitches and account for serious blood loss.
Head injuries are extremely common in car accidents. Your head may hit the dashboard or another part of the car during the impact, and result in a concussion. A concussion is actually a brain injury where the brain impacts the inside of the skull causing damage. It can occur because of an impact or because of whiplash, or both.
Symptoms may not be immediately apparent, but include confusion, dizziness, nausea, and slowed reaction time. You may or may not lose consciousness. The inability to answer easy questions is also a sign. Many times, after a head injury has occurred, the first responder will ask questions such as “what is your name?” or “what year is it?” in an attempt to diagnose how bad the concussion is.