Every year, thousands of drivers and passengers are injured or killed in side impact collisions, which are also known as t-bone crashes. These types of accidents occur when a driver collides with the side of another vehicle and so are especially dangerous because the sides of a car offer very little protection from impact. Many Augusta residents who are injured in side impact collisions sustain serious injuries that take years to heal and thousands of dollars to treat, so if you were injured in a car crash, it is critical to speak with an experienced Augusta car accident attorney who can help explain your legal options.
Side Impact Crash Causes
Side impact crashes are usually the result of one of a few major causes, which include:
- A driver making an improper turn;
- A driver failing to yield the right-of-way at an intersection; and
- A driver failing to obey traffic signals.
In almost all of these types of crashes, at least one party was negligent, reckless, or violated a safety law. In fact, drivers who t-bone another vehicle are often engaging in one of the following behaviors:
- Driving while distracted;
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Speeding; or
- Driving aggressively.
For this reason, many at-fault drivers who cause side impact collisions are traveling at a relatively high rate of speed. This in turn makes for a more forceful impact, which usually causes the side of the car that was struck to cave in. This leaves both passengers and drivers vulnerable to serious injuries as seat belts offer little protection from side impacts.
The Dangers of Side Impact Crashes
Generally, side-impact crashes are classified as either minor, moderate, or severe based on the level of intrusion caused by the impact. For example, a side impact accident where the door was crushed into the car by four or less inches, is considered minor. Moderate crashes result in an intrusion of between four and six inches, while severe accidents occur if a door was crushed six or more inches into the vehicle. Severe accidents are usually also accompanied by a collapsed ceiling, which puts occupants at additional risk of injury.
When vehicles hit the front or rear of a car, several layers of steel, and either a bumper, a trunk, an engine, or back seats are present to absorb the initial impact from the crash. When a car is t-boned, however, there is only a door, a window, and perhaps a single passenger seat between the occupant and the other vehicle. This leaves occupants vulnerable to injury from impact, but also from flying debris, such as glass. Side impact airbags can help eliminate some of this danger, but impacts are often so severe that airbags can do little to deflect the force.
Another reason these kinds of accidents result in serious injuries is because the vehicle that was struck is often knocked off course and into a second collision with oncoming traffic. Alternatively, the force of a collision can spin a vehicle around, further endangering the occupants who may then crash into telephone poles, guardrails, and other cars. After especially strong impacts, a vehicle may completely roll over, leading to a crushed ceiling and additional injuries. Finally, the force of a vehicle hitting into another car’s door can cause the door to seal shut, requiring emergency responders to use special tools to extract the occupants.
Because victims of side impact collisions are only partly shielded from impact, they often sustain significant injuries, including:
- Rib and pelvic fractures;
- Lung contusions;
- Closed head injuries;
- Femur fractures;
- Spinal damage;
- Sternum and diaphragm injuries;
- Dislocated and crushed shoulders;
- Hearing loss; and
- Head trauma.
Many of these injuries can have permanent consequences, such as paralysis, memory loss, chronic pain, and limited mobility. Victims of side impact crashes are often forced to take weeks or even months off from work in order to undergo surgery and attend physical therapy sessions. This can be a significant drain on an injured party’s financial resources. Fortunately, victims of another person’s negligence or recklessness can collect compensation for both their economic and their non-economic losses.
To establish negligence, a T-bone victim must prove that:
- The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff;
- The defendant breached that duty; and
- The breach caused the plaintiff to suffer an injury.
In Georgia, all drivers are required to exercise reasonable judgment in operating their vehicles, so a driver that ran a red light or failed to yield a right of way has breached that duty. A person injured in a side impact collision can also argue negligence per se, a legal theory wherein a defendant can be considered automatically negligence if he or she broke a law that was specifically created to prevent the type of injury that occurred.
In side impact cases it is extremely important for a plaintiff’s legal team to carefully investigate the incident, which includes taking the following actions:
- Comparing the time of the accident to traffic light records;
- Photographing the damaged vehicles to identify the point of impact;
- Measuring and photographing skid marks to determine speeds;
- Collecting data from vehicle recorders;
- Obtaining a copy of the police report;
- Collecting medical records documenting the extent and location of the injuries; and
- Collecting contact information from witnesses.
A careful investigation is key to the success of side impact collision cases, which hinge on a showing of the defendant’s fault.
Contact a Dedicated Augusta Car Crash Attorney
Side impact collisions are both frightening, extremely dangerous, and can lead to life-altering injuries, so if you or a loved one live in or near Augusta and were recently injured as the result of a side impact collision, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. by submitting one of our standard contact forms and a member of our legal team will help you set up a free consultation with a skilled car accident lawyer in Augusta, GA who is well-versed in Georgia law and can help you seek compensation for your medical expenses.