Do you feel a jolt of anxiety every time you drive through an intersection? It’s a reasonable reaction if you’ve ever been t-boned by a bad driver.
Once you’ve been the victim of a broadside crash, the trauma sticks with you. You feel nervous when you think cars are coming at you from all directions. There’s always a chance that one of them will miss a stop sign, run a red light, or refuse to yield to your right of way.
Bad drivers often make selfish, reckless decisions like these. They ignore speed limits, and instead of slowing down as a traffic signal transitions from green to yellow, some drivers ram the gas pedal to make it through even faster. They make you and everyone else in the intersection a victim of their negligence. By the time you notice the errant vehicle, it’s often too late to avoid a broadside crash, and the serious and catastrophic injuries can change your life forever.
As personal injury lawyers, we see these accidents all too often. Below, we discuss the contributing factors of broadside collisions, the injuries they may cause, and how you can get help.
Intersections: Planned Points of Conflict
When discussing broadside accidents, you can’t avoid talking about intersections. Most side-impact accidents occur in intersections because a perpendicular flow of cars creates the perfect position for one to crash into the side of another. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration describes intersections as “planned points of conflict.”
City planners, engineers, and architects put a lot of thought into roads and intersections. They design and build them to promote and control interaction among vehicles, trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians. To accommodate the anticipated traffic, they enhance most intersections with signals, signs, and pavement markings. Unfortunately, even the most ingenious safety controls, traffic signals, and signs can’t stop the inevitable mistakes drivers will make, and intersection collisions still occur every day.
Broadside Accidents and Intersections
A broadside accident is also known as a “T-Bone,” side-impact, or right-angle collision. All of these refer to accidents where the front of one vehicle crashes into the side of another vehicle. That sounds simple enough, but here are the facts:
- A side-impact crash occurs when one vehicle hits another at any point along the side of the vehicle.
- Broadside accidents also occur in parking lots and residential streets when one driver negligently backs up his car and strikes the side of another car.
- Side impact crashes don’t always end in a right-angle, “T-Bone” formation. The impact is often angular when a crash occurs while a driver is completing a left turn or right turn, and can cause the cars to spin or slide.
- When vehicles differ in size, weight, and height, instead of just hitting a car’s side, larger vehicles sometimes crash into the side-glass along with the upper door and roof.
- Passengers in the smaller vehicles sustain serious and fatal injuries more often than passengers in the larger vehicle.
- When a large truck–think 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or more–broadsides a car, the injuries are sometimes catastrophic or fatal, regardless of the safety measures taken.
- An intersection is any controlled or uncontrolled point where two lanes of travel intersect.
- Broadside accidents also occur at intersections with public and private driveways, parking lots, and other points of roadway entry.
The Human Factor
Most broadside collisions occur at intersections because they bring together good and bad drivers from four different directions. It’s a roll of the dice: Speeding, drinking, drug-influenced, and distracted drivers travel through the same intersections as grandmas, commuters, and cautious parents driving with children.
No traffic signals, laws, or safety standards can separate good drivers from bad ones. We all make mistakes, and while safe, sober drivers are statistically more likely to follow the rules, the NHSTA points out there will always be risky drivers who simply don’t or won’t.
Risky drivers take chances that safer drivers consider reckless. They speed, text while driving, and engage in other unsafe behaviors – sometimes all at once!
Distracted drivers are often so engaged with their digital devices, snacks, or heated conversations, they miss critical traffic cues and don’t pay attention to what other drivers are doing. Drowsy drivers fall asleep at the wheel and never realize they’re headed for a crash.
These are more than just bad driving habits; these can be fatal errors.
You know drugs and alcohol impair judgement, but did you know they also inspire bad drivers to speed, run red lights, and disregard other vehicles traveling through an intersection? The official DUI blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent is the legal indicator of intoxication, but BACs at lower levels also alter the brain’s ability to think, reason, and function. These abilities are critical to safe driving. With drunk drivers like this all over our roads, a serious injury to another driver is not just a risk, it’s an inevitability.
As drivers age, they experience more navigation issues at intersections. Problems occur due to changes in vision or medication side-effects. Medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease also contribute to accidents when an older driver is behind the wheel.
In addition to traditional distracted behaviors involving digital devices, seniors are also more susceptible to cognitive distraction involving inattentiveness caused by daydreaming or interacting with a passenger. Older drivers also experience gap-judgment problems where they underestimate the speed or distance of oncoming vehicles.
Drivers With Bad Attitudes
A research study and focus group conducted by the Federal Highway Administration determined that some young adult drivers simply had bad attitudes. Some drivers made a conscious decision to run a red light and enter an intersection. It wasn’t just an impulsive mistake, either: for some, red light-running was their “default” driving mode. Others entered busy intersections by “force.”
When encountering these drivers, vehicle operators with the legal right of way have two options: they can either yield to this bad behavior, or crash.
The study found this attitude most prevalent in males 18 to 35 years old. Older drivers and women were more likely to follow traditional traffic laws. If an intersection presented a problem, they sometimes chose an alternate route to their destination.
There’s simply no way of knowing if the oncoming car ahead of you is being piloted by an angry out-of-control driver or someone out to put others at risk.
Injuries From Side-Impact Crashes
During a broadside accident, the striking vehicle’s size, weight, impact, and speed determine what happens to the occupants of the side-impacted vehicle. Side reinforcement, seat belts, child safety seats, and other safety devices reduce injuries and minimize deaths due to vehicle intrusion, but they can’t prevent them completely.
An “Injury Epidemiology” study published by the National Institutes of Health analyzed side-impact accident injury severity. They determined that passengers seated on the side where the impact occurred were more likely to sustain serious or fatal injuries. Left rear passengers were also likely to sustain more serious injuries than the driver, as drivers had more advanced safety technology.
Intersection Crash Statistics
Year after year, the statistics tell the same story: intersections are a known safety hazard. This is clear based on National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and IIHS analyses of 2018 Crash Data.
- Nationally, side-impacts caused 5,350 deaths in 2018. That’s 23% of all traffic fatalities.
- Smaller vehicle passengers in side-impact crashes sustain more fatal injuries more frequently than those in other vehicle types: Pickup trucks, 785 fatalities; SUVs, 855 fatalities; Cars, 3,823 fatalities.
- In Texas, 734 people lost their lives due to Intersection accidents in 2018.
- In Louisiana, 125 people died because of intersection accidents in 2018.
When vehicle occupants survive a serious side-impact crash, they often deal with serious and catastrophic injuries as well as car accident PTSD. The severity of injury increases when the impact involves a vehicle mismatch where one vehicle is significantly larger, higher, or heavier than the other. Passengers involved in the most serious side-impact collisions deal with serious head trauma, which may include traumatic brain injury. They also sustain upper body trauma which may involve spinal cord damage and internal organ damage.
Vehicle Safety Enhancements Are Great, But Not Enough
Injuries from T-bone accidents tend to be severe because the sides of your car don’t have as much protection as the front and rear crumple zones. During ongoing side-impact crashworthiness testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found several trends related to side-impact collisions and injuries:
- It’s difficult to protect passengers during side-impact accidents because there is very little room between the crash impact area and the passengers’ seats.
- Side airbags and curtains reduce injuries by protecting passengers on impact and spreading the force so it’s not concentrated in one area of a person’s body.
- Studies of real-world events confirm the value of side-impact crashworthiness testing, consequent safety upgrades, and vehicle safety ratings.
- A “good” safety rating meant that drivers in a side-impact crash were 70% less likely to die than in a vehicle with a “poor” rating. Drivers in cars rated “acceptable” were 64% less likely to die. Those in vehicles with a “marginal” rating were 49% less likely to die.
- These statistics show that, even in the safest vehicles, side-impacts still cause severe injuries and deaths.
Safety enhancements over the past decade have reduced the chances of severe injury due to side-impacts. When used properly, airbag curtains and improved child safety seats reduce the chance of injury in some side-impact events. Newer vehicles also have reinforced passenger compartments that protect passengers from serious impacts.
However, these enhancements do little to protect vehicle occupants when a broadside impact is forceful enough to cause intrusion into the passenger’s space. This often occurs when a larger vehicle crashes into the side of a much smaller vehicle. It’s a common occurrence during a crash with an SUV or a large truck. An SUV’s higher bumper places it at side window level, where there’s a limited support structure. This is even more common with large trucks. Their speed and weight easily overcome vehicle side safety enhancements.
Negligent Drivers Won’t Change; We Must Change Intersections
National and local safety agencies have spent years discussing intersection accidents. In the past, national agencies and local communities have created public awareness campaigns such as “If You Run a Red Light“ and “Red Light Means Stop.“ Cities have increased fines for running red lights, drunk driving, and other intersection-related violations. They’ve also installed red-light cameras, which have proven somewhat successful in reducing the problem.
Still, nearly a quarter of all accident fatalities occur at intersections. Clearly, the problem isn’t going away.
Numerous safety agencies now agree that the design of our country’s current system of intersections is a big factor in the intersection accident problem. They’ve worked through the tedious, time-consuming process of getting formal recommendations on the books. At present, there are multiple solutions just waiting for implementation. Some communities have these and other projects and intersection enhancements in the planning or construction stage.
- Proven safety countermeasures: A list of 20 recommended changes that have been proven to prevent intersection accidents
- Signalized intersection safety measures: Multiple techniques for reducing intersection conflicts
- Proven countermeasures such as roundabouts: Restructuring intersections with a circular hub, lower speed limits, and single lanes instead of allowing multiple-lane streets to cross paths
- Modification of yellow light change intervals; Lengthening the yellow-light period to give vehicles more time to move through an intersection before the light turns red.
Why You Need a Lawyer if You’re Injured in a Broadside Crash
Until we can change technology, behaviors, and infrastructure to prevent broadside crashes, we’re stuck with using the legal system to recover compensation from the people responsible for causing them.
Broadside crash injury cases can be complicated. At the very least, you should consult a car accident attorney to discuss your legal options. As with any auto liability claim, there are too many opportunities for something to go wrong. You need someone in your corner who’s willing to fight for you.
Once the other person drives away, anything can happen. They might not accept responsibility for their actions. If they do, they may or may not have insurance coverage. If they have insurance and the company agrees to pay you, the driver’s liability limit may be too low.
Drivers with bad histories often neglect their insurance responsibilities. If they have insurance, they often have state minimum liability limits. If you sustain serious injuries, the other person’s liability insurance will likely be too low to pay for your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages and other expenses.
You still have options: If you have Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverages, your own company pays your liability claim. However, they can force you to produce your medical records on their time schedule and insist on recorded statements when and where they choose. They can deny your claim or your coverage if you don’t cooperate. Therefore, it’s still wise to hire an attorney to help guide you through this process.
Our roads are littered with unskilled, unstable, or downright crazy drivers. These motorists cause property damage, serious injury, and death to innocent drivers and pedestrians that share the road. If you or someone you love has been harmed by someone like this, contact a skilled legal representative to hold these drivers accountable.