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What is a Side Impact Collision?

February 3, 2023

Side-impact collisions are among the most common and deadly car accidents, making up 18 percent of accidents and causing nearly 500,000 injuries in 2020 alone with over 6,400 fatalities. Side-impact accidents—also known as T-bone accidents, broadside collisions, or angle accidents—pose a particular danger to drivers and passengers. Not only does this type of accident result in significant property damage, but also some of the most serious injuries. What is a side-impact accident, and how do they most commonly occur?

What is a Side Impact Collision?

Understanding the Danger of a Side Impact Collision

A side-impact collision occurs when the front end of one vehicle hits another vehicle along its right or left side, either at a perpendicular angle (T-bone) or at a lesser angle. Side impact collisions often occur in intersections, resulting from an at-fault driver missing or purposely running through a red light or stop sign, or from a car that slides through an intersection on an icy road. They may also occur when a car merges into traffic without having the right of way or when a driver makes a right or left turn onto a roadway when it isn’t clear.

Side-impact collisions pose a greater danger than other types of car accidents because less metal and space exists between riders and the colliding vehicle compared to a head-on collision with the front end of the car bearing the brunt of the impact, or a rear-end collision with the trunk of the car absorbing the force of the hit. Side-impact collisions often occur at high speeds since they commonly happen in intersections, increasing the potential for serious damage and injuries.

While some vehicles now include side-impact airbags, the majority of cars on the roadways offer very few protections against side-impact injuries.

Injuries in Side Impact Accidents

Serious injuries often result from side-impact collisions, with the most severe injuries occurring in the car that is T-boned rather than in the vehicle that hits it, especially when a larger vehicle with a higher bumper hits a smaller one. The higher the speed at impact, the worse the injuries sustained. Injuries in this type of collision may include:

  • Head injuries including traumatic brain injuries
  • Injuries to the face and jaw
  • Neck injuries
  • Back injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Fractures
  • Crush injuries to the abdomen, chest, or pelvis
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Soft tissue injuries such as sprains

Depending on the positions of the passengers and their seatbelt status as well as the speed of the vehicle at the point of impact, injuries range from mild to severe with the worst injuries occurring when the impact is at the lower mid-portion of a vehicle, cause the door to collapse inward.

How Do Most Side Impact Collisions Occur?

While some side impact collisions occur when a driver purposely runs through a red light, traffic light cameras reveal that the majority are caused by driver error. Common causes of dangerous side-impact collisions include:

Liability in Side Impact Collisions

Determining fault or liability in side impact collisions can be simple, or challenging depending on the circumstances of the accident. While liability is clear if one vehicle runs through a red light, in other instances, both drivers may believe they have the right of way. Often it takes an investigation by the police and/or an experienced Seattle accident attorney with access to accident reconstruction experts to determine liability by examining evidence from the following:

  • Traffic camera and dash-camera footage
  • Skid marks in the road
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Damage points on both vehicles

When determining liability, investigators and insurance companies examine the speeds of both vehicles, traffic conditions, weather conditions, and visibility as well as evidence from the crash scene. In some cases, liability could also lie with manufacturers of defective parts that contributed to the accident, or with a city or county that didn’t properly maintain road signs or traffic signals.

An experienced injury attorney understands how to investigate an accident to prove liability so accident victims can gain full compensation for their economic and noneconomic damages.

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