Side-impact collisions

— Erick Tyson von Mueller

Any kind of car accident can lead to serious personal and property damage, but side-impact (also called broadside or T-bone) accidents are among the most catastrophic in their effects.

These accidents usually occur at intersections when the front-end of a vehicle collides with the side panel of another vehicle.

Las Vegas is especially prone to side-impact collisions because there are many heavily trafficked intersections having many lanes, and there are many drivers who are often less than responsible. For example, the 24-hour availability of alcohol service, the festive atmosphere, and the impulse for visitors to try to cram as much enjoyment as possible during their visit can combine to de-prioritize the duty of care while driving.

A side-impact collision is often a high-speed collision. Both vehicles are often going at full speed through an intersection.

Typically, while the front-end of a vehicle is designed to absorb the maximum impact of a crash to protect the driver and any passengers (and has for example the engine block to act as shield), the side of a car has only the door post and maybe has airbag to protect the occupants.

As a result, side-impact crash victims are much more likely to suffer a serious trauma. Even a side airbag can only absorb the energy of the initial impact. The accident itself may involve multiple impacts, as the driver and passengers are suddenly and violently jerked around the interior of the car.

Unfortunately, side impacts frequently lead to rollover accidents, as the impacted vehicle spins around and, depending on the flow of traffic, gets hit several more times. Rollovers are the most deadly accidents.

T-bone accidents can produce complicated accident scenes. Your attorney should have the experience and the resources to investigate the scene, to reconstruct what happened, and to identify all of the responsible parties.

Your attorney should know how to deal with insurance companies that may resist paying out legitimate claims and be prepared to fight to make sure you receive full compensation for your medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

A side-impact collisions can permanently affect you and your family. Your attorney should help you regain a sense of normalcy by holding accountable those people who caused your injuries and enabling your best chance for a full recovery.

In this scene from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Max's big rig broadsides a reckless driver. He shouldn't be more than 50 percent at-fault because a series a negligent acts by the other drivers (the original and then the front passenger) brought the car in front. I give the chrome side exhaust 5/5.

Common causes of side-impact collisions

In most cases, a T-bone accidents can be simply explained: someone runs a red light and hits another vehicle already in the intersection.

In other words, a negligent driver failed to yield the right-of-way and caused an accident.

Even where there is no traffic signal, Nevada law states, “The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different highway.”

Similarly, when a driver intends to make a left turn, he or she must “yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

You can be responsible for causing a side-impact accident if you, for example:

  • run a red light;
  • fail to yield to a vehicle already in the intersection; or
  • turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

You should always follow the rules of the road not only for the safety of others, but for your own safety. Consider that there are many scenarios in which, if you fail to yield, your negligent behavior causes the side-impact collision to happen to your vehicle, if the other driver cannot stop in time.

If you are found to be liable for the accident in which you suffered substantial losses, it may be more difficult for you to make a full recovery of your damages.


Never forget that right-of-way is not an absolute right.

If another driver fails to yield, you cannot force yourself into the way even if you had the right-of-way. You cannot create an unsafe situation, and you do not want to be responsible for causing an accident.

Liability for a side-impact accident

When a driver violates a traffic law and injures someone else, it is considered “negligence per se” under Nevada law.

Unless the defendant can provide sufficient evidence that their actions were justified or excusable under the circumstances, negligence per se proves the defendant breached a “duty of care,” which is a critical element of any personal injury claim.

But ignoring traffic laws are not the only grounds for establishing a driver’s negligence in a T-bone accident. In some cases, drivers run a red light or make an ill-advised left turn because they are distracted.

In general, distracting behaviors are unsafe and distracted driving is illegal. However, some behaviors like using a cell phone while driving are especially dangerous because they are so distracting, and have become so common that they are specifically illegal in Nevada. Indeed, using any type of “wireless communications device” to send or receive text or non-voice messages while driving is against the law.

We have all seen people who text or use their cell phone while driving. Remember that these distracted drivers are just as negligent as, for example, drunk drivers. It only takes a moment of distraction to cause an accident.

Side-impact collision caused by DUI/DWI

Drunk driving is also a significant factor in many T-bone accidents in Las Vegas. You can get a drink almost anywhere all day long, and some people do not enjoy drinking responsibly despite the clear message included in about three billion dollars of advertising spend per year.

If a sober driver runs a red light, the sober driver may be reasonably expected to attempt to brake before colliding with another vehicle, if only for self-preservation, thereby potentially lessening the force of the impact and reducing the severity of bodily injuries and property damages.

In contrast, a drunk driver typically acts “in the moment” without future time orientation. A drunk driver is more likely to not only run a red light or dart into an intersection, but to do so at speeds exceeding the posted speed limit, and to also make no attempt to brake in time because the drunk driver’s reaction time has been slowed down

Increasing blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is associated with decreased reaction time. The legal limit in Nevada, a BAC level of 0.08, is associated with an average decreased reaction time of 120 milliseconds or just over one tenth of one second. This means that when traveling at 70 miles per hour, a drunk driver would travel for an additional 12 feet before reacting to a roadway hazard compared to a sober driver.

A DUI is prosecuted criminally in Nevada, but it is equally important for the accident victims to assert their rights through a personal injury claim to recover civil damages.

Negligence per se

in Nevada, four elements must be shown to establish a claim for negligence per se:

  • There is a law or statute that exists to protect a class of persons;
  • The plaintiff was a member of that class;
  • The defendant violated the law or statute; and
  • The defendant's violation of the law proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries or damage.

Injuries from side-impact collisions

As I wrote above, T-bone accidents can be catastrophic. In many cases victims suffer fatal injuries. Even in a non-fatal accident, the survivor may face a lifetime of medical care due to a permanent disability.

Some of the more common injuries from side-impact collisions include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (concussions) and head wounds;
  • Paralysis due to spinal cord injuries;
  • Loss of limbs;
  • Second- and third-degree burns, scarring, and disfigurement;
  • Neck injuries, such as whiplash;
  • Joint and bone injuries; and
  • Muscle and ligament tears.

A personal injury lawsuit can seek not only compensation for your past and current medical expenses arising from a T-bone accident, but also for projected future medical expenses.

Your attorney can help you assess the total value of your potential claim and make sure the negligent parties or their insurers compensate you for all of your losses.

Further information:

In other articles I wrote about liability after an accident and compensation for accident victims.

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Erick Tyson von Mueller profile image

Erick Tyson von Mueller

Erick is a researcher and life-long student of the arts. He graduated from university after studying intelligence and fell into the deep state. He has surfaced now and again to run a drive-through coffee shop (!), an award-winning live music venue in Austin, Texas (!), and a cement block factory in Uruguay (!), among other adventures in a life otherwise spent performing analysis. His speciality remains state security and the philosophy of the prison world.