A broadside collision occurs when another vehicle hits the side of your vehicle, either by sideswiping you or hitting you head-on, also known as a T-bone accident. Both types of broadside accidents can cause extensive injuries depending on the circumstances, including speed and the angle at which the vehicle hits you.
The size and weight of the vehicle also play a big role in the injuries you could suffer.
The high level of traffic in San Diego means that you have a higher chance of getting into a broadside wreck. Sideswipe collisions occur more commonly on highways, while T-bone wrecks prove more common on surface streets and in parking lots.
Engineers design highways and intersections with safety in mind. However, regardless of how safe a roadway appears, people always get into accidents. Unfortunately, you cannot design something to reduce the inattentiveness of people. Intersections contain inherent dangers, no matter how well engineers design them. Some people do not handle four-way stops properly and some run red and yellow lights, both of which can cause T-bone wrecks.
Many drivers assume that the highways they drive on are safe, but people often speed, change lanes often and quickly, tailgate, and otherwise ignore driving laws. While all of these behaviors lead to accidents, aggressive lane-changing most often leads to sideswipe collisions. Because highways carry thousands of vehicles, a sideswipe accident can easily involve several other vehicles.
Left turns across traffic also lead to T-bone accidents, especially when the intersection does not have a light to control left turns. These roads usually have four or more lanes—at least two for each direction, not including the short turning lane. Those waiting to turn often misjudge the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles. Sometimes, the person waiting to turn does not see oncoming traffic, especially motorcycles.
Causes of Broadside Collisions
In most cases, human error causes broadside collisions. However, in some cases, a third party can cause a broadside crash, whether another driver, the weather, road maintenance crews, or a commercial driver’s employer.
Human Error: Driver Fault
Human error plays a huge part in any kind of accident, including broadside accidents.
Accidents caused by human error include:
- Speeding and excessive speeding. A speeder can overshoot an intersection and T-bone another driver or ignore the traffic controls—run a red light or a stop sign—and crash into someone going through the intersection. If a driver speeds on the highway and loses control of the vehicle, he or she may collide with a nearby vehicle.
- Aggressive lane changes. Someone stuck in traffic can start quickly changing lanes in an attempt to get ahead of the traffic. When a person aggressively changes lanes, he or she can merge too close to another vehicle and sideswipe the other vehicle.
- A fatigued driver could drift into another lane on the highway. On surface streets, the driver could go through a red light at an intersection and T-bone another driver. You can drive several hundred yards if you just close your eyes for a second or two, which means that you could blast through an intersection without realizing it.
- Visibility issues. If a driver cannot see the traffic control signals because of weather, shrubs and bushes that the town, county, or state did not cut back, or because someone parked on the side of the road to block a stop sign, a driver could easily go through an intersection assuming they have the right of way.
- Distracted driving. Taking your eyes off the road constitutes distracted driving. You can travel many yards in just one second when traveling at 55 mph or faster. You could go through an intersection and T-bone someone before you know it. Similarly, a driver may wait at a stoplight and take a second to compose a quick text. The driver may then look up to see the light has changed to green and accelerate through the intersection, assuming that a green light indicates a clear intersection when in reality, there are still a few cars making their way through. Any distractions, including fiddling with the radio, picking something up off the floor, or even looking at your kids in the rearview mirror, could have the same results.
- Driving under the influence. A driver that drinks or takes drugs while driving could drive through an intersection without even realizing it. Drugs and alcohol hinder a person’s reaction time and decision-making process, which could contribute to the wrongdoing that causes a T-bone wreck at an intersection.
Human Error: Third-Party Fault
Sometimes, neither driver involved in a broadside accident actually caused it. Another driver could push a vehicle into you. The weather could cause decreased visibility where you or another driver might not be able to see traffic controls or each other. A vehicle defect could also cause someone to broadside you. Regardless of fault, you may be able to recover compensation for damages if someone broadsides you—whether from the driver who hit you, a driver who caused someone to hit you, a city, county, or state, a manufacturer, and/or a commercial driver’s employer.
Avoiding Broadside Collisions
Although you cannot avoid every broadside accident situation, you can reduce the risk of getting into one of these wrecks. Always focus on intersections. Even when the light turns green, take a second to make sure all vehicles to your left and right come to a complete stop. When on the highway, keep your eye out for reckless and aggressive drivers. If possible, move into another lane and slow down enough to keep the driver in front of you—but not enough to impede traffic. If you are already in the right lane and cannot move over to slow down, get off at a nearby exit and wait a few minutes to get back on the highway.
If you have no other choice and the aggressive driver seems particularly close to you, put your emergency flashers on, lightly tap your brakes two or three times to warn drivers behind you, and then slow down just enough so that the aggressive driver has time to get ahead of you.
Other actions you can take include keeping your vehicle in good condition and always staying prepared for low-visibility weather situations. If you need to, pull off the road and wait for particularly bad weather to pass. Use fog lights or low beams in foggy weather. In a heavy snowstorm, make sure to use your low-beam lights, so other drivers can see you. If you have fog lights, you can also turn the fog lights on.
Also, do not drive distracted. If your kids pose a distraction in the rear seat, pull over to deal with them. Because you can’t control what other drivers do, 100 percent of your attention should remain on the road at all times.
San Diego Broadside Accident Injuries
The situation you find yourself in, including your reaction to it, the speed of the vehicles, the size and weight of the vehicles, and how the other vehicle hits you, all contribute to the severity of your injuries. A tractor-trailer could sideswipe you on the road and push you into an empty lane, and you might not suffer any injuries. The same tractor-trailer could sideswipe another vehicle in front of you, which may prevent you from moving out of the way in order to avoid a collision. In that case, you could sustain severe, catastrophic, or even fatal injuries.
By the same token, a driver running from the police could run a red light and T-bone you, causing significant injuries, or a truck driver could miscalculate the time it takes him to stop and T-bone you. Because the truck driver will likely slow down and come to a stop, you might suffer minimal damages. However, the vehicle speeding through the intersection without slowing down could cause you to suffer severe injuries.
Injuries you could sustain in a broadside wreck include:
- Cuts, scrapes, bruises, and bumps.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Road rash if you get thrown from your vehicle.
- Thermal and/or chemical burns if the wreck causes one of the vehicles to catch on fire.
- Nerve damage.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled or torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as infections in open wounds caused by the accident or surgery to repair accident injuries. Additionally, accident injuries could exacerbate current injuries or conditions.
The at-fault driver will likely bear liability for the medical treatment for secondary injuries and the medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering, for exacerbating existing conditions since you would not suffer from these conditions but for the actions or inactions of the at-fault driver. Always tell your attorney if you develop an infection or you have conditions that worsened because of the accident so that he or she can figure additional medical expenses and pain and suffering into a fair and reasonable settlement amount.
Recovering Damages in a San Diego Broadside Accident
After someone broadsides you, you may be able to recover damages, including medical expenses and pain and suffering. California allows you to recover two types of damages. First, you can recover compensatory damages, which include both economic damages and non-economic damages. The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. You can also recover punitive damages, meant to punish the wrongdoer, in some cases.
Special damages, often referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value.
Economic damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses. Medical expenses include surgeries, follow-up appointments, medical professional appointments, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive and other psychological therapies.
- Lost wages for the time you cannot work from the time of the accident until you receive a settlement or a trial award.
- Lost earning capacity. If doctors expect your injuries to cause long-term or permanent disabilities, you might recover compensation for the inability to work. Even if you work part-time or have to take a job that pays less than what you earned before the accident, you could recover lost earning capacity for the difference in what you earned before the wreck and what you can now earn after the wreck.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, including your vehicle and anything in it.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a broadside wreck.
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, are also compensatory damages. General damages do not have a set monetary value—you can’t put a dollar sign on someone’s pain and suffering.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life or life-changing factors, including but not limited to using ambulatory aids and taking prescriptions for the rest of your life.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, home repair and maintenance, and house cleaning.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
The court in your San Diego broadside collision accident case may decide to award you punitive damages. However, to qualify for these damages, you have to prove that the defendant committed grossly negligent or intentional actions. Unlike compensatory damages, which the court orders to make you whole again, the court orders punitive damages to punish the defendant.
Courts award punitive damage to dissuade the defendant and others from committing similar behavior in the future. You can only collect punitive damages if the court orders the defendant to pay you compensatory damages initially.
If someone broadsided you, contact an experienced San Diego auto accident attorney for a free case evaluation.