Why are Side-Impact Collisions so Dangerous?

Side-impact collisions are a dangerous type of motor vehicle accident where two vehicles collide on their sides. Sadly, serious injuries and even fatalities are a common outcome.

Let’s take a closer look at what causes this type of collision, why it can be serious, and what steps to take if you’ve been a victim.

How do Side-Impact Crashes Happen?

A side-impact crash occurs when one vehicle is struck on the side by another vehicle. This could involve two cars swiping each other along the side (called a “side swipe”). Or one car might directly hit another car’s side, in a perpendicular orientation. This is also commonly called a “t-bone collision” due to the “t” shape the colliding cars have made.

While there are many ways this type of collision could happen, here are a few of the more common scenarios:

  • Failure to yield. Many side-impact crashes happen at intersections or other busy roads where cars are attempting to make left-hand turns. Drivers may get impatient or misjudge other vehicles’ positions. Red light runners are often the culprit.
  • Merging collisions. A side-swipe crash can occur if a driver fails to notice or yield to another driver when merging.
  • Illegal maneuver. Drivers making illegal maneuvers (such as an illegal u-turn) can cause crashes because other drivers may not be able to anticipate or react to their movements.
  • Inclement weather, poor conditions. Heavy rain, fog, or icy roads can contribute to crashes. However, just because the weather was bad doesn’t excuse a driver’s responsibility.

In addition, drivers can make risky choices that increase the chance of a collision. The three most risky driving behaviors are driving under the influence, driving distracted, and speeding. Often, one of more of these behaviors is a factor in a collision.

What Makes Side-Impact Crashes So Dangerous?

Consider a car that’s been struck from the front – a head-on collision. A sizeable buffer of car’s frame protects the occupants from the striking vehicle. (Another term for this is “crumple zone.”) The same is true for a rear-ender. Next, imagine a vehicle striking a car on the side. There is very little to protect occupants from this type of impact. When a car is struck from the side, the occupants absorb most of the force of impact. Further, windows may be smashed and doors may crush, which can create additional injury.

All this explains why serious injuries are common with side-impact collisions, particularly if a driver or passenger is seated in the area directly struck by the oncoming vehicle.

In 2019, side-impact collisions accounted for 23% of all crash fatalities making it the second most deadly crash type. (Head-on collisions were the deadliest type in 2019 and comprised 57% of fatalities.)

What Types of Injuries Can Happen in a Side-Impact Crash?

The type and severity of injuries in a side-impact crash can vary greatly. Some of the more commonly reported injuries include:

  • Shoulder and pelvic injuries, particularly on the side struck
  • Chest injuries, including broken ribs and punctured lungs
  • Broken bones
  • Internal bleeding and organ damage
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • PTSD, anxiety, and other mental impacts

The medical care required after a crash like this can be very costly. Even a single trip to the emergency room can rack up thousands of dollars. Add a hospital stay or follow-up care, and the victim can quickly incur sizeable medical costs. It’s important for victims to seek legal counsel following a crash. A skilled lawyer can work to negotiate a settlement to cover all damages (such as doctor bills and missed wages).

Are There Ways to Prevent a Side-Impact Crash?

While it’s not always possible to predict and prevent every collisions, there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of being in a side-impact crash.

  • Use caution at intersections. Even if you have the right-of-way, use caution when crossing an intersection.
  • Be aware. Drivers can make sudden, unpredictable choices at any time.
  • Consider car purchases with care. Some cars now have side-door airbags and other safety features.
  • Always wear a seatbelt. Make sure you and all your passengers buckle up, every time. Restrain babies and small children in car seat or booster seat.

And remember to always avoid the three risky behaviors: driving under the influence, driving distracted, and speeding. You do not want to be the cause of a side-impact crash!

How Can You Prove Liability in a Side-Impact Collision?

Even if seems crystal clear that the other driver is at fault, proving liability isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it becomes a complicated matter of one driver’s word over another’s.

If you’re able, work to gather evidence which could be valuable in proving the other driver’s fault. For instance:

  • Pictures (read our blog post on which pictures to take at the scene)
  • Police report, including any citations issued
  • Witness testimony
  • Video footage (from a dashcam or nearby residence or business)
  • Medical reports
  • Auto repair mechanic reports

A car accident attorney could be your best chance at establishing liability. Experienced attorneys, such as those at our firm, can determine what happened after a thorough investigation. Having a lawyer on your side can help reduce your stress and frustration.

Have You Been the Victim of a Side-Impact Collision?

If so, we encourage you to speak with a side-impact collision lawyer from our team. There’s no charge to speak with us and we only charge you a fee if we win you a settlement. It’s important to seek legal counsel when you’re facing steep medical bills and missed wages. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about your car accident.

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