Who is at fault for a T-bone car accident depends on the circumstances of the crash, but generally, the car that did not have the right-of-way is at fault.
(See our blog Why Are T-bone Accidents So Dangerous? for more information about these serious accidents)
Who Had Right-of-Way?
In most circumstances, one vehicle will have the right-of-way and the other car will not. When a driver fails to yield the right of way and an accident results from that failure, the driver who failed to yield is usually at fault.
Here are some scenarios dictating right of way:
- The driver who is proceeding according to the traffic light has the right of way.
- A car already on the roadway has priority over one entering from an alley or side street.
- At an intersection governed by a four-way stop sign, a vehicle that arrives first and comes to a full stop has right of way over a car that blows right through the intersection without stopping.
- The rules of the road in Washington State provide that when two drivers come to the intersection from different streets at about the same time, the driver on the right has the right of way.
- If the traffic signals are not functioning at an intersection and there is no official directing traffic, the intersection is an all-way stop.
- Vehicles turning left must yield to oncoming traffic that is already in the intersection or so close to it that they would not be able to stop in time to prevent a collision.
- A driver with a yield sign must slow down and look for other vehicles. The yielding driver must stop as the conditions require, and give right of way to all cars in the intersection or roadway that do not have a yield or stop sign or signal.
What Does “At Fault” Mean?
Washington State law determines fault in car accidents via a four-step process:
- Did the driver have a duty of care? All drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws and drive in a reasonable and safe manner. By way of example, Tim is driving through an intersection on a green light when Lisa, who ran her red light, T-bones him. Lisa had a duty to obey all traffic signs and signals.
- Did the driver breach her duty? Yes, Lisa violated her duty to obey the traffic signals. In other words, she was negligent.
- Did the driver’s negligence cause the accident? Yes, because she did not stop at her red light, she crashed into Tim, who had right of way with a green light.
- Did the driver’s actions result in the damages? If Tim sustained any injuries from the collision, Lisa will be liable for related damages.
What Happens If Both Drivers Were at Fault?
If both parties were partially at fault, each may collect compensation minus his or her proportion of fault. For example, if Tim was 10 percent at fault for an accident and has $10,000 in damages, he will get only $9,000 because his 10 percent fault will reduce his compensation in proportion to his negligence. This legal rule is comparative negligence, also called comparative fault.
In some other states, the law slams the door on you getting any compensation at all if your negligence is at or above 50 or 51 percent. In Washington, we follow the “pure” comparative negligence approach, which means you can get some compensation for your damages as long as someone else was also at fault.
If you were not wearing your seatbelt and the other side can convince the judge that your injuries would have been less severe if you had been using a seatbelt, you could be partially at fault for the extent of your injuries, even if you were not responsible for causing the accident. People who are not using seatbelts involved in side-impact collisions are nearly six times more likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries than people wearing their seatbelts.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident for which someone else was at fault, call Max Meyers Law today at 425-242-5595, to set up your free consultation.