Side-Impact Collisions

A side-impact crash, as opposed to a frontal crash or a rear-end collision, is where at least one vehicle involved in an accident is impacted on its side or near-side, at any angle other than directly in front or directly behind.

Side-impact accidents include direct broadside collisions, also called “T-bone” collisions. A T-bone side-impact collision is where one vehicle’s front end directly impacts another vehicle broadside, so that the vehicles form a “T”. Side-impact collisions also include accidents in which a vehicle glances off the side or near-side of another vehicle, where the primary impact is lateral rather than from the front or the rear. Many lateral side-impact accidents occur when a driver on a multi-lane highway changes lanes without observing the vehicle in his blind spot, and swerves into its side.

Broadside accidents frequently occur at intersections and in parking lots, where cars are usually traveling perpendicular to one another. These types of broadside collisions frequently occur as a result of one of the drivers failing to yield a right-of-way or running a stop light or a stop sign. A broadside can also occur when a vehicle swerves out of control—such as on an icy highway—and slams sideways into a tree or some other obstacle, or else gets hit by another vehicle, or in multi-car collisions, when a vehicle collision causes one car to spin sideways, and another vehicle travelling along the road ends up hitting them broadside.

As with most crashes, the severity of the damage and injury of a side-impact collision will depend on the type of vehicle that is struck, what the vehicle is struck by, the safety features that the vehicle has installed, the speed at which the vehicle or vehicles are travelling, and the weight and construction of the respective vehicles (if more than one is involved).

Factors Affecting Side-Impact Injuries and Fatalities

Roughly one quarter of all passenger vehicle occupant accident fatalities in the United States occur from side-impact collisions. And while frontal impacts remain the front-runner in causing accident fatalities, frontal impact fatality numbers are steadily declining, while side-impact fatalities are remaining more constant, or even increasing, as the number or vehicles on the roads increases.

One of the most important reasons for this disparity is the progressive development, enhancement, and deployment of safety technology for frontal impact crashes in late-model vehicles, as well as the enactment and enforcement of certain safety laws. Over the last few decades, critical steps have been taken that increase vehicle occupant safety for frontal impacts: mandatory driver and front-passenger airbags; improved front and rear crumple zones; improved headrest designs; gas tank redesigns; mandatory seat-belt laws; mandatory underride bars on commercial trucks, and so on.

These technologies and developments have been directed specifically at protecting vehicle occupants from the worst consequences of frontal and rear-end impacts. Unfortunately, they do not provide similar protection for side-impact collisions.

As a result, although frontal crashes occur more often, the type of crash that is now more likely to result in a fatality or a serious injury is a side-impact collision. Moreover, side impact collisions are particularly risky for children. Roughly one fourth of all car crashes involving children are side-impact collisions. Further, almost one third of all child fatalities from crashes are due to side impact collisions, and a significant majority of these fatalities are the result of head trauma.

Side-impact collisions are particularly damaging for several reasons. One reason is that drivers and passengers hit from the side have little or no warning of the impact. Unlike frontal impacts, where a driver may have the ability to react to a dangerous situation by applying the brakes or taking some other evasive measure, vehicles hit from the side often have no forewarning of the impact, and thus cannot try minimize any potential damage or injury.

The second and more critical issue for the occupants of a vehicle hit from the side is that the sides of a vehicle simply do not provide much insulation or protection from the worst effects of an impact. Usually, the only thing between a passenger or driver and an oncoming vehicle from the side is a door and a window, rather than an engine or a trunk, to absorb the brunt of the impact.

This is particularly problematic when the vehicle that broadsides another vehicle is a large, heavy, and high vehicle such as an SUV or truck. When there is a great disparity of height and weight between the vehicles in a side-impact crash, if the smaller of the vehicles is the one that is hit broadside, tremendous damage and injury are likely to ensue. A smaller vehicle hitting the side may primarily impact the car frame and seats, but higher vehicles are much more likely to impact the passengers more directly, and likely to cause traumatic head, neck, or spinal injuries that can lead to permanent disability or death, as well as chest, abdomen, and pelvic injuries that are extremely painful, and frequently debilitating.

The extreme risk of injury in side-impact collisions is just one more reason that drivers should always drive defensively, and always bear in mind that that, even when a driver is in the “right”, such as when he has the right of way at an intersection, it is more important to be observant and cautious, rather than automatically expect every other driver to observe the rules of the road.

While more and more vehicles today have installed side-impact airbags for drivers and passengers, even these cannot completely insulate passengers from serious injury in side-impact collisions, especially young children, although they can help to spread the impact over a greater area of their bodies. Side-impact crashes will cause a vehicle’s occupants to severely jar their heads and necks, and can throw passengers across the interior of the vehicle—or even out of it, if they are not wearing safety belts.

Many automakers have given side-impact issues greater attention by strengthening components of the “safety cage” that encompasses all of a vehicle’s passengers, and by reinforcing door pillars. However, side-impact safety measures are, as a general rule, several generations behind front-impact safety technology. What is more, as government regulators require automakers to meet stringent fuel efficiency standards, there is a strong incentive for automakers to make vehicles lighter—meaning that some of the materials used in manufacturing vehicles are lighter and less robust in holding up to any type of collision.

The Personal Injury Attorneys at Abels & Annes Can Help Victims of Side-Impact Collisions

No type of vehicle accident is pleasant, but side-impact accidents are often particularly tragic, because of the high likelihood that there has been a serious injury or even a fatality. Dealing with the aftermath of an accident—insurance claims, medical bills, investigators, and so on—is not something anyone welcomes when they are also trying to deal with recovery from an injury, adjusting to a permanent injury, or confronting the grief of losing a loved one. If you have been injured, or someone you love has been killed in a side-impact accident caused by the negligence of another driver, the last thing you need is to deal with the “business” side of a serious accident. For most people, the hassle of dealing with the aftermath is not only aggravating, but completely unfamiliar and overwhelming. This is where the Chicago car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C., can help you. Our attorneys have many years of experience helping car accident victims just like you, and we not only know what happens, but everything that should be happening. We know how to investigate side-impact accidents, how to deal with insurers and with the other parties’ attorneys, and how to recover the damages to which you are entitled.

Unfortunately, car accidents are a fact of life in the modern world. And when you are one of the victims of a side-impact collision in Chicago or any of Chicago’s the surrounding communities, you need someone who will stand by your side, particularly when you are trying to obtain recovery from a party who caused your injury. You can count on the Chicago personal injury attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C., to be aggressive and capable advocates for you. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a side-impact injury, contact Abels & Annes, P.C., at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or at (312) 924-7575, or use the online form here on this website for a free consultation. Remember, you will never pay us a fee until you obtain damages, either through a settlement or through litigation, so give us a call today.

If you have been hurt in a side-impact car accident, call Abels & Annes, P.C. today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO and let us help you seek the relief you deserve.

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