A head-on collision (also called a “frontal” crash) is when cars driving in opposite directions crash front to front. Any car accident can cause injury, but statistics show that head-on crashes are even more likely to result in serious harm or fatality to the driver or passengers in either vehicle.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported a 58% fatality rate for vehicle occupants in frontal impact crashes in 2017. A head-on crash is more likely in a rural area, and 13% of all rural fatal crashes are head-ons. In urban areas, fewer than 7% of fatal crashes are head-ons.
The chart below compares numbers of fatalities and injuries as they relate to the total number of crashes in 2015, as reported by the US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
|Type of collision and crash severity|
|Number||Percent of total fatal crashes||Number||Percent of total injury crashes||Number||Percent of total crashes|
|Source: Insurance Information Institute, 2015|
Sometimes an accident is just that—an accident. It could happen for a mechanical reason like brake failure or a power steering outage.
But usually, a head-on accident is caused when one driver is on the wrong side of the road. Often, it’s because of drunk or distracted driving (like driving while texting), unsafe passing, drowsy driving, or some other kind of confusion behind the wheel like an elderly person who accidentally enters a highway in the wrong direction.
There are other reasons why a driver might swerve into the opposite lane, like if they’re avoiding an animal, debris in the road, or an icy patch.
That’s the first question that your insurance company will want answered.
The impact of a crash might send each car in a different direction, which means it could be hard to know immediately how the crash occurred. Your personal injury attorney can retain the services of an engineer or accident reconstruction specialist who’ll determine the cause of the accident and who was at fault.
If you were injured or lost a family member in a head-on collision, the at-fault driver’s insurance company should pay your claim. But the first step is that you need to establish that the other driver was at fault.
Unfortunately, whether it’s an insurance claim or if it becomes a personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff (the injured person or survivors) to establish what they’re owed by the defendant (the at-fault driver).
Here’s what to look for:
States handle fault differently. The court will determine the liability of both parties in a head-on car accident. If the other driver was intoxicated and swerved into your lane, the court might determine that he was 95% at fault. However, it could also determine that if you had reacted seconds sooner and swerved out of the way, the accident might not have happened. If that’s the finding, the court would apportion you 5% of liability.
What happens from that point depends on the state where the case is handled.
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Damages for a head-on collision (or any car accident) are for one or more of these reasons:
There are steps you can take to strengthen your case after a car accident. The nature of head-on collisions makes it more likely that you would be severely injured, whether you’re the driver or a passenger. Your first priority is to get help for anyone who’s injured. If you’re able, call 911 and get emergency responders to the scene as fast as possible.
Once you’ve received emergency medical treatment and are able to deal with the legal and insurance matters, begin to gather evidence. Obtain a copy of the police report and all medical records associated with the crash.
Next, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. Even if your insurance is handling the claim, when it’s a large settlement or there are questions about fault, it’s important to get an attorney involved as soon as you can. Your lawyer will work on gathering additional evidence, retaining experts, and determining what you deserve in damages.
If you don’t already have a lawyer you know and trust, the Enjuris Personal Injury Law Firm Directory is a great place to start in finding an attorney who will best represent your interests.