A head-on collision is one of the worst kinds of car accidents. The weight and speed of the vehicles coming head-to-head create a massive impact that can easily result in catastrophic injuries or even death. Even at relatively slow speeds, a head-on wreck could be fatal. While head-on collisions are not the most common type of crash, they cause about 3,600 fatalities per year, which constitutes 10.9 percent of fatal crashes across the United States.
Why Are Head-On Collisions More Dangerous?
While any type of vehicle accident could cause fatalities, head-on wrecks are more dangerous. The two vehicles are traveling at cross-purposes, so the force of the impact is magnified. Thus, severe injuries and death are more likely to result from head-on collisions than other kinds of crashes.
What You Should Do After a Head-On Crash
While head-on crash victims experience severe injuries or loss of consciousness that render them unable to do anything, some head-on crash victims might be able to move about and take action after the impact.
If you can:
- Contact first responders and check on others involved in the crash.
- Take photos of the accident. Be sure to capture skid marks and other marks each vehicle made. Also, include any damage to property and objects at the accident scene.
- Obtain the contact, insurance, and registration information of the other driver involved in the accident.
- Obtain contact information from witnesses, including passengers in the vehicle that hit you. You can also ask witnesses what they saw.
- Allow emergency medical responders to check you over for injuries.
- Give the police your recollection of the facts. Take your time so that you do not forget important aspects of the incident.
- Do not admit fault, or make any commentary about what you think may have caused the accident.
Once the police release you from the scene, seek medical attention immediately. Some injuries do not manifest for hours or even days after an accident. Let the medical professionals know that you were in a head-on crash and need a thorough checkup for internal injuries, back and neck injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
Finally, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. Insurance companies limit the time to start a claim process. Additionally, should you need to bring a lawsuit, you will need to file by the applicable statute of limitations for your state.
Most Common Causes of Head-On Crashes
In most cases, head-on collisions are caused by human error.
Common causes of head-on wrecks include:
- Driving under the influence of illicit drugs, alcohol, and/or prescription drugs. Drugs and alcohol impair the functions you need to drive safely, such as being able to control your vehicle and stay in your lane.
- Distracted driving. Cell phone use while driving has become particularly problematic, and may even be the first thing one thinks of when they hear “distracted driving.” But it is hardly the only thing a driver can become distracted by. Others include adjusting the radio station, looking into the rearview mirror when interacting with backseat passengers, eating, or any other activities that take your attention away from the road and the task of driving safely.
- Driving while fatigued. Fatigued driving both pose significant risks, though being tired is not the same as being fatigued. Fatigue tends to be more severe and deep-seated exhaustion. However, fatigue may cause similar impairments to alcohol or drugs.
- Ignoring traffic control signs and signals.
- Passing another vehicle illegally and/or carelessly.
- Not slowing down enough for the road or weather conditions.
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
- Speeding around curves.
Possible Injuries in a Head-On Collision
Head-on wrecks can cause many types of injuries, though you are at a higher risk for catastrophic injuries in this type of crash.
Injuries you could sustain in a head-on crash include:
- Cuts, scratches, scrapes, bruises, and bumps
- Strains and sprains
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries
- Simple and compound fractures
- Crushed bones
- Face and eye injuries
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Nerve injuries
- Road rash
- Internal injuries
- Thermal and chemical burns
- Amputation of a limb or a digit
- Psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder
- Secondary injuries, such as infections
If you have a compromised immune system, the risk that you will suffer secondary injuries such as infections is much higher. Additionally, you could also suffer secondary psychological injuries such as depression and/or anxiety if catastrophic injuries prevent you from enjoying normal activities, such as spending time with your family or working.
How You Can Minimize the Risk of a Head-On Crash
Even the most careful driver is at risk of getting into a head-on crash. In some cases, you can take evasive action to avoid the wreck; but, sometimes, there is nothing a driver could have done to avoid it.
However, you can reduce your chances of getting into a head-on wreck by:
- Making sure you are not tired or fatigued before you get behind the wheel.
- Not drinking and driving.
- Making sure you pass other vehicles legally and never near a curve or a hill that reduces your visibility, even if you have the dashed lines.
- Keeping your eyes on the road. Even glancing at the kids in the rearview mirror takes your eyes off the road long enough for you to veer over the centerline.
- Don’t use your cell phone unless you have a complete hands-free system. Even then, it is best to wait until you are done driving to use your cell phone at all.
In the event you cannot avoid someone from hitting you head-on, you can minimize the risk of severe injuries or death by ensuring that everyone has a seatbelt on and that you are looking far enough ahead as you are traveling. If you look a couple of hundred feet in front of you while driving, you have more of a chance to avoid someone driving on the wrong side of the road.
Evidence to Build a Head-On Collision Claim
To recover compensation after a head-on collision, you will need evidence.
The evidence you will need depends on all of the unique factual circumstances of the accident, but all wrecks have at least some of these pieces of evidence:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Witness testimony
- The police report
- Your medical bills
- Any reports from the insurance company
- Accident reconstruction
- Video of the accident
- Expert witness testimony
Your attorney will want to work with you to gather evidence as soon as possible after an accident. Doing so will ensure you timely file your claim and also preserve as much evidence as possible before it goes missing or becomes unavailable otherwise. Evidence tends to disappear, especially the evidence at the scene, such as skid marks and property damage. Even movement of the vehicles from their position in the immediate aftermath of the accident eliminates the possibility of taking a photo as evidence of the point of impact and the position of the vehicles relative to traffic signs and other important features of the scene. The sooner you can contact a car accident lawyer who can gather evidence, the better.
Handling Insurance Companies After a Head-On Crash
If you call an insurance company after a crash to report it or initiate a claim, give it only your name, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. The representative might press you to offer further details or commentary about the accident. Reiterate that the representative can contact your attorney.
Insurance companies are for-profit corporations, and paying out a claim lowers their profit margin. They are thus incentivized to find ways to deny a claim or pay less than you deserve. They might even twist the words you say to an insurance representative. Insurance companies also may downplay the severity of your injuries to minimize the amount they pay out. You have a much better chance of recovering the compensation you deserve if an attorney speaks to the insurance company on your behalf.
Additionally, your attorney can:
- Investigate your case and collect evidence against the at-fault driver
- Review the insurance policies that are potentially available to provide compensation
- Calculate the compensation you deserve, including such things as medical expenses you might incur after the settlement or trial award
- Represent you in settlement negotiations and, if necessary, in court
Compensation You Could Recover After a Head-On Crash
A victim can recover compensatory damages after a head-on accident from responsible parties, which damages are intended to “make the victim whole again.” Compensatory damages are divided into two categories: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages, also referred to as special damages, have a set monetary value.
Economic damages may include:
- Past and future medical expenses: After a head-on crash, you will likely have medical expenses. An at-fault party can be held liable to pay these. Additionally, if your accident injuries cause long-term or permanent injuries, you could collect future medical expenses. Items covered as medical expenses include surgeries, doctors’ appointments, therapy appointments, prescriptions, controls for your vehicle, ambulatory aids, and changes to your home, including adding a wheelchair ramp, grab bars, and widening doorways.
- Personal property: In addition to your vehicle, you may have personal property within the vehicle that was damaged, perhaps of significant value. An at-fault party may be held responsible to repair, replace, or compensate you for any personal property that was damaged or destroyed in the head-on collision.
- Wages: Some injuries in a head-on collision can leave you unable to work for a significant amount of time. You can demand compensation for the wages you lose while recovering from your injuries. Additionally, you could recover compensation for loss of earning capacity if medical experts can show your injuries to prevent you from working after settlement or a court award of damages.
- After-life expenses: If you lost a loved one in a head-on wreck, you can collect funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses. You might also recover additional expenses associated with your loved one’s passing such as probate court filing fees.
You can also recover general damages, usually referred to as non-economic damages, after a head-on crash.
Non-economic damages do not have a set monetary value and may include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress. If you lost a loved one in a head-on crash, you could also recover compensation for emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life, if you have to make lifestyle changes, such as taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship, if you cannot enjoy time with your family or cannot participate in the activities you enjoyed before the accident.
- Loss of consortium, if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function.
- Inconvenience, if you have to hire someone to do the chores you would normally do, including grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, house cleaning, and home repair and maintenance.
- Compensation for amputation of digits or limbs.
- Additional compensation for excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
Statute of Limitations for a Head-On Crash
Your state’s statute of limitations sets a deadline for you to take legal action. This could be one year or five years after the accident. However, victims normally start by filing a claim with insurance companies, and insurance companies usually give much less time to file claims. Some give you as little as 30 days to start the claim process.
To make sure you timely file your claim and/or lawsuit and collect the evidence you need to support your case, contact an attorney as soon as possible after a head-on collision.