A head-on accident occurs when the front of one vehicle crashes into the front of a second vehicle. Often, head-on accidents are particularly severe. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the fatality rate for head-on accidents was as high as 56 percent. According to the report, passengers and drivers had a similar fatality rate. Moreover, it is common for lawsuits in head-on accidents to have multiple victims because the crashes often lead to such a significant amount of damage that everyone in the vehicle is affected.
Head-on accidents are more common in rural areas, comprising up to 13 percent of all rural fatal crashes based on data from 2019. In urban areas, head-on crashes are less common, and are responsible for less than 7 percent of urban fatal crashes. Altogether, head-on accidents are responsible for 10.9 percent of fatal injuries.
What happens during a head-on collision?
According to one study with test dummies by researchers from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), that tested what kinds of injuries would be associated with a head-on accident, serious injuries are likely to occur. The momentum of each car, with their relative size and speed at which they are travelling, creates a significant force of impact. As such, the weight or mass of a vehicle and its speed will determine the force of impact.
In the case of head-on accidents, vehicles often approach each other at a speed that is often too fast for drivers to take actions that might reduce the severity of the impact. The vehicle that is slower will typically be more affected than the vehicle travelling at the faster speed, and a lighter vehicle will sustain more damage than a heavier vehicle. Often, occupants of vehicles in head-on accidents are thrown forward as the vehicles rotate rapidly after contact. While there may be differences between the vehicles’ specifics in a head-on crash, the damage for any drivers or occupants are often catastrophic.
For example, if two similar vehicles are travelling at 56 mph, researchers found that a head-on crash between these two vehicles would lead to severe brain and neck injuries. Further, on average, four people are killed in every three fatal head-on accidents, many of which happen on rural highways where speed limits are usually higher.
Proving fault in a head-on collision
A head-on accident may send the vehicles in different directions, making an investigation into where the vehicles were prior to crashing of critical importance. A police investigation will likely incorporate an examination of the physical evidence and witness statements.
Though circumstances involving head-on car accidents may vary, these accidents typically are caused by a driver who is on the wrong side of the road. If the at-fault driver is in the wrong lane due to any of the following, they may be considered negligent and liable for damages:
- Distracted driving, such as by a cell phone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that sending or reading a text can take a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds, equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Cell phone records may be obtained in a lawsuit as evidence.
- Intoxicated or drugged driving, such as being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication
- Operating a vehicle in an erratic, reckless or negligent manner
- Driving a vehicle in a careless manner, such as failure to keep in proper lane or to yield right of way
- Failing to obey traffic signs, signals or officer
- Driving wrong way on one-way traffic or wrong side of road
- Making an improper turn
- Speeding, such as driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted limit or racing
Other reasons drivers may swerve their vehicles into the wrong lane, in which negligence is not initially apparent include:
- Driver’s vision is obscured due to rain, snow, glare, lights, buildings or trees
- Driver swerves the vehicle due to bad weather, such as wind, a slippery road, etc.
- Driver is drowsy, asleep, fatigued or ill
Once a driver is determined to be at-fault for an accident, they may be held liable for damages if negligence was involved. Determining liability in a head-on accident, similar to the process for determining liability in other types of car accidents, involves proving negligence. Negligence relies on the following four elements: a duty of care, a breach of that duty, the breach of that duty caused injuries and these injuries resulted in damages. Damages for head-on accidents include:
- Physical injury damages
- Property damage
- Wrongful death damages
Physical injuries associated with head-on accidents tend to be severe. Emergency medical care may include an ambulance or airlift transport to a hospital, surgery for traumatic injuries and a hospital stay. Traumatic brain injuries, head injuries and severe facial injuries are common in these accidents. Drivers and occupants of vehicles in these crashes are often thrown forward immediately upon impact, in which they may hit the steering wheel, front dash or the seat in front of them. While decapitations are not common injuries in car accidents, they can occur in head-on accidents if a driver or passenger is thrown forward with enough force through the front windshield. Injuries to vital organs within the chest or abdomen also happen, with internal bleeding and lung collapse occurring as a result. These kinds of injuries occur in head-on accidents even with safety precautions like airbags and seatbelts in place. Back and spine injuries may lead to paralysis or death. Bodily injuries, like broken bones, lacerations and muscle damage can also occur.
Damages may include the cost of medical care and treatment right after the accident and chronic care associated with the injuries, such as rehabilitative care and physical therapy. Victims of head-on accidents may be forced to stop working or reduce their hours due to their injuries, and a loss of income as a result of the accident may also be awarded in a lawsuit. Unpaid bills, such as costs that have accumulated as a result of a loss of earned income may also be awarded in a lawsuit.
Vehicles are typically totalled in head-on accidents in which there is extensive property damage. While most insurance policies cover vehicles in the case of a total loss, it is important to determine fault so that the driver who is responsible for the crash is held liable.
Wrongful death damages
A head-on collision that causes the wrongful death of a loved one may leave the surviving family members in a state of shock and sadness. A family may be unsure how to emotionally and financially deal with their loss. It is important for someone in this position to contact an experienced trial attorney to help them navigate the legal process following such a tragic death of a loved one. The legal process of determining liability in a wrongful death case is similar to the legal process that would have taken place had the plaintiff survived. However, the damages associated with the case are different when there is a wrongful death. Damages may include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of income and support for surviving family members, funeral and burial costs and loss of guardianship (if the victim was a parent).
The Florida Wrongful Death Act, as written in Florida Statutes section 768.16, provides a legal basis for pursuing a lawsuit after a loved one has died in a traffic accident. After an accident involving negligence, such as a car accident, the party responsible for the accident may be sued for damages. To prove that the defendant is liable, the family must prove the death was caused by that person’s wrongful act or negligence. Florida law requires that the personal representative, also sometimes called an executor, file the wrongful death claim. This personal representative is acting on behalf of all those who may be beneficiaries of the claim, such as surviving family members. It is important to note that a wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury lawsuit, distinct from a criminal lawsuit. The lawsuit is filed in order to recover damages solely in terms of financial compensation that the court will order the defendant to pay the deceased survivors. Statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim includes two years from the date of the person’s death.
Examples of settlements due to head-on collisions include the following:
A plaintiff was awarded $1.5 million in a head-on collision case. The accident occurred during a snowy afternoon when the defendant sped through a turn and lost control of her vehicle, sliding into oncoming traffic. The plaintiff suffered from serious physical injuries and mental anguish, including a traumatic brain injury, cervical and lumbar herniated discs, chronic pain syndrome and depression/anxiety. Phone records revealed that the defendant was using a cell phone at the time of the accident, which led to a higher payout for the plaintiff.
Plaintiffs, two women and a minor child, were awarded a $3.175 million settlement. All three plaintiffs survived but suffered serious injuries as a result of the crash. There were two vehicles involved in the accident, and both defendants (the drivers) were found negligent and liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.
A plaintiff was awarded $3.5 million after he lost a leg due to a head-on collision. The other occupant in the plaintiff’s vehicle was awarded $300,000 for the injuries that they sustained.
Why Choose Clayton Trial Lawyers for your head-on collision
The first line of communication will be between you in a chat and possibly later with a paralegal or law clerk at Clayton Trial Law. We are willing to work around your schedule. We are not a 9-5 law firm. We are 24/7. We welcome you to our beautiful, ultra-modern offices in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Las Olas Boulevard. If better for you, we will travel to you or your company. We understand the tremendous hardship you face, especially if you have serious injuries. Most people do not plan to be hit or hurt, which includes devastating physical, financial, mental and emotional conditions. Our Florida attorneys are here to help.
- Our promise is: if no recovery, you owe us nothing in fees or costs
- Florida injury lawyers who care
We are committed to righting wrongs for accident victims. When we take your case, you become a family member. If we cannot settle your case, we will go to court and try it before a jury to fight for the maximum amount that can be recovered. We will stop at nothing to pursue justice.