No one expects a car accident when they head out on the road, much less a head-on collision. Unfortunately, the unexpected happens every day. While driving, the most frightening thing you can see is another car or truck coming right at you. While you may or may not see or suspect a head-on collision is coming, you will undoubtedly feel the abrupt impact of the crash.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury as a head-on car accident, call an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible for help. Injured victims deserve compensation for their injuries and often can't get what they truly deserve without legal representation.
What Is a Head-On Collision?
Also called a frontal collision, a head-on car accident usually occurs when two vehicles driving in opposite directions collide. They can happen with any vehicle—car, truck, bus, or motorcycle. When a car collides with a stationary object, like a light pole, tree, or cement barrier, we can also categorize it as a head-on accident.
Why Are Head-on Collisions More Dangerous?
Thankfully, head-on car accidents are rare compared to other car crashes. However, statistics reveal that they are the most hazardous and fatal of all auto accidents. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), in 2019, head-on collisions accounted for nearly 11 percent of deadly crashes greater than sideswipe and rear-end collisions together.
The types and severity of injuries arising from a front-end crash are generally much more substantial when compared to other types of crashes, such as a rear-end or a sideswipe collision.
Head-on crashes create the most significant impact force, as both vehicles move immediately before colliding. While any motor vehicle accident has the potential to be perilous, these types of accidents are known for causing severe and life-threatening injuries.
Causes of Head-On Collisions
Most head-on collisions result from one driver going in the wrong direction. This can occur if the driver either crosses the centerline of the roadway or drives in the opposite direction that a traffic sign shows.
Even still, most wrong-way crashes stem from a motorist failing to exercise reasonable care behind the wheel. There's no one single cause of front-impact crashes, but here are some common reasons these accidents occur.
#1. Distracted Driving
No matter the exact distraction, distracted driving puts life and property at risk. Sadly, it’s also the cause of many head-on crashes on U.S. roadways. For example, the rate of accidents caused by mobile phone use has increased with advances in technology. Texting while driving is severely dangerous, not to mention illegal in 48 states. But, it’s not just cell phones.
Other activities take drivers' attention off the road, including:
- Consuming food or beverage
- Loud music
- Adjusting controls in the car
- Speaking with passengers
- Dealing with kids or pets inside the vehicle
It's far too easy for inattentive motorists to cross the centerline.
#2. Fatigued Driving
Recent studies show that operating a car while sleep deprived or drowsy can have similar effects as drinking and driving. Fatigued driving often happens when a driver hasn't slept enough, has worked long shifts, or has driven for a lengthy time.
Far too many frontal impact accidents result from tired drivers falling asleep at the steering wheel and veering into oncoming traffic. The crash can happen in the blink of an eye, causing severe, catastrophic, and even fatal injuries.
#3. Impaired Driving
Despite public awareness and extensive educational campaigns, some drivers continue to be irresponsible enough to drive after consuming alcohol, drugs, or dangerous prescription medications. These substances have a profound effect on driving skills.
For example, they reduce a driver’s reaction time significantly. It’s not uncommon for an intoxicated motorist to not even realize they are traveling the wrong way until it’s too late. Driving while impaired is a frequent cause of head-on collisions and can lead to the most devastating consequences.
It’s widely known that speeding endangers everyone sharing the road. For example, drivers who drive much above the posted speed limit or drive too fast for road conditions have a greater chance of losing control of their vehicle and skidding into oncoming traffic.
Unfortunately, if two vehicles collide head-on at high speeds, it’s almost a given that the drivers and their passengers will sustain catastrophic, if not fatal, injuries.
#5. Driver Confusion
Drivers sometimes become confused when traveling on an unfamiliar road or even on a familiar road at night or in a construction zone. As a result, they may end up heading in the wrong direction. Confusion on one-way roadways has caused several car crashes.
In addition, aging drivers often have difficulty seeing at night, causing them to enter highways and ramps going in the wrong direction. No matter the reason, driver confusion puts themselves and others at risk for severe head-on collisions.
#6. Improper Passing
Front-end accidents often occur on rural two-lane highways. Impatient drivers frequently grow frustrated when they are behind a slow-moving vehicle. These motorists may decide to pass the vehicle in front of them on a double yellow line.
Passing another vehicle on a two-lane road is always risky, even when it’s legal. Anytime a motorist intentionally enters the oncoming traffic lane, there’s a head-on crash risk.
Common Injuries in Head-On Car Collisions
No matter the cause of the head-on accident, drivers and their passengers often suffer from severe physical trauma resulting in debilitating or life-altering injuries. Even safety features such as seat belts, airbags, and other high-tech devices may not protect vehicle occupants from traumatic or fatal injuries resulting from front-end collisions.
Some of the most commonly reported types of injuries include:
- Lacerations: Cuts, some of them severe, can occur from flying glass, debris, or other items in the vehicles. Some are minor, and others are severe, requiring stitches or even surgery. Deep, severe lacerations can result in permanent scarring.
- Burns: Some head-on collisions cause fires to ignite, risking severe burns to the victims. Victims can also be exposed to chemicals causing chemical or inhalation burns. Tissue burns can also lead to scarring and disfigurement; some even require skin grafts. Severe burns over large areas of the body can be fatal. Burns also often have complications such as infections.
- Broken and fractured bones: Bones often break from the force of a head-on collision or by being crushed by something in the vehicle. Minor breaks will heal in a few short weeks or months with cast stabilization. However, severe breaks will require surgery, fixation, and sometimes months or years of physical therapy to heal if they heal completely. Some may be severe enough that they are disabling or require an amputation of the limb.
- Whiplash: The muscles, tendons, and cartilage of the neck and upper back cannot withstand the force and impact of head-on collisions. Victims often end up with whiplash. Although this is considered a soft tissue injury, it can take weeks or months to heal and be extremely painful.
- Neck and back injuries: Those involved in head-on collisions can also suffer other back and neck injuries such as slipped discs, facet joint injuries, spinal cord injuries (SCI), fractured vertebra, and pulled muscles. Spinal cord injuries may temporarily or permanently paralyze victims.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), head injuries, and concussions: Head injuries can be serious and even life-threatening. Suppose the brain is jolted around in the skull during the accident, or something hits the head. In that case, it can cause severe bleeding on the brain, potentially resulting in brain damage or death. Those who survive may have a long road ahead for treatment and recovery. Even mild concussions require recovery time and put someone out of work for days or weeks.
- Internal bleeding and organ damage: While the internal organs receive protection from the ribs, spine, pelvis, and fatty tissues, it’s often not enough protection in severe accidents. Internal bleeding and organ damage still can occur, and it’s often very serious.
Unfortunately, death is a frequent scenario for those involved in a head-on crash. When a motorist’s carelessness creates an accident resulting in serious injury or death, the victims or their living family members can file to seek financial recovery for any related economic and non-economic losses.
Therefore, hire compassionate car accident attorneys who can litigate your case in court if needed to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries and damages.
Who Is at Fault in a Head-On Collision?
If you recently suffered an injury in a head-on collision, you might be wondering if your case qualifies for compensation. Successful car accident cases have one thing in common - proof of negligence, and those involving head-on accidents are no exception.
To win your case and receive a favorable outcome, you or your car accident attorney must prove:
- Duty of care: The law requires motorists to drive reasonably and safely to avoid causing an accident. Examples of this duty include staying in the correct lane and taking the proper precautions not to create a head-on accident.
- Breach of duty: If a driver exhibits risky or unlawful behavior, like speeding or texting while driving, they have breached or failed to uphold their duty of care.
- Causation: The at-fault driver’s breach of duty resulted in your injuries. For instance, the motorist crossed into oncoming traffic after falling asleep and collided with your car, causing you to suffer a broken pelvis.
- Damages: As a result of the accident, the victim sustained damages. The injured individual can claim medical expenses, lost income, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.
Suppose you were recently in a head-on crash. In that case, it’s imperative to understand that the purpose of the insurance carrier is to make a profit, not provide its claimants large payouts. Insurance claims adjusters may attempt to make their insured seem less at fault for the accident.
Unfortunately, most will use hardball tactics to devalue, diminish, or deny your injury claim. You can protect your rights by hiring a knowledgeable and trusted car accident lawyer that won’t back down until the claims adjuster agrees to maximum compensation for your injuries.
What to Do After a Head-on Collision?
Get Medical Attention
Definitely see a doctor. After being involved in a head-on collision, the most crucial thing you can do is seek medical care. Even if you are lucky enough to walk away from the accident or feel fine with no symptoms, don't skip out on being seen by a doctor. If you don't go to the hospital via ambulance, go to an urgent care facility, emergency department, or even your own doctor's office to be examined.
Remember that some injuries may not reveal symptoms right away, such as potentially life-threatening internal bleeding. Not seeing a doctor is a grave mistake. In addition, documenting your injuries and symptoms as soon as possible bolsters your injury claim.
Speak to an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
The next best thing you can do for your injury claim after being in a head-on collision is to speak to a car accident attorney, preferably one with experience in car accidents. You have legal rights, but the insurance company isn’t going to tell you about them. In fact, they’d prefer you not to know about them at all. When you speak with an attorney, you can determine if you have an injury claim, what it might be worth, and the next steps you should take.
If you hire an attorney, they will thoroughly investigate your case to determine how it happened and who is at fault. They can uncover all insurance policies against which you can file claims. It's also their job to help identify all of your compensable damages and negotiate a full settlement with the insurance company.