Head-on collisions are devastating and account for 10.1 percent of crash fatalities, although they are relatively rare, just two percent of car accidents in the US. Besides death, frontal crashes can cause severe physical harm, which can keep you or your loved one in the hospital for a long time, burdening you with astronomical medical care bills. Sometimes you could even lose your job. So, it's only fair that you be compensated for your pain and loss, especially if negligence was involved on the other driver's part, or mount a robust defense if you are the driver at fault. That's why it's crucial to enlist a personal injury lawyer to help you seek compensation if you or your loved one are involved in a head-on collision in Los Angeles, California. Our expert attorneys at The LA Personal Injury Law firm will evaluate your case, interview witnesses, review the doctors' records and police report, assess your damages, and represent your legal rights.
What is a Head-on Collision?
A head-on collision, also known as a frontal crash, occurs when the front ends of two motor vehicles traveling in opposite directions smash. The accident often occurs because a motorist drives the wrong way down the highway or inadvertently crosses a dividing line and hits an oncoming vehicle.
A head-on collision is most dangerous compared to other auto accidents because of the double impact from the momentum of the two vehicles.
What are the Leading Causes of Head-on Collisions?
Head crashes can occur anytime and anywhere, but rural roads have more collisions because they often have narrower lanes, steeper slopes, sharper curves, and are in bad condition. Also, drivers make poor judgment resulting in accidents.
Generally, the everyday situations that can cause frontal crashes are:
Impaired driving resulting from the influence of alcohol and drugs. Alcohol can adversely affect your driving skills. They can slow your reaction time, decrease coordination, and impair your judgment of time and distance.
Some drugs are known to cause aggressive and reckless behavior when driving, such as excessive speed and lane weaving, while others may cause drowsiness and dizziness.
Driver fatigue is a problem, especially for night shift employees and long-haul truckers. Sleep-deprived people, such as those who have insomnia, are also vulnerable. Because of the fatigue, the driver can become drowsy and doze off, and the vehicle will meander into the wrong lane.
Use of cell phones while driving - texting, dialing, and speaking on the cell phone can distract your attention and cause a lethal accident.
Rollover accidents. An accident can occur that sends a vehicle flying into the wrong lane, causing a head-on collision.
Other causes of head-on collisions include:
- Flouting traffic signs and signals
- Poor weather and visibility
- Driving the wrong way down a road
- A tire blowout
- Losing control while over speeding
- Driving a faulty vehicle
- Making a left turn in front of oncoming traffic
- Not adjusting behavior to low visibility and vehicle stability resulting from inclement weather, such as heavy rain, snow, and ice
Common Injuries From Head-on Collisions
About 50 percent of frontal crashes cause deaths and severe life-threatening injuries to drivers and passengers. When injured in a head-on accident, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately because some injuries do not manifest easily, and only a proper medical examination can diagnose them. Seeing a doctor is advantageous because it will help you recover faster, plus you will later need the doctor's report during your injury claim process.
Here are some of the most common injuries arising from head-on collisions:
Traumatic brain injury (TBI): TBI, also known as a concussion, is a tragic head injury. It occurs in two situations: One, when a direct blow to the head hits the brain, and two when the brain hits the inside of the skull when the head is jostled. The brain hits the inside of the skull during a head-on collision because the safety belt holds the body back while the head and brain are thrust forward, so the brain hits the skull and gets injured.
The concussion can be mild or severe. When you suffer a mild concussion, you may experience nausea, dizziness, headaches, and blurred vision. But a severe concussion can result in a seizure, coma, or death.
If you are dizzy or disoriented after a frontal crash accident, the doctor will most likely test you for TBI with a vision and reflex test or through a brain scan depending on the symptoms you exhibit. But, in any case, you need a thorough medical evaluation after any head injury.
Whiplash: in a head-on collision, the head and neck make a sudden jerking movement that ends when the chin hits the chest. The action strains the muscles and ligaments at the back of the neck, base of the head, and shoulders. Whiplash manifests as pain in the neck, back and shoulders, headaches, dizziness, numbness, and general body weakness.
Neck and back injuries: the neck is especially vulnerable in a head-on collision because it will be violently thrust forward and backward during the smash. Depending on the severity, injuries to the neck and back have the potential to harm the spinal canal nerves or spinal cord, leading to partial or total paralysis of the hands, legs, or both.
Chest injuries: If the airbag deploys correctly, it minimizes injuries to your chest. But even then, and depending on the speed of the crashing vehicles, you can get severe bruises or broken ribs. And broken ribs are dangerous because they can puncture your lungs or heart, leading to sharp chest pains, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood.
Even if your body organs survive any injury, a blast to your chest can lead to painful breathing long after the accident.
Internal organ injuries: Apart from the lungs and heart that are protected by the rib cage and can be damaged by broken ribs, other body organs in the lower abdominal area are also at risk in a head-on collision. These include the kidneys, liver, spleen, and the digestive tract. These organs suffer when the seat belt in the pelvic area contracts to restrain you. Injuries to these organs are difficult to detect, and your doctor will have to conduct extensive tests to diagnose them.
Signs of internal organ injuries include persistent pain in the abdomen and blood in the urine or feces.
Broken bones: The force of the impact of the collision can break your bones. Your hands and legs are more vulnerable because they can hit the steering wheel or dash. Besides the limbs, some crash victims end up with fractured pelvic bones, as well.
Cuts, bruises, and abrasions: These are less severe but more visible head-on collision injuries. They mostly occur where your body is in contact with parts of the vehicle. For instance, bruises in the chest, eyes, and ears are likely to occur because of the contact with the dash, steering wheel or airbag, and the shoulder and pelvic area can have abrasions from contact with the seat belt.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD): Apart from physical injuries, head-on collision accidents can cause PSTD. People suffering PSTD from the effects of a significant crash will depict symptoms such as:
- nightmares and flashbacks that relive the accident
- severe anxiety or depression
- difficulty sleeping
- irrationally blaming oneself or another person for the accident
How to Avoid Head-on Collisions
Often, a head-on collision occurs so abruptly; you get to react within microseconds. You rarely get time to think and make the right decision. But with practice, you can condition your mind to respond automatically and avoid the head-on.
And, here is how you can train your mind to make the right move whenever you face a head-on collision. Anticipate the situations and places, as discussed above, where a head crash can happen. Always be alert to your surroundings as you drive. Look far down the road, and watch for erratic driving. You are likely to notice a negligent drive before it becomes a problem.
If you pay attention, you can avoid the crash or minimize its effect.
Another thing to do is to take extra care, especially on curvy roads. Avoid hugging the center-line and instead drive deep on the right side of your lane. You will evade the car that's a little wide coming around a blind curve.
Despite your meticulous driving skills, fate might place you in a situation where you encounter a head-on. For instance, you may see an oncoming vehicle crossing the center line and shooting straight at you.
What should you do?
Be calm, and quickly slow down while maintaining control of your vehicle. When you slow down, you reduce the forces in case the impact occurs. But if the other car keeps coming in your lane, drive off the road, to the right. You may end up crashing on the side of the way, but it will be less damaging than the head-on.
You can also minimize the fatality of a frontal crash if you use airbags plus a seat belt.
What Should I Do After a Head-on Collision?
You always do everything in your power to avoid accidents. But, one minute you are cruising along the highway, minding your own business. The next second, this SUV jumps the lane and hurtles towards you. You hit the brakes, but unfortunately, the inevitable happens. You have just had a head-on accident. So what do you do?
You need to know the steps to take to protect yourself and act according to the law.
If the accident has caused injuries or death, you should remain at the scene of the accident until the police arrive, unless you need urgent medical assistance.
If you leave the accident scene, you can be criminally charged for "hit and run," and you could be fined, have your driving privileges withdrawn, or have your driving license suspended.
However, if the accident only caused damages without injuring people, you can legally leave the scene after you identify yourself to the other party involved. Failure to identify yourself is a "misdemeanor hit and run" for which you can get a fine if charged.
Make sure to report the accident immediately. If the accident caused injuries, call 911 to report and seek medical assistance. But if there were no injuries, you should inform the local California police, highway patrol, or sheriff.
If injured in an accident, you should stay calm. Call or wait for assistance. Do not attempt to move if you are unable to do so as you may worsen your condition.
Move the cars to a safe area if they are blocking traffic because they can cause other accidents. But you can leave them where they are if it is dangerous to move them.
If someone was seriously injured or killed, you should leave the vehicles where they are until the police come.
Make sure to exchange contact information with the other accident victims and witnesses. You will need this information when filing a traffic accident occurring report, and when you need witnesses to testify at a future date.
The crucial information to collect includes the name and contact address, driver's license number, insurance card, and vehicle registration number. If the police come to the scene, get the officer's name and record it as well.
It is useful to take photos of the accident scene. They can help your insurance adjuster or your injury lawyer to figure out what happened. Besides, the pictures help you avoid being held responsible for damages that occurred later.
Make a record of your version of the accident as soon as you can because memories will fade as time goes by. Detail everything you can remember, such as the time and date of the accident, where it occurred, the approximate speed of each driver, and the road condition.
Report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. California law requires you to report the accident within ten days if the accident caused death, or injury, or damages exceeding $1000.
If you fail to report the accident, your driver's license can be suspended for up to one year.
Also, you should report the accident to your insurance and injury attorney to enable them to defend your claim.
Establishing Who's at Fault in a Head-on Collision
For a head crash to occur, one of the vehicles must cross to the wrong lane. If your car is in the right lane, then it is logical to assume that the other driver was at fault. But even then, you cannot attribute 100 percent blame until you get the complete picture. For instance, the driver could have swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian, an animal, or another vehicle that suddenly popped up from a side road.
Often, it will take an accident reconstruction specialist or forensic engineer to examine the skid marks on the road and figure out what happened or who was at fault.
That's why if you need to provide proof of fault, you should have all evidence documented to corroborate your version of the accident, including witness accounts, police records, the position of the vehicles, and marks on the road.
The at-fault driver in the head-on collision is liable for injuries and damages, regardless of whether the other driver has insurance.
According to California Law, fault is determined based on which driver was negligent in causing the accident.
Elements of Proving Negligence in a Head-On Collision
If you are a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove the four elements of negligence - duty, breach, causation, and damages - to show that the defendant acted negligently.
Duty of care: The first step is to assess if the defendant owed you a legal duty of care.
Every motor vehicle driver owes a duty of care to other road users, including other drivers and passengers. And it is the duty to drive safely and with reasonable care. The basic standard of care requires a driver to watch out for pedestrians, other vehicles and obstructions, in addition to controlling the speed and movement of the motor vehicle.
So the duty of care is the legal standard to prove when you sue the other driver for negligent driving, which resulted in an accident that injured you.
A breach of the duty: The second element to assess is whether the defendant breached the duty by doing or failing to do something that an average person would do under the same conditions.
For instance, any reasonably prudent person knows that taking a couple of beers and then driving can likely cause an accident, so will avoid it. So the defendant who drove drunk will probably be found negligent.
Causation: You can prove causation if you can show that the defendant's negligence actually caused your injury.
A second consideration here is on proximate cause, that is, whether the defendant could foresee that his actions could injure you.
Damages: Once you prove: a) the defendant had a duty to you; b) that he or she breached this duty; and c) that as a result of the breach, the head-on collision occurred, you now need to show that you were injured. You can prove your injury and damages by showing the medical expenses and costs for auto repair or replacements.
What to do if a Spouse or Partner is Killed in a Head-on Collision
If a head-on collision where you were not at fault kills a loved one, California law allows you to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. You can file a claim for damages for the following relatives:
- partner or spouse
- grandchildren (if their parents are decedent)
- anyone whose property you are entitled to according to the California intestate succession laws
Types of Damages that can be Claimed in a Head-on Collision Accident
The damages you can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit include loses you suffered after the death of a loved one such as:
- burial expenses
- funeral expenses
- loss of earnings the deceased would have earned
- compensation for the loss of companionship support and affection
Can You Get Damages When You are Partly Responsible for the Head-on Collision?
In some states, you cannot recover damages if you are partly responsible for the accident. But California is a “comparative fault state,” meaning that you may be eligible for damages even if you are partly responsible for the accident. This is because the fault is apportioned among the multiple parties based on their level of negligence.
Take an example where the jury finds that you are 80 percent at fault in causing the accident while the other driver's negligence accounts for 20 percent. In such a case, you can still sue to recover the 20 percent of the damages suffered resulting from the fault of the other party.
What Should You do if an Uninsured Driver Hits You?
While all drivers in California are by law required to carry a minimum level of insurance cover, some drive without insurance in violation of the law. If you get into a head-on collision with an uninsured driver, you may have to file a lawsuit against them to recover your damages. Unfortunately, they may not have enough money to cover your expenses. So you will have to meet the payment from your pocket, at a time you least expected.
To prevent such a situation, drivers take the uninsured and underinsured insurance cover. The package is designed to pay you damages when the at-fault driver does not have automobile insurance, or the policy they have is not enough to pay for your losses.
Find a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Many factors can cause head-on collision leading to injury or death. And whether you or the other driver was at fault, you need expert representation to make a personal injury claim. Our experienced attorneys at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm can help protect your legal rights.
Contact our Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer at 310-935-0089 today to guide you make the right claim and get your full compensation.