In 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that head-on car accidents were responsible for roughly 11% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes. Head-on collisions caused more than 3,600 fatalities and several thousand injuries.
Head-on crashes seem to occur with greater frequency and severity in rural areas of the country. They are responsible for an average of 13% of all fatal car crashes in rural areas, but only 7% in cities and suburbs.
Some of this is attributed to the fact that rural roadways are often poorly lit. They also tend to be more narrow, full of twists and turns, and in many cases, without any pavement markings to indicate the middle and edges, all of which can contribute to a head-on car accident.
A head-on collision is one of the most catastrophic kinds of car accidents a person can be involved in. This guide covers common causes of head-on accidents, the kinds of injuries these motor vehicle accidents can cause, and who is likely at fault when this kind of collision takes place.
What Is a Head-On Collision?
A head-on accident occurs when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions are involved in a full frontal collision, meaning they crash head-first into one another. A head-on crash can also take place when a vehicle collides with a stationary object, such as a road barrier or a utility pole. The direct impact of a multi-vehicle, head-on accident generates an incredible amount of force. Although both vehicles might crumple and absorb some of the impacts from the crash, these kinds of car accidents are generally among the most catastrophic and life-threatening of all.
Why Do Head-On Collisions Happen?
Driver overcorrection is a leading cause of head-on collisions. This happens when the driver begins to veer off the road and then yanks the steering wheel overly hard, trying to get their car back onto the roadway. However, instead of re-entering their lane, they swerve into oncoming traffic.Other frequent causes of head-on collisions are drivers failing to yield the right of way, or making an illegal turn. More common causes of head-on collisions include:
- Distracted driving
- Illegal driving maneuvers
- Driving while drowsy
- Driving under the influence
- Reckless driving
Head-on crashes lead to serious injuries and even deaths. In fact, head-on accidents are one of the most fatal forms of car accidents. Both drivers and passengers can be crushed during the impact or get ejected from the vehicle.
Who Is at Fault in a Head-On Collision?
In most instances, one or both of the drivers involved in a head-on crash could be responsible for the accident. For example, a driver could get behind the wheel when they are fatigued or have had too much to drink, or they might engage in distracted driving by using their cell phone. This might cause them to drift out of their lane and crash directly into an oncoming car. In other scenarios, such as a roadway being poorly laid out or lacking proper signage or signals, the entity or agency responsible for roadway design could be at fault. A vehicle or parts manufacturer might be to blame if a vehicle malfunction, such as faulty brakes or an electrical issue, caused the head-on collision. It is essential to correctly identify who is at fault for any motor vehicle accident if you plan to file a personal injury claim to recover your losses. Even though the specific laws vary from state to state, all states have rules that govern fault in a car accident so that the injured party or their surviving family member can seek compensation for the loss experienced. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to conduct a thorough investigation into your car accident and correctly identify the at-fault party as well as pursue seeking recovery.
What if More Than One Driver is at Fault for a Head-on Collision?
Many times, only one of the involved drivers is at fault for a head-on accident. In some cases, however, both of the drivers involved contributed to the accident. In states that follow comparative negligence laws, if an accident victim shares liability for their own injuries, they are still eligible to pursue a claim. These states allow victims to collect financial compensation from the other at-fault driver with the understanding that it will be reduced by their own percentage of fault. For instance, a victim with $100,000 in damages who is 20% liable for the accident would not be able to recover any more than $80,000.States that follow a system of pure comparative fault permit the victim to sue another driver and collect less compensation if they were partially at fault. On the other hand, states that abide by modified comparative fault rules allow victims to sue only if their percentage of fault for an accident is less than 51%. Finally, we have a few states that practice contributory negligence. These states do not permit victims to pursue a personal injury claim if they were even 1% at fault for the accident. So, if a driver is 1% responsible for a head-on collision, they will not be able to collect any compensation whatsoever from the driver who was 99% at fault.
Are Head-On Crashes Survivable?
Whether or not someone survives a head-on crash hinges on several different factors, such as the speed at which each of the vehicles was traveling, where people were seated in the vehicle, which safety features the car was equipped with, and if the vehicle’s occupants were wearing seatbelts. Even when victims are lucky enough to survive, head-on collisions often result in severe injuries. Collision victims should always speak with a qualified personal injury attorney to determine if they are eligible to collect financial compensation because the medical bills that arise from this kind of crash are usually extremely high.
What Are Common Head-On Collision Injuries?
All head-on accidents are particularly dangerous due to the momentum and force involved in the collision. When two vehicles collide with one another, the combination of their weight and size creates an extremely violent impact. Drivers and passengers commonly sustain serious and life-threatening injuries, such as:
An injury most commonly seen in rear-end accidents, whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck that can also occur in head-on crashes. During a frontal impact, the victim’s head is thrust forward and then back in rapid succession. Chronic pain, nerve injuries, and soft tissue damage could plague the victim for years to come. To make matters worse, the symptoms of whiplash often do not manifest until several days after the injury has actually occurred. After being involved in a car accident, you should always seek immediate medical treatment, even if you think you are unharmed.
Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
The force of a head-on accident can easily cause damage to back muscles, as well as the nerves and discs that run up and down the spinal column. Serious back injuries can leave their victims with a long-term or permanent loss of mobility and chronic, crippling pain.Likewise, spinal cord injuries can cause complete or partial paralysis below the site of the injury. Damage to the spinal cord is often life-changing because doctors can only do so much when it comes to repairing the damage. Although contemporary medicine can offer care and support, a severed spinal cord will cause drastic and permanent changes to a person’s life.
In a head-on car accident, it is normal for those inside the vehicle to make contact with its internal structures. Being shoved into the dashboard, steering column, or windows, or being struck by loose objects as they are thrown about the cabin, could lead to internal organ damage, internal bleeding, brain injuries, and fractured bones. While safety features such as airbags, roll cages, and seat belts can reduce the severity of blunt-force injuries, there is no guarantee they will save your life.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) include coma, loss of consciousness, speech impairment, headaches, behavioral changes, memory loss, and a sudden decrease in fine motor skills. TBIs are life-altering, no question about it.TBIs do not always show up on CT scans or X-rays right away. In fact, it is not unusual for a TBI victim to display absolutely no overt symptoms until hours or even several days after an accident. If you were medically cleared by a physician after being involved in a head-on car accident but are experiencing symptoms of a TBI, get to an emergency room right away.
Broken bones are one of the most common injuries caused by head-on collisions. Complex fractures, fractures that involve multiple breaks in a single bone, and compound fractures, fractures where the broken bone has penetrated the skin, typically require multiple surgeries and a long, agonizing rehabilitation period. Even though most people have experienced a broken bone at some point in their life, the ones caused by head-on collisions can lead to long-term or lifelong disabilities that interfere with a victim’s ability to earn a living and enjoy their life.
While most modern cars are built with crumple zones to reduce the severity of any accident-related injuries, even the most fortified of structural features might not be enough to prevent chest injuries. A chest injury could come from a victim being crushed by the vehicle, slamming into something outside the vehicle, or being struck by loose objects inside the vehicle.
Internal Organ Damage
When a person’s body comes crashing to a stop after a head-on car accident, their vital organs may be perforated, punctured, dislodged, or torn. This can cause life-threatening internal bleeding and organ damage that requires immediate medical treatment.
How to Avoid Head-On Collisions
According to the National Safety Council, the best way to avoid a head-on car accident is to remember the four Rs. They are:
- Read: Read the road ahead. Pay attention to your surroundings. Know what is ahead of your vehicle, behind your vehicle, and next to your vehicle. Always be looking ahead and be aware of the next cross street, road sign, or highway exit.
- Right: Always keep to the right. Studies have shown that the safest place to drive on a two-lane street is just to the right of the middle of your lane. This puts you nearer to the shoulder and further away from any oncoming traffic. If you notice an oncoming vehicle driving too close to the center line, slowly decelerate and move slightly to the right-hand side of your lane.
- Reduce: Reduce your speed. If you notice something dangerous, unusual, or unknown in the roadway ahead of you, slow down. Driving at a reduced rate of speed gives you more control and lowers the force of any impact.
- Off Road: If you see a vehicle cross the center, never slam on your brakes or yank the wheel. This can cause you to skid off the road and lose control of your car entirely. Steering purposefully and carefully out of the path of the other vehicle whenever possible.
Talk to an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you are seeking legal advice after being injured in a head-on collision or any other kind of auto accident, or if your loved one was killed in a head-on collision that someone else caused, contact Local Accident Reports today and schedule your free consultation with a personal injury lawyer near you by calling (888) 657-1460.