Head on collisions happen rarely. But when they do happen, the tremendous forces involved upon impact means that the injuries are usually catastrophic or fatal. As a result, it is important to know what it is, how fault is determined, who is at fault, and how to avoid it. This guide will help answer those questions.
WHAT IS A HEAD-ON COLLISION?
A head on collision (also called a frontal collision) occurs when two vehicles travelling the opposite direction collide into each other. If there is impact damage to the front of both vehicles, then the chances are there was a head on collision. They can happen with a car, truck, or motorcycle. If the front of each vehicle crashes into each other, it is a head on collision or frontal collision no matter what type of vehicle is involved. They usually happen when one driver crosses the center of the road and drives into oncoming traffic. They also happen when a driver is simply driving the wrong way in traffic.
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HOW IS FAULT DETERMINED IN A HEAD-ON COLLISION?
Fault is determined in a head on collision, (also referred to as a frontal crash) just like fault is determined in any other type of car crash. The concept of negligence is used. Negligence is defined as the failure to use reasonable care to avoid causing injury to someone else. So, in a head on collision or frontal crash, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to avoid causing injury while driving. Reasonable care means a driver is paying attention to the road ahead, paying attention to the road signs, not drifting into the oncoming lane of traffic, and not driving the wrong way on the road. When one or more drivers fail to do these things, it can be easy to determine who was at fault.
CAUSES OF HEAD-ON COLLISIONS
There are many causes of head-on collisions. Most of them stem from a driver not using reasonable care while driving. Below are the most common ones:
- Traveling the wrong way on the road
- Crossing over the center line
- Falling asleep at the wheel and drifting into oncoming traffic
- Failing to see, read, or follow road signs describing the direction traffic is supposed to be traveling
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Distracted driving by doing things such as texting, talking on the phone, or using a GPS
- Passing a vehicle ahead on a two lane road by driving in the opposite lane of travel
- Driving in dangerous weather conditions
- Turning the wrong way down a one way street
THE DRIVER GOING THE WRONG WAY IS USUALLY AT FAULT FOR CAUSING A HEAD-ON CRASH
The obvious answer is that the vehicle traveling in the wrong direction is usually at fault in a head on crash. For example, an intoxicated driver may begin weaving side to side. At some point the driver may then swerve so far to one side that the car enters the lane of oncoming traffic. Another example would be a driver new to an area does not realize a particular street is one way. The driver turns down the one-way street in the wrong direction and crashes into oncoming traffic.
But this is not always the case. Sometimes a crash between automobiles traveling the same direction sends one or more of them into oncoming traffic. In this case fault for the head on crash would be assigned to whichever vehicle bumped the other.
Other times, the head on crash is not the fault of any of the drivers. Examples of this include one of the drivers having a sudden unexpected medical emergency, a car has a tire blowout, a vehicle has a steering defect, a roadway is improperly constructed, or a road sign indicating the proper direction of traffic has been removed.
HOW DO YOU PROVE WHO IS AT FAULT IN A HEAD-ON COLLISION?
Many times, the at fault driver will admit to they caused the front end collision. Other times, all drivers involved will have different recollections of what happened and or will lie about what happened in hopes of shifting the blame. Lastly, sometimes the impact is so severe that neither driver remembers what happened. In all of these circumstances the physical evidence at the scene may help prove who was at fault for causing the front end collision. However, it is not always easy to this figure out.
Unfortunately, law enforcement does not always concentrate their efforts on preserving all of the evidence at the scene. Furthermore, by the time you go to a injury lawyer, much of the evidence at the scene will be gone. As a result, if you are in a front end collision, you may be the best person to gather the evidence before it disappears. So, if you are physically able to do so, and you remember to do so, you should definitely gather what you can. Evidence to gather will include photos of the front end damage to the vehicles, photos of the resting points of the vehicles, photos depicting the location of debris from the crash, and photos of skid marks. Names, addresses, and phone numbers of eyewitnesses will also be important.
An experienced auto accident attorney may be able to gather whatever evidence you are not able to collect yourself. In addition, once everything has been collected, an attorney can also analyze everything, compare it to what the drivers are saying, and come to a conclusion about which driver was driving on the wrong side of the road and why.
Sometimes, however, you may need the help of an accident reconstruction expert to figure who is at at fault for a front end collision. This type of expert is trained to look at the evidence and reconstruct what happened. But in the end, it may be one drivers word against the other. If this happens it may come down to who is more believable regarding which driver caused the head on collision.
COMMON INJURIES THAT OCCUR IN HEAD-ON COLLISIONS
Because of the forces involved in head on crashes, they usually cause severe injuries and even death. The most common injuries that occur in this type of crash include:
- Abdominal injuries
- Foot, ankle and lower extremity injuries and fractures
- Pelvic fractures
- Chest and rib fractures
- Head trauma, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Whiplash, neck pain, and back pain