A head-on crash, also known as a frontal crash, is a type of auto collision that can cause extremely serious injury and auto damage, even more so than some other types of car accidents. This is due to the nature of the impact, in which both drivers are facing each other head-on and are very close to the site of impact.
A person who sustains injuries in this type of collision may be able to sue for damages, if they believe the other driver’s negligence caused it. In some cases, where a person is killed in a head-on collision, a wrongful death suit over a driver’s negligence may be filed on their behalf.
Head-on collisions often occur when one driver goes the wrong way down a one-way road or highway, or when one party to the accident was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How is Negligence Determined in a Head-On Accident?
Any driver of a vehicle owes a duty of care to everyone else on the road, including other car drivers and passengers. The duty of care is a legal standard which means the driver owes it to others on the road to exercise the care the average person would use in the same situation.
Therefore, to determine negligence in a lawsuit, the party bringing the suit (the Plaintiff) attempts to prove that the other driver (the Defendant) was negligent (did not meet the standard of care) in operating their automobile, and the result was an accident causing injury to the Plaintiff.
Of course, in a head-on collision, both drivers may be injured. They may both also be at fault in some degree. This can be difficult to prove in a head-on collision. More on this below.
First, let’s consider the elements of proving negligence. These are the element which must be proven in order to establish negligence:
- Duty: This is the duty described above, in which the driver of a vehicle owes it to other people on the road to drive as safely as the average person would in their situation.
- Breach of Duty: If a driver fail to meet this duty, they are considered to have “breached” it.
- Causation: It must be shown that the Defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the Plaintiff’s injury.
- Damages: Once it is has been shown that a Defendant did have a duty to the Plaintiff, that they breached this duty, and caused the head-on collision, the Plaintiff must show that they sustained physical injuries and/or property loss. This is done by the Plaintiff showing evidence of their medical expenses, and their costs for auto repair or replacement.
Difficulty of Proving Fault in a Head-on Collision
Often, in a head-on collision, the force of the impact send the cars involved in different directions, away from the site of the accident. Police reports describing the scene, or witness accounts of the scene, are integral to determining fault, because the positioning of the car can show who was at fault. When this isn’t possible, damage on the cars may be used to show fault.
Even so, it can still be difficult to prove who was at fault when the cars hit each other head-on, as opposed to one driver careening into another from the side or the back. In a head-on collision case, it may be that both drivers sue each other.
Another issue is that negligence is handled differently according to the state you live in, because each state has its own laws on the matter. Some states have comparative negligence, in which fault is apportioned between the two drivers according to the degree of fault they each are responsible for. Other states have contributory negligence, in which a Plaintiff cannot recover damages if they were even slightly negligent themselves in causing the accident.
Can the Defendant Claim that They Did Not Cause the Accident?
Yes. The Defendant may be able to use certain defenses to reduce or eliminate a Plaintiff’s award. They may claim that the Plaintiff did not actually suffer injury as a result of the frontal collision. In the event that it’s established that the accident did cause the Plaintiff’s injuries, the Defendant may also claim that the Plaintiff’s negligence contributed to their injuries. As described above, whether the state where the accident occurred has comparative or contributory negligence will influence the outcome of the case.
If the Plaintiff is established as being negligent in a comparative negligence state, their damages will be reduced proportional to their amount of fault. However, if they are in a contributory negligence state, they will be barred from recovering damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with My Head-On Collision Lawsuit?
The laws which govern a head-on collision vary from state to state. If you have been involved in a head-on collision, you should consider contacting an experienced car accident lawyer to assist you with the legal process of pursuing compensation for your accident-related injuries.