Head-On Collisions: Injuries & Proving Fault (2024)

Tamara Armstrong


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 5 mins

A head-on car collision can destroy more than your car and impact your physical, emotional and financial health for years. While frontal accidents are relatively rare, they can have severe consequences for all involved parties. If another is at fault for your accident, you could qualify for healthcare costs, car repair, loss of wages and other damages.

Ready to talk to an attorney who can help? Fill out the form on this page to get started today.

What Is a Head-On Collision?

Head-on collisions usually occur when cars driving in opposite directions collide frontally. A frontal collision can also happen in a single-car accident, for example, if a vehicle crashes into a wall or another object head-on.

What Happens in a Head-On Collision?

Head-on accidents are particularly dangerous due to the combined force of the vehicles’ momentum, which increases the severity of impact. If collisions occur at high speed, for example, on highways, the result can be catastrophic, with serious injuries and fatalities.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), almost 11% of head-on crashes involved fatalities in 2021. In comparison, sideswipe collisions only had a 3.5% fatality rate in 2021. While head-on crashes are relatively rare, they are responsible for a large percentage of injuries and fatalities on US roads.

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Causes of Head-On Collision Accidents

Most accidents, including head-on crashes, happen due to driver errors, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Here are some of the more common causes of head-on car collisions:

  • Speeding: Excessive speed combined with unsafe passing maneuvers can lead to collisions when two vehicles traveling toward each other share the same lane.
  • Driving Intoxicated: Impaired drivers have longer reaction times and may veer into opposite traffic lanes, causing head-on accidents.
  • Drowsy and Fatigued Driving: Fatigued driving could lead to head-on accidents, especially when drivers fall asleep at the wheel and drift into oncoming traffic.
  • Driving on the Wrong Side: Inexperienced drivers or those unfamiliar with the traffic pattern may enter a highway on the wrong side, causing devastating accidents.

However, not all head-on collision accidents occur due to driver error. Vehicle defects, poor road maintenance or reduced visibility in bad weather can also result in severe head-on car collisions.

What Is a Major Cause of Fatal Head-On Crashes?

Human error and negligence, such as speeding and impaired driving, are major causes of all head-on crashes, including those involving fatalities.

What Are Typical Head-On Collision Injuries?

Injuries can vary widely depending on speed, angle of impact and whether vehicle occupants were wearing seatbelts. Common injuries in head-on accidents can include the following:

  • Whiplash. During impact, the head violently moves forward and then back, causing damage to neck muscles, tendons and ligaments. While mild whiplash can resolve with time, severe whiplash can cause chronic pain and other health problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Debilitating head injuries, such as TBI, can be prevalent in head-on collisions. A significant TBI can lead to cognitive problems, permanent brain damage and even death.
  • Internal Organ Damage. Vital organs may be crushed, torn or punctured due to the sudden, forceful impact in a head-on crash. Internal bleeding and organ damage can be life-threatening and typically require emergency medical assistance.
  • Spinal Cord Damage. Back injuries can be common in head-on crashes. Victims suffering a damaged or severed spinal cord may face partial or complete paralysis.

If you suffered severe injuries in a head-on collision, you’ll likely feel the impacts for years to come. However, you should not have to carry the burden alone if another is at fault for the crash.

Who Is At-Fault in a Head-On Crash?

Who’s at fault will depend on the circumstances leading up to the head-on accident. Typically, the driver in the wrong lane is responsible. However, there may be situations where other drivers are responsible or fault is shared. For example, a car involved in a prior accident may get pushed into the opposing lane, causing a secondary head-on crash.

Occasionally, a head-on car collision may not be the fault of a driver but could occur due to a vehicle defect, such as a tire blowout or brake malfunction. In this case, a car part manufacturer could be to blame. Accidents can also occur due to a lack of road maintenance or poor signage, and a local government agency may be responsible for your damages.

How Is Fault Determined?

Determining fault is essential, as the person, business, or government body responsible for your accident is generally liable for your damages. Establishing fault is crucial for receiving a settlement from an insurance company or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. Fault is typically determined by examining all the available evidence, including police reports, eyewitness testimony and reports from technical experts.

What Is Comparative Fault?

Most states follow the legal principle of comparative fault, meaning you can still recover compensation even if you have some fault in an accident. However, your damages are typically reduced by your degree of fault. For example, if you have $100,000 in damages and are found 20% at fault for the head-on crash, you can only recover $80,000.

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Compensation You Could Receive for Head-On Collision Injuries

If you suffered severe injuries in a head-on collision accident, you could qualify for damages. What you can receive will depend on the circumstances of your accident and the severity of your injuries and can include the following:

  • Medical expenses and future treatment costs
  • Income loss and loss of future earning potential
  • Ongoing care
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disability
  • Reduced quality of life

If your loved one died in a head-on car collision, you could pursue damages with a wrongful death lawsuit. No compensation can make up for the loss of your loved one. However, recovering damages can help you and your family recover financially from the expenses associated with your loved one’s death.

Your best next step after being involved in a head-on crash is to seek legal assistance. A car accident lawyer can assess your case, determine your damages and help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Fill out our form today to get help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Here’s what to do when you’re involved in a head-on car collision or another serious accident:

    • See a Doctor. If you did not receive medical attention at the accident scene, seek medical advice as soon as possible in the following days.
    • Gather Evidence. Collect as much evidence as possible, such as photos of vehicle damage, witness statements, police reports and medical statements.

    Contact an Attorney. Contacting a car accident lawyer can be crucial for protecting your legal rights, especially if you suffered life-changing injuries or a loved one died in a head-on accident.

  • An experienced attorney specializing in car accidents will aim to maximize your compensation. However, there are some things you can do that can help your case and maximize your settlement:

    • Don’t accept an insurance settlement before discussing the terms and conditions with your attorney to ensure you’re not getting shortchanged.
    • Refrain from talking about an ongoing personal injury claim, and avoid posting any information about your injuries or case on social media.
    • Don’t provide a recorded statement; let your attorney handle all negotiations with an insurance company.
    • Cooperate fully with your lawyer and promptly provide them with the requested documents or information.
  • Whether you need legal representation largely depends on the circumstances of your accident and the extent of your damages. However, consider hiring an attorney in any of the following circumstances:

    • You or a loved one suffered a severe injury
    • An insurance company disputes your claim
    • You have high damages, such as medical bills and income losses
    • You may never be able to return to work again
    • You are permanently disabled due to the accident
    • The fault for the crash is disputed, or the other side blames you
  • There is no one leading cause of head-on crashes. However, most accidents occur due to drivers’ careless or dangerous driving behaviors, such as driving too fast, texting and driving and impaired driving.

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