Car AccidentsHead-On Collisions: Proving Liability in Opposite-Direction Accident Cases

June 12, 20240

Head-on collisions are among the most dangerous types of car crashes. When two vehicles collide head-on at high speeds, the force of impact is immense. Proving who was at fault and liable for injuries and damages can be complex. This article examines how liability is determined in head-on and opposite-direction accident cases.

Understanding Liability in Head-On Crashes

Liability refers to legal responsibility for damages and injuries. To hold a driver liable for a head-on collision, their actions must have breached a duty of care which led to the accident. Drivers owe a duty of care to others on the road. This includes driving attentively, obeying traffic laws, and taking care to avoid foreseeable hazards. Breaching this duty by negligent driving often leads to liability.

Common actions that breach a driver’s duty of care and cause head-on crashes include:

  • Driving distracted – texting, eating, or otherwise diverting attention from the road
  • Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Fatigued driving or falling asleep at the wheel
  • Reckless driving – speeding, illegal passing, ignoring signs or signals
  • Driving the wrong way – entering an exit ramp or driving in the wrong lane

Proving which driver breached their duty through negligent actions establishes liability. However, both drivers’ actions will be scrutinized. Comparative negligence laws mean a plaintiff’s compensation can be reduced if they were also partly negligent.

Evidence Needed to Prove Liability

Head-on collisions usually leave behind significant evidence that can prove which driver was liable. Useful evidence includes:

Police Accident Reports

Police reports provide official documentation of the accident circumstances. They include witness statements, sobriety test results, estimated speeds, and diagrammed vehicle positions. Police determine which driver was cited for violations like DUI, distracted driving, or reckless driving. Citations are strong initial evidence of fault.

Crash Data Retrieval (CDR)

CDR uses a vehicle’s airbag control module to provide detailed driving data in the seconds before a crash. It can reveal steering input, braking, acceleration, and even seatbelt usage. CDR can prove factors like speeding, distraction through sudden steering inputs, or non-use of brakes.

Dash Cam and Cell Phone Video

Video from cars or witnesses often captures head-on collisions. It provides visual documentation of how the crash occurred and each driver’s actions. Videos may need analysis by accident reconstruction experts to fully interpret speed and other factors.

Blood Alcohol Testing

Mandatory blood draws for impaired driving suspects provide laboratory proof of intoxication levels. Results over the legal limit of 0.08% BAC will support liability for DUI. Refusal to submit a chemical test can also be used as evidence of likely impairment.

Witness Testimony

Witness accounts offer critical context for how the crash happened. Their descriptions of driving behaviors, traffic conditions, and lights/signals can corroborate driver negligence. Witnesses may also share key details like a driver crossing the center line or speeding prior to impact.

Determining Negligence in Complex Cases

While some head-on collisions have an obvious singular cause, liability can become complicated when:

  • Both drivers allege the other crossed the center line
  • Adverse weather or road conditions are a factor
  • There are no immediate witnesses to the pre-crash driving

In these cases, thorough investigation and crash reconstruction are required to prove which driver acted negligently. Physical evidence like skid marks, vehicle positions post-crash, and extent of damage can indicate speeds, braking, and direction of travel. Photogrammetry uses carefully measured crash scene photos to mathematically analyze what happened. With extensive evidence-gathering and physics-based analysis, crash experts can scientifically determine each driver’s role in the collision.

Even with strong reconstruction evidence, comparative negligence may apply. If adverse conditions existed, both drivers likely had a duty to take heightened precautions like reduced speed. A plaintiff may have their damages award reduced if they did not act as a reasonable driver would have in the circumstances.

Damages Available in Head-On Accident Claims

When a driver’s negligence is proven as the majority cause of a head-on crash, they will be liable for the resulting damages. Depending on crash severity and injuries, damages can include:

  • Medical expenses from immediate emergency care through long-term rehabilitation: This includes ambulance transportation, ER treatment, hospitalization, medications, surgery and anesthesia, physical therapy, assistive devices like wheelchairs, and ongoing care such as nursing services or residential facilities for the severely injured.
  • Lost income and reduced earning capacity: Head-on collision victims often must take extensive time off work for recovery. Many are left permanently disabled and unable to continue their prior career. Documented lost wages, benefits, and future diminished earning capacity are recoverable damages.
  • Property damage to both vehicles involved: Repair or total loss value of both vehicles in the crash is included. Collisions at high speeds often result in total losses.
  • Pain and suffering: Head-on crashes frequently cause severe injuries like paralysis, traumatic brain injury, broken bones, and disfigurement. Victims experience physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, and reduced quality of life. Courts will place a monetary value on these intangible damages.
  • Loss of companionship or consortium: For severe injuries or death, a spouse can make a claim for damages related to loss of family services like household help, intimacy, and emotional support. Parents can be compensated for the lost companionship of an injured or deceased child.
  • Punitive damages in cases of gross negligence like DUI: If a driver showed blatant disregard for others’ safety through extreme recklessness, courts may award punitive damages meant to punish and deter such conduct. Drunk driving is a common rationale for imposing punitive damages.

Those injured or whose family member was killed by a negligent driver have legal rights to pursue compensation for all applicable damages. An experienced attorney can maximize the claim value through thorough evidence-gathering and negotiation skills.

If you’ve been in a head-on collision…

Head-on crashes often result in severe, life-altering harm. The negligent driver who caused the collision should be held fully accountable through a liability lawsuit or insurance claim. Our firm has a proven track record of success in recovering maximum compensation for head-on and opposite-direction accident victims. If you or a loved one has suffered in such a crash, contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation today.

You can visit our office at 700 Bishop St, Ste 2100, Honolulu, HI, 96813 or call us today for a free consultation on (808) 745-1592.

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