The words “head-on collision” are enough to make even the most seasoned first responder’s blood run cold. Traffic accidents claim the lives of thousands of people every year, and one of the most serious is a head-on collision. Head-on collisions are responsible for some of the most serious injuries and often result in fatalities. If you were in a head-on accident, you may feel overwhelmed and not know where to turn.
What happens next? How can you protect your rights and recover compensation?
Hire a car accident lawyer. Read on to learn why.
What is a head-on collision?
A head-on collision happens when two vehicles traveling towards each other collide, either directly front end to front end, or often deflected slightly as one or both turn out of the impact. The force of these collisions can cause severe injuries at residential speeds and even more damage at highway speeds.
Protective features on vehicles have come a long way since the development of the automobile. Some elements of cars offer a little bit of protection, such as crumple zones, forward placement of motors, bumpers, seat belts, and airbags. These elements do their part in reducing and displacing the force of impact that you and your vehicle will experience. However, safety features can only do so much to protect you, and the forces will still travel through both vehicles and into the drivers and passengers.
Contributing factors in head-on collisions
Several factors can result in a head-on collision. Weather conditions such as rain, fog, or even ice can reduce visibility and your vehicle’s traction to maneuver out of a collision before it happens. Crossing over into your lane, or cutting through an intersection on a misjudged turn, leaves almost no time to react. Driving at night without headlights turned on, or burned out bulbs, can also result in a head-on collision.
Other factors include:
- Lack of road signs or a negligent driver simply ignoring signs can result in a head-on collision. Driving up a one-way street or the wrong way up an interstate on-ramp leaves little time for other drivers to react. The elderly, new drivers, or people with visual or cognitive impairments often find themselves in accidents. Poorly maintained, missing, and defaced warning signs give drivers little chance to avoid catastrophe.
- Drunk or impaired drivers find themselves in a large percentage of head-on collisions. When intoxicated, drivers often get what is known as “target fixation.” Their vision focuses on objects coming at them, especially at night when the headlamps of oncoming traffic draw them to the opposite lanes. One moment, you are driving down the highway, and the next, a vehicle from oncoming traffic drifts into your lane and smashes into you and your family. Much of the time, the intoxicated driver doesn’t even realize what has happened until it is too late.
- Reckless driving contributes to many head-on collisions. Drag racing, speeding, or other aggressive driving can turn deadly within heartbeats, especially at high speeds. Following the road rules lets everyone share that space, which is vital especially when you consider that each of us is in charge of thousands of pounds of steel, rubber, and glass moving at high velocity.
- Vehicle malfunction affects the percentage of head-on collisions, especially on highways and interstates. Trucks with tire blowouts, failed brakes, and broken steering can veer into oncoming traffic, even across medians. Interstates are becoming more and more safeguarded with cables, guardrails, and other accident suppression systems, but they can only do so much to prevent a vehicle from crossing barriers.
- Texting while driving is on par with drunk and impaired driving. Studies have shown that reaction times greatly diminish when texting and driving. Many states have enacted laws with heavy penalties for texting and driving to limit the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities that distracted driving can cause.
What injuries do head-on collisions cause?
Head-on collisions are responsible for some of the worst injuries and fatalities. Despite airbags, seat belts, and crumple zones, fatalities are too common at higher speeds. At the very least, you are looking at some serious injuries that will require hospitalization, recovery time, and even permanent disabilities in some cases.
Here are some common injuries related to head-on collisions:
- Head and Neck Injuries: Very common in head-on injuries, spinal and Traumatic Brain Injuries result when the soft tissue of your central nervous system is suddenly stopped or experiences other sudden accelerations. From basic whiplash to severing the spinal cord to different degrees of TBI, the brain and spinal cord are vulnerable to injuries from head-on collisions. With TBI, the brain bruises on both the side of the impact and on the opposite side as it bounces back and forth inside the skull. The resulting pressure due to fluid buildup, blood, and swelling will continue to cause more damage to the brain unless the pressure can be relieved through medical procedures.
- Burns: Head-on collisions affect important parts of most cars, such as radiators, fuel systems, batteries, and exhaust. Damaging these areas can result in fire or very hot or acidic fluids burning the occupants of the vehicles. Burning fuel spreads quickly and is very difficult to avoid, especially if your safety systems are deployed or you cannot open your doors or windows to escape. Hybrid and electric vehicles may explode from impacting the batteries used to power them. Even airbags can result in burns as they deploy and your face makes contact with the airbags during impact.
- Broken bones: The impact may break the bones of drivers or passengers. Fractures can range from fingers and toes to femurs and even skull fractures depending on the force of the collision.
- Cuts: Broken glass and twisted metal resulting from a collision can cut soft tissue of the passengers when they come into contact with it during a collision. Being ejected through the windshield or other glass, especially if seat belts aren’t properly worn, will cause severe lacerations. The tiny pieces of broken safety glass resulting from impact are a hazard for cuts and disfigurement. Limb amputations on twisted metal are not uncommon in head-on collisions.
- Bruising and internal injuries: Seatbelt compression or being impacted with collapsed parts of the vehicle can cause a hematoma, which is the pooling of blood under the skin’s surface. Internal organs may also become damaged as blood vessels shear, and concussive forces rupture soft muscle and organ tissue internally. A steering wheel during an impact (especially in a car without an airbag) can crush a ribcage or shatter a skull during impact.
What to do after a head-on collision
Head-on collisions often result in very serious injuries. A hospital may treat you for cuts and contusions, broken bones, and even traumatic brain injuries. You may require surgeries, pain medication, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and even psychological assessments and treatment for post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.
Head-on collisions often result in death, which also means that if you have survived the accident, there will be a great deal of trauma to overcome. For those who do not survive, doctors may have used heroic efforts to save their lives. In which case, funeral arrangements, medical bills, and even compensation for their dependents become a concern.
If the accident was minor, resulting only in damage to the vehicles and some superficial injuries, there is still the matter of repairing or replacing property, payment of medical bills, and other compensation the victims deserve. Head-on collisions often affect vehicles with permanent problems that can cost thousands of dollars to repair and likely create recurring problems.
Depending on insurance, as Florida is a no-fault state, these damages may exceed what your insurance company and the person at fault for the accident can pay. Depending upon the situation, you may obtain additional compensation through a lawsuit.
Steps you can take
- Don’t Panic: The aftermath of a serious car accident will be stressful. From making phone calls to insurance companies to possibly spending time in the hospital, your life will change. Make a to-do list of what has to be done and check something off every day, even if it is just one thing. Stressing out after a traumatic event will likely trigger your fight or flight reactions. You could either find yourself freezing and unable to function or wanting to escape the situation.
- Medical care: Be sure to go to your scheduled doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and checkups. If you have been hospitalized, try to work with your medical care providers. Your health is a priority, and your physical recovery is what’s most important. Taking time to heal early on will help in the long run.
- Psychological therapy: Practice self-care, be patient with yourself and others, and ask for help without fear. You are likely grieving the major changes in your life, whether struggling with healing physically, the emotional loss of a loved one, or new physical challenges. Try to normalize as much as possible. Go to your job, and spend time with friends or family, but be aware that you may be healing in other ways.
- Document everything: Get a three-ring binder and collect any receipts, invoices, bills, and statements associated with your medical bills and your financial losses. If you can, scan all of these documents and keep them together in a file on your computer. If you were able to get information at the time of the accident, such as insurance information, names of witnesses, and the names of responding law enforcement, keep that information in the file as well.
- Contact an attorney: Your attorney will be able to take most of the burden as far as the legal, insurance, and possible litigation regarding your accident. As you recover physically and mentally, they can present the information you gathered to obtain a settlement that helps you get your life back together.
How a Lawyer Can Help
A head-on collision can cause you and your passengers unimaginable and devastating injuries. With medical bills stacking up and months (if not years) of recovery up ahead, the experience can feel isolating, endless, and cold. If you are dealing with recovering from such a traumatic event, an attorney will be an ally you can count on.
An attorney will help you navigate this system which is punctuated with various deadlines to submit documentation, court appearances, mediation with insurance companies as well as opposing counsel. If an insurance company is more worried about their bottom line and saving a buck than they are helping you put your life back together, you will need help.
An attorney can ensure that your rights are protected and that you get the compensation you deserve. If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney can present you with various options, all the way up through a trial.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Tampa
By hiring a skilled attorney, you have someone in your corner who can get you the settlement or compensation to get on with the rest of your life. A head-on collision is a situation that will impact you for the rest of your life. As a survivor, you need help during this difficult time. Contact an experienced attorney today to see how they can help.