Head-On Collisions in California

August 11, 2022 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

Head-On Collisions in California

When operating a motor vehicle, you are primarily watching the road in front of you. That’s where you are moving to and that’s where hitting something would cause the most severe collision. 

Unfortunately, you cannot fully predict what is going to happen from every angle. There are many different types of car accidents that drivers are at risk for rear-end collisions, side-impact crashes, and others can be devastating. In this article, we’ll focus on the dangers and possible compensation for head-on collisions in California. 

What Is a Head-On Collision?

Head-on collisions, or frontal collisions, are often viewed as the most dangerous type of car crash. These accidents occur when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions run into each other. This can happen between cars, motorcycles, trucks, etc. 

An accident is also sometimes considered “head-on” when an automobile runs directly into a stationary object, such as a lamppost, tree, or other barrier. While head-on collisions are less frequent than other types of crashes, they are the most likely to be fatal.

Why Are Head-On Collisions Dangerous?

The percentage of deaths from head-on crashes is higher than other accident types because of the total force involved. Even with airbags and seatbelts, the combined impact of two vehicles moving directly towards each other can be too much to handle. Depending on the weight of each vehicle and the speeds they are traveling at, a head-on crash can generate a huge amount of force on both drivers. 

Determining Fault in a Head-On Collision

Even though the injuries resulting from a head-on collision are often more serious, you still need to prove that the other party was negligent if you wish to recover compensation from them. Because California is an at-fault state that uses pure comparative negligence, the damages you recover will be directly proportional to the amount of fault you hold. 

A Bakersfield car accident lawyer can help you prove the following elements in a head-on collision to improve your chances of getting compensation:

  • Causation: You will need to establish a direct link between the negligent actions of the other driver and the injuries you sustained. You can do so by proving that the accident would not have happened if not for their mistake or ignorance.
  • Duty of care: Your argument should show that the other driver had some expectation on them of not hurting you. When operating a motor vehicle, the law states that individuals should drive in such a way as to avoid injury to others. This can include staying in one’s lane, abiding by speed limits, etc.
  • Breach of duty: You must also prove that the other driver neglected to fulfill their duty of care. This means they were doing something that went against their responsibility to keep other drivers safe. This includes speeding, not using proper signals, or disobeying other rules of the road. 
  • Damages: The final factor in a head-on collision accident is determining the adequate amount of compensation. This number will be proportional to the severity of injuries, mental anguish, and vehicle damage caused by the accident. Experienced lawyers will consider monetary damages that you might not think of.

The defendant’s insurance company may try to place the blame on you to reduce the damages they have to pay. An experienced car accident attorney will try to prevent that from happening and get you the full compensation you deserve. 

Head-On Collision Causes

The nature of head-on collisions means they are much more common in certain situations than others. They are not as common on large highways because everybody is driving the same direction. And it is more common to see side-impact collisions at intersections. 

Below are some examples of head-on collision causes in California. 

Distracted Driving

Drivers often underestimate how quickly a car crash can happen. If you are on a two-lane road, you are constantly passing other vehicles with only a few feet of clearance. If you look away or bump the wheel at the wrong moment, you can find yourself the victim of a head-on collision in mere seconds. 

It can be tough to focus on the road with so many distractions in the car, but a driver must remain attentive.. You may be able to avoid a collision with another distracted driver if you are watching and notice them drift in your lane. 

Driving While Impaired

Driving under the effects of alcohol, drugs, and/or certain medications can significantly reduce your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Your decision-making abilities and your physical reflexes will be negatively impacted by substance usage. Driving while intoxicated is a major cause of fatal head-on crashes because the driver is completely unaware of what they are doing wrong until it’s too late. 

Drunk and high drivers can also be difficult to predict or avoid, so always be weary if somebody is displaying unusual driving behavior. While you may be able to recover damages in the event of an accident, it is not worth the risk of life-altering injuries. 

Driving Tired

Sleep deprivation and extreme exhaustion can have similar outcomes to driving while impaired. If it’s late at night or you have been driving for extended periods of time and you find yourself beginning to doze off, pull over. Do not risk falling asleep at the wheel because you may wake up in the oncoming lane.

Driving Too Fast

The faster you are driving, the less control you will have over your vehicle. In a head-on crash the momentum of both cars will factor into the total impact force. If two drivers are moving at 50 MPH, their collision will be at 100 MPH straight on. 

Another factor to consider is stopping time. While you may normally be able to stop in a certain amount of space when speeding, the other driver also needs room to stop their vehicle in a head-on crash scenario. You need all the stopping distance you can get, and driving faster takes that away. 

Ignoring Road Rules

Laws and signals are put in place to keep drivers safe. This includes speed limits, stop signs, passing laws, etc. There is an expectation that everybody on the road will follow these rules and behave in a predictable manner. 

When somebody ignores or breaks these laws, they put themselves and others in danger because nobody is ready to adjust quickly enough. Especially on tight two-lane roads, doing things like passing on a double-yellow line can cause significant risk of a head-on collision. 

Other Head-On Collision Factors

In addition to those listed above, here are some other potential factors that could contribute to a head-on collision:

  • Dangerous weather conditions
  • Poorly maintained roads
  • Accidents with multiple cars
  • Hectic traffic situations
  • Crossing animals
  • Vehicle malfunctions

Head-On Collision Injuries

Severe head-on crashes can be so dangerous that vehicle safety precautions will not matter. Regardless of the cause, the increased impact force makes it likely that both drivers will sustain some sort of injury. 

Some of the more common California head-on collision injuries include the following:

  • Back injuries
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Concussions
  • Head injuries
  • Internal bleeding
  • Lacerations and cuts
  • Neck injuries
  • Spine injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)

Serious collisions may result in amputation, paralysis, and even death. 

You may also be eligible for compensation if you develop vehophobia—a fear of driving and car accidents. Reach out to an attorney to see if you have a case for your injuries. 

Receiving Medical Treatment

Even if you feel okay after a head-on crash and do not have any visible wounds, you should immediately seek a medical examination. There are two main reasons to go see a doctor after an accident.

First, you may still have injuries. Just because you cannot see or feel an injury right after the crash does not mean you do not have it. You may have suffered some form of internal damage or feel fine because of the surge of adrenaline caused by the collision. However, these injuries can have serious effects if not treated quickly.

Second is to provide proof of concern for injuries. If you do not seek medical attention but then later file a claim, an insurance company might argue that the injury was not severe enough to warrant compensation. Having proof that you were worried about your physical condition right away will help you recover damages.

Wrongful Death From Head-On Crashes

The severity of head-on collision accidents makes wrongful death cases relatively common. If the responsible party’s negligent actions led to the victim’s death, the victim’s loved ones may be eligible for wrongful death damages. It does not matter if the victim died instantly or after a period of time; if the death occurred because of the sustained injuries, a wrongful death claim is possible.

Contact one of our Bakersfield wrongful death lawyers to discuss the next steps. 

California Insurance for Head-On Collision Accidents

California requires drivers to have a minimum amount of insurance for property damage and bodily harm under California Vehicle Code § 16020. These requirements help protect individuals from financial losses in the event of a car crash or accident.

Residents who drive without the proper coverage can face fines or license suspension. If they do have insurance but it is not enough to cover your losses, you may want to consider pursuing civil damages.

California Minimum Property Damage Liability (PDL)

For damages that do not involve any bodily harm, drivers must have at least $5,000 of coverage. This can be used to cover damages to vehicles, homes, businesses, or other personal property.

California Minimum Bodily Injury Liability (BIL)

For damages that do include bodily harm, drivers must have at least $15,000 worth of insurance in the event of a personal injury or wrongful death. This means the insurance company will pay for the injuries of their policyholder’s victim.

If there are multiple injuries or deaths, the insurance policy must cover at least $30,000 of the damages. This amount will be split amongst the injured victims based on the severity of their injuries. 

Contact Chain | Cohn | Clark After Your Head-On Collision

If you are injured in a California head-on collision due to someone else’s mistake or negligence, contact our team as soon as possible. The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark want to see you win and have plenty of experience dealing with insurance companies. You don’t pay until we win your case.

Don’t miss out on the compensation that you are entitled to for your personal injury or wrongful death case following a head-on collision.