A head-on collision involves two vehicles moving towards each other from the opposite direction, headfirst on to each other. The liability for this type of an accident depends on whether the drivers were negligent. In this case, negligence may mean either one or both drivers failed to yield way, was distracted or drunk. If you are involved in an accident, the at-fault driver is responsible for the injuries and the expenses.
If you suffer damages as a result of this type of accident in California, you are entitled to compensation for the losses you incur as a result. These losses will include medical bills, cost of damaged property, lost wages, among others. However, establishing fault and seeking damages is not without its challenges, making it advantageous to have a lawyer represent you. At Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney, we are committed to assisting our clients in receiving damages following these accidents.
Responsibility Following a Head-on Crash
Establishing accountability in a head-on crash depends on whether one or both drivers were negligent. However, establishing negligence in an accident is complicated and may involve if one or both of the drivers were:
- Driving distracted
- Violating traffic rules such as speeding
- Using their phone to send text as they drove
- Driving a faulty or unsafe car or
- Not careful while they drove
In California, the driver responsible for the accident is accountable for the losses that follow. California is a fault state, meaning that even when all the drivers have an auto insurance cover, the at-fault driver is still expected to pay for the costs beyond their coverage.
In most cases involving negligence, a lawsuit is filed to seek damages, and the jury determines negligence and who was responsible. After listening to both sides during a trial, the jury decides if both parties are liable for the crash and apportion them blame accordingly. This means, even when you are partially to blame for the crash, you can still recover partial damages from the other party. The recovered costs, however, depend on the degree of fault by the other party.
Available Damages in a Head-on Crash Lawsuit
If you or your passengers are injured in this type of accident, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages. The recoverable damages, in this case, include financial and non-financial losses. These compensatory damages include:
- Medical costs – These comprise all the costs involved in treating your injuries and those of your passengers. The medical procedures carried out, past, current, and future medical bills resulting from the accident are also compensated.
- The cost of Ambulance – The cost of taking you and your passengers to the hospital is also compensable. Typically, ambulances are called to take accident victims to the hospital. The cost of these services must be compensated following a successful lawsuit.
- Emergency room care – When you are rescued from an accident scene, you may be taken to the emergency room for treatment. The cost associated with this treatment that includes procedures, tests, and medicines administered are compensable.
- Physical therapy – As you recover from some injuries, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to rehabilitate your body back to its former self. The cost of physical therapy is hefty and also compensated according to the insurance laws.
- Medical supplies – These may include equipment required in your treatment. For instance, if you need a walker, crutches, or a hospital bed at home, the cost is recoverable.
- Lost wages and earning capacity – As you recover from your injuries, you may miss productive workdays. Similarly, head-on collisions result in some of the most catastrophic injuries that may cause you to lose your ability to work. The income you lose by missing work or being incapable of working for the rest of your life is compensated following a lawsuit.
- Pain and suffering – This is the non-financial damage that accident victims incur. The loss is not quantifiable; neither can it be supported by any documents. However, based on your injuries, the jury awards damages for the pain and suffering you go through as you a result of the crash.
- Property damages – In a head-on accident, the property that gets damaged is your vehicle. The cost of repairing the car or replacing it in totality is compensable in California.
- Lost consortium – These are damages awarded to your spouse when you get injured in the accident and cannot offer her or him the affection you previously could.
- Wrongful death – Head-on collisions by their nature, they are violent. Fatalities are not unique in these kinds of accidents. If you died or a loved one died as a result of the accident, their wrongful death is compensated by the insurance company.
- Burial and funeral expenses – When a loved one dies due to the accident, their family incurs losses in preparing for their funeral and burial. These costs are also compensable in California.
Sometimes, you can petition the court to award you punitive damages. These damages, also known as exemplary costs, are not dependent on your losses, but the other party’s wrongful behavior. If the other party acted extremely reckless or their actions were intended to cause you harm, you can get awarded punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the defendant for their unacceptable behavior that resulted in your injuries. In California, there is no limit in how much you can receive in punitive damages following a personal injury lawsuit.
Determining Fault in a Head-on Collision
Negligence laws are what are used in determining fault in California. The party found to have been negligent is held accountable for the damages and injuries you suffer. For you to receive damages following a car crash, you must establish the defendant’s negligence. Your lawyer must prove the various elements to negligence that are:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- The defendant breached the duty of care through negligence and
- The negligence significantly contributed to your injuries and damages
In California, every motorist is expected to exercise primary care while on the road. If you fail to operate your vehicle carefully as a reasonable person would, it is negligence. This primary care requires motorists to:
- Reasonably be careful while driving their vehicles
- Be watchful of pedestrians, other motorists or obstacles on the road and
- Be in control of the vehicle’s movement and speed
During a lawsuit, your lawyer can show the defendant’s negligence by establishing that the defendant never looked out for other vehicles or they were not in control of their vehicle movement and speed. Some examples of negligent behavior on the roads include:
- Passing other vehicles improperly
- Illegally turning left
- Making an illegal turn and hence violating VEH 22100.5
- Refusing to yield ad turning before oncoming vehicles
- Road rage
- Intoxicated driving
- Using your phone to text while driving
- External or internal distractions while driving
- Driving while impaired or drowsy and
- Driving an unroadworthy vehicle
Risky U-turns and Left Turns
Head-on crashes are commonly caused by drivers that make left turns ahead of oncoming vehicles. These turns may include turning at controlled intersections or in areas where to make a left turn; you must yield to approaching vehicles.
According to the right of way rules, motorists must give way to cars coming from opposing directions until it is safe enough to take turns. If you fail to give way to oncoming vehicles and you end up in a crash, you may be held accountable for the damages and injuries.
For instance, you drive along the highway, and you take the turn lane in readiness to take a turn. Unfortunately, the traffic is heavy, and no oncoming vehicle is slowing to allow you to cross. At the same time, there are cars behind you, and they keep honking pressurizing you to turn. Finally, you see some space and decide to take a chance at turning, assuming the oncoming motorist will stop or slow down.
Unfortunately, as you turn, you realize you miscalculated the oncoming vehicle’s speed and end up in a collision despite the other driver trying to stop. Both of you get hurt from the accident. Because you failed to yield way or was not patient to wait for the road to be clear, you may be found liable for the accidents and damages that follow.
Injuries in a Head-on Collision
Head-on collisions are a violent and dangerous type of accident that ends up causing catastrophic injuries and, in some cases, fatalities. The NHTSA reports that fatalities out of head-on collisions result in 13% of car accident deaths in rural regions. In California alone, over 3,000 deaths were recorded in 2014 from 296,000 road accidents. Out of this number, 17,000 involved head-on crashes that also left behind fatalities.
Similarly, most victims that survive this type of accident sustain significant injuries that are sometimes catastrophic. Some of the injuries likely in a head-on collision are:
Brain injuries – When victims of this accident forcefully hit against the body of their vehicle with their head, the impact can cause significant head or brain injuries. These injuries, in some cases, can leave the victim in a vegetative state requiring prolonged care. Brain injuries also require extensive treatment and surgeries that are costly to the victim as well.
Broken or fractured bones – The impact from a head-on crash can cause breaking of legs, arms, collarbones, ribs, or other bones. Treatment may also require surgical procedures, with the healing process being extensive.
Spinal cord injuries – The collision can also cause severe trauma to the victim’s back. This trauma can affect the nerves leading to partial or full paralysis. When a victim gets paralyzed, it means they cannot function as they used to and sometimes may require assistance to do things that were previously normal for them.
Burns – Sometimes, following this type of crash, a vehicle can burst into flames. When this happens, and a victim is still in the car, they can suffer substantial injuries or burns.
Disfigurement – Because your head or face hits the dashboard upon an impact, you can lose your teeth, have a broken nose, among other injuries to your face.
These are a few of the injuries that you are likely to suffer from following a head-on crash. The cost of treating these injuries is, in most cases, hefty, making it critical to seek compensation for the cost of treatment.
Receiving Damages if you were Partially Liable for the accident
As stated earlier, California is a fault state meaning the party responsible for the crash is liable for the damages. However, in most head-on collisions, both parties involved carry a portion of the blame. In this case, liability is determined under the comparative fault theory in California. Under this theory, multiple parties can be found liable for the damages suffered.
For instance, if in demanding your damages, you file a lawsuit in court, the other party can also blame you for the accident. The case is presented before a jury where arguments from both sides are listened to. In the end, the jury determines the degree of negligence for each party involved. If you are said to have contributed 20% to the accident, you will receive 80% in damages while the other party gets the remaining 20%.
What happens if the Other Driver had no Insurance?
California motorists are required by the law to have a minimum auto insurance coverage that pays for damages following an accident. This minimum cover includes:
- Compensation for a single death or injury of up to $15,000
- Benefit when the injured victims are more than one or more than one death of up to $30,000
- Payment for the damaged property of up to $5,000
Despite the minimum requirement, some motorists still operate their vehicles without an auto cover. When this happens, the motorist violates the law and is likely to face charges for the offense. In the unfortunate case that your accident involved an uninsured motorist, your lawyer will sue the driver directly to receive damages. However, when a motorist is uninsured, it is unlikely that they will have enough property to cover the losses from the accident.
Because of the possibility of such unfortunate incidences, insurance providers encourage their clients to take both underinsured and uninsured coverage (UIM/UCM). The cover is not mandatory, but it helps pay for losses when the party responsible for the crash is not insured or is underinsured.
When you take an uninsured motorist cover, it means you will get compensated for the damages sustained following the accident if the other driver had no coverage. Similarly, it will not be necessary to establish who was responsible for the accident when it happens.
When issuing uninsured motorist coverage, most companies provide compensation for a single person injured in the accident to a maximum of $100,000, and for several victims for up to $300,000. However, a majority of drivers feel they are unable to afford the premiums or are unwilling to pay for them.
As a result, when an uninsured motorist hits you, the burden of your medical bills is shifted to private health insurance covers or government programs. Some of the government programs that will pay for your bills include the Medi-Cal and Medicare programs.
Therefore, California insurance companies are required to offer optional uninsured motorist covers to remedy the situation.
On the other hand, underinsured motorist coverage covers damages when they exceed those covered by the at-fault driver. Most motorists opt for the minimum coverage allowed by the government. However, in most cases, the amount covered is not sufficient to cover damages following a head-on crash.
As a motorist in California, you are encouraged to take the underinsured motorist cover to pay for the deficit not met by the other driver’s insurance. Similarly, just like in uninsured motorist’s covers, most drivers feel the premiums are unaffordable, or they are unwilling to pay for them.
If you have a private health cover, whether through the government program or it is co-paid, you may wonder if a UIM/UIM is necessary. The truth is, health covers only pay for your medical costs but not any other expenses you suffer following the accident. This means that the cost of repairing your damaged vehicle, lost wages, pain, and suffering, among other damages, will not be compensable.
Is a Lawyer Necessary Following a Head-on Crash?
Some people assume that because of having auto insurance coverage, all will be taken care of following the accident. However, if you have ever dealt with an insurance company before seeking damages, you must understand the frustrations. A key thing to note is that insurance companies are business entities aiming to maximize profits. Most insurance adjusters will find a reason not to compensate you for your damages or the compensation below your requirements.
Following your accident, it is always the best idea to hire an experienced attorney to pursue your damages. A lawyer fully understands insurance and accident laws and ensures that you and your passengers are well paid for your losses as you should.
A lawyer will advise you not to talk to the insurance adjuster of the other party. This is because insurance adjusters are not your friends, and they work for the best interests of their employer. An adjuster may confuse you by offering you a settlement and lying that it is the best offer you can get. Adjusters follow instructions from their employers that include offering you the least amount in compensation and packaging it as the best. If you accept this offer, the insurance company saves money, and the package you receive never covers your losses.
Unfortunately for you, once you have accepted an offer, you cannot go back and renegotiate for a better one. Talking to the insurance adjuster is also not a good idea because you may say something that is used against you to indicate you are responsible for the damages. If an insurance adjuster calls you, the best option is to refer them to your attorney.
Your attorney putting your interests first will present the necessary evidence showing the other party is liable for the accident and get you the best in damages. Additionally, your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, and if an agreement is not reached, he or she can file a petition seeking your damages.
Compensation when a Loved One Dies in a Head-on Collision
As earlier stated, head-on collisions, in many cases, result in death. If your spouse, a child, or parent dies in this accident, you can seek compensation for their wrongful death. Your lawyer can help you file a lawsuit to recover the following damages:
- Wrongful death compensation – Because of their untimely death, the state considers the person responsible for the accident to have caused a wrongful death. As a result, the value of their life is compensable in California. The jury, while awarding damages, considers the age of the victim, their socioeconomic status, age, health, and income at the time of death, among others.
- Cost of treatment – If the person never died on the spot, they may have incurred hospital bills. The cost incurred to receive treatment for the injuries is also recoverable in California. As you seek the damages, you must have supporting documents attesting to the medical expenses.
- Funeral and burial costs – Equally, you will incur expenses in burying the victim of the accident. The costs under this are also recoverable in California.
- Lost earnings – The income the deceased would have made and shared with you had they survived the accident is also calculated and awarded as damages.
Not everyone can, however, seek damages in wrongful death. The only living family members that are eligible to seek wrongful death damages are:
- A registered domestic partner or spouse
- Children of the victim
- Grandkids if the victim’s children are dead or
- Any person entitled to inherit the victim according to succession laws
Find a Car Accident Attorney Near Me
The cost of damages that a victim of a head-on collision incurs is hefty. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can seek compensation for these losses to get back to your former financial status before the accident. At Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney, we understand the devastation of a head-on collision and will aggressively assist you in recovering your damages. Call us today at 424-237-3600 for a comprehensive discussion of your case.