Proving Fault in a Head-On Collision: What You Need to Know

A Head-On Car Collision

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: December 28, 2023 3:09pm CST

A Head-On Car Collision

We have all witnessed a motor vehicle collision, or at least the aftermath, at some point in our lives.

Considering how common they have become, going through life without seeing one would be more unusual.

Unfortunately, the commonality of these incidents does not make them any less devastating to the people involved.

Depending on the type of collision, the damage to the car, the injuries to the driver and passenger, and the property damage can be extreme.

Car collisions can take various forms depending on the angle and the types of vehicles involved. As a result, one collision is significantly more dangerous than others.

That type of car accident is a head-on collision and is known to cause more severe and deadly injuries than your average fender bender.

Head-On Collision Car Accidents Guide and FAQs

Head-on collisions are among the most dangerous types of collisions. These can be devastating depending on certain factors.

Getting involved in a head-on collision is equally dangerous and terrifying, primarily because of the risk to our health.

While the injuries are a significant concern, especially since some collisions can be fatal, there is another crucial detail to consider.

If you did not cause the accident, your challenge and role (alongside an attorney) is to prove that the other driver was responsible.

Specifically, the person responsible for the auto accident is usually liable for the other party’s injuries, medical expenses, and lost property.

Head-On Collision meaning

As a result, they are responsible for financing their recovery via their insurance providers. The challenge is proving that the other driver was responsible for the accident instead of you.

Heads Up: What Is a Head-On Collision?

The name of the term head-on collision describes what makes this type of motor-vehicle accident unique. Head-on collisions, commonly called frontal collisions, involve the front end of one vehicle colliding with the front end of another while both are traveling in opposite directions.

How Do Head-On Collisions Happen?

Head-on collisions are a type of car accident that is most often caused by a car going the wrong way, which inherently increases the chance that the car heading in the correct direction will run into the car going in the wrong direction or vice versa.

Both cars do not have to be moving when they collide for it to be a head-on collision accident. All it takes is for one car to hit another car front bumper to front bumper.

How to Avoid a Head-On Collision?

The best way to avoid a head-on collision is to follow the normal flow of traffic and stay on your side of the road.

For instance, by not trying to pass a vehicle going slow in front of you on a two-lane interstate, you will lessen the odds of your colliding with the car head-on, as for you to pass, you would need to temporarily merge into the lane to your left, which is for designated for vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.

Are Head-On Collisions Dangerous?

Yes, head-on collisions are the most dangerous type of motor vehicle collisions and have a disproportionately higher fatality rate compared to the other types of multi-vehicle crashes (the others being angle, rear-end, and sideswipe).

In fact, the car crash stats reported to the government by the police and local law enforcement convincingly back this up.

10.87% of head-on collision accidents are fatal

What Percentage of Head-On Collisions Are Fatal?

From a statistics perspective, the most recent data released by the National Transit and Highway Administration shows that 10.87% of all head-on collisions resulted in one or more occupants dying, even though these collisions were only 2.65% of all crashes.

Why Are Head-On Collisions So Dangerous?

The reason head-on collisions are exceedingly dangerous and deadly is due to a couple of primary physics-based characteristics unique to front-to-front car accidents, which include the following physics details:

  • The location of the driver in the vehicle is much closer to the point of impact in contrast to rear-end collision accidents, which increases the chance of severe injury risk to the driver’s body.
  • Typically, head-on collisions occur while two motor vehicles are traveling upon impact, which compounds the damaging effects of the accident since it essentially increases the speed at which the crash occurred.
    Additionally, since both cars are facing and traveling toward each other when they hit, the occupants’ bodies will absorb more of the force caused by the impact.
    This is in contrast to a rear-end collision, where one car pushes the other forward after hitting it from behind, thereby softening the blow and reducing the risk and severity of whiplash and other collision injuries.

Airbag deployment and a totaled car are likely following a head-on collision accident.

How Does a Head-On Collision Kill You?

From a category of injury perspective, the type of car accident that is most likely to kill you and result in fatalities is a head-on collision. More specifically, injuries caused by blunt force trauma due to the vehicle’s occupant(s) bashing their bodies into the car’s interior (including a fastened seatbelt or steering wheel) after feeling the jolt of the head-on collision impact.

A Head-On Collision

Blunt trauma injuries in a head-on crash can include one or more of the following:

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

Like other types of motor-vehicle accidents, driving distracted is the most common cause of fatal head-on collision crashes. Distracted driving activities increase the chance that a vehicle will drift into the opposite traffic lane and hit other drivers before even realizing they are on the wrong side of the road.  The following is a list of some of the most common ways people drive distracted:

Distracted Driving Is the Most Common Cause of Head-On Collisions:

  • Texting (iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)
  • Making cell phone calls (even with a wireless headset)
  • Eating (especially food that you can’t pop in your mouth, like hamburgers or sub sandwiches)
  • Using a GPS navigation app, such as Google Maps or Waze, while holding your phone (instead of hands-free)

With these FAQs now answered, it is apparent that the dangers of head-on collisions are significant and pose a risk of death. Not to mention that head-on crashes are known for causing significant amounts of property damage to both cars.

All of this equates to head-on collisions not only being extremely detrimental to your health but will also negatively impact your finances immediately and as time goes on.

Proving Fault in Court

Fortunately, it is possible to mitigate the financial strain you or a loved one will incur if you can prove that the other driver was responsible for the collision and that you were a victim of their reckless driving behavior by taking legal action against them.

For example, if the police report cites the other driver for driving barefoot as a cause of the dangerous head-on collision (their bare foot slid off the brake pedal and did not stop).

Legally Speaking: What is “Fault” In Law?

The term “fault” is frequently tossed around in everyday conversation because people are prone to making mistakes. When this happens, we tend to blame them and say it is their fault the situation occurred. In the legal world, the term’s meaning is not that different from its everyday meaning.

In law, “fault” refers to the individual or party that caused the incident for which the plaintiff is filing a claim against them.

Ultimately, fault boils down to negligence on the defendant’s part, leading to someone being injured or damaging someone else’s property. Official legal texts typically define fault as:

“Negligence or other tort liability, breach of duty (statutory or otherwise), breach of warranty, breach of contract, strict liability, or any failure to act in accordance with legal or contractual requirements.”

Drivers Must Maintain Duty of Care

When someone does not uphold their duty of care, which is the responsibility to account for the safety of others while driving, they could be considered at fault. In the context of motor vehicle collisions, fault applies to the driver who caused the accident.

The concept of fault becomes more complicated in multi-vehicle collisions since it is technically possible for multiple parties to be responsible for the chain reaction.

Who Is At Fault in a Head-On Collision?

Insofar as head-on collisions are concerned, it can be relatively complicated to determine who is responsible for causing the crash between the two vehicles. However, most often, a driver was distracted and caused the accident by driving in the wrong direction.

Other Head-On Collision Examples:

Alternatively, situations exist where neither of the cars’ drivers are responsible for the head-on crash.

For instance, a pedestrian could be the responsible party who is at fault, as can be the case involving a car having to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid striking a jaywalker who, at the last minute, ran into the middle of the road, precipitating the accident.

Swerving car and tire tread marks

Another scenario where neither driver in the head-on collision is responsible is when large debris suddenly falls off a truck and onto the road, which forces the driver behind them to quickly drive into the opposite lane to avoid hitting the debris.

The trucker who did not properly secure their cargo could be responsible for causing the crash in that scenario.

Generally, the fault is assigned to the person driving negligently and endangering the other drivers around them.

Examples: Negligence While Driving Cause of Head-On Collisions

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (is criminal and could be gross negligence, not to mention a felony)
  • Driving while using your cell phone or other mobile device
  • Ignoring weather conditions that call for driving slower and with more caution (i.e., icy conditions caused by frozen rain or snow)
  • Driving while visually or medically impaired (i.e., under the effects of certain anesthetics)
  • Driving your vehicle that a damaged steering column, which you know needs immediate repairs and you are at risk cause a death wobble and your vehicle to lose control.

Operating a motor vehicle under these conditions is inherently dangerous since we divert our focus and can cause us to lose our ability to operate the vehicle safely due to being impaired.

All the while, this risky and negligent driving increases the chance of our causing a head-on collision.

Although consciously operating a vehicle in these conditions is considered negligent, there can be outside factors that contribute to the negligence.

In these situations, this legal concept allows us to share the liability for causing a crash with other parties who may be partially at fault.

Head-On Collision Car Accident Lawsuits

The problem is that you cannot simply point your finger at the other driver and expect the US civil justice system to believe you outright.

As with any civil claim, although the burden of proof is lighter than with criminal cases, the plaintiff must bring evidence to prove the defendant is responsible.

Witnesses of a Car Accident

Ultimately, the problem and reality is that proving fault is never easy and can be highly complicated, which is why evidence is vital for plaintiffs as they use it to make their legal arguments successful.

The following are some of the major examples of evidence that can make a drastic difference in winning head-on collision lawsuits:

Exhibit A: Witness Statements

Witness testimony is one of the primary resources for proving fault in head-on-collision car accident cases. Whenever you drive, you will likely notice the number of other drivers and pedestrians in the area.

These other people are invaluable to your legal claim, although they are not legally obliged to report what they witness (unless they get subpoenaed to testify in court or in a deposition.)

In some states, any driver who witnessed the incident and was not harmed is legally required to pull over to the side of the road and report their account to the authorities.

If the head-on crash is severe and both you and the other driver are incapacitated, these witnesses may call the authorities directly and leave their phone number.

Even if you did not get the chance or were unable to speak with any witnesses (you may have been receiving medical attention), there is a good chance someone else may have taken the time to do that for you (i.e., a police offer after they arrived at the accident scene.)

Witnesses can be invaluable when filing a claim, as they saw the accident unfold, which enables them to provide testimony (in a deposition or by taking the stand at your jury trial against the at-fault driver).

They can help corroborate your claims and ensure the fault is attributed to the appropriate party, not you.

So, by getting their contact info, you make it easier for your personal injury lawyer to reach them and have them provide eyewitness testimony, which is evidence that can be used to prove your case.

Fortunately, even in situations where you or your law firm aren’t able to locate any reliable witnesses to back up your story, you have other options you can rely on to hold the at-fault party legally responsible for the loss they inflicted upon you.

Exhibit B: Traffic Camera Footage

Although witnesses are valuable, their testimony can often be compromised due to simple human fallibility.

Fortunately, there is now an even better option, as modern technology has allowed traffic enforcement officials to create a better safeguard for monitoring events on populated roads: Traffic cameras.

Specifically, many intersections and traffic lights are equipped with cameras that monitor and record vehicles as they move through the intersection.

A Traffic Camera

Not every road has a traffic camera, meaning it will not always be a viable resource to corroborate your claim.

If a collision occurred on a road with such a camera installed, you can request a copy of the footage to use in your claim to prove how the accident occurred.

Video footage is almost always an irrefutable form of evidence and can usually capture explicit proof of a driver’s negligence.

At the very least, the footage can confirm that you were driving safely while the other driver was responsible for causing the accident.

Acquiring copies of the traffic cam footage can be challenging and must be done as soon as possible since the footage is not stored indefinitely.

However, acquiring this footage can provide an incredible boon to your personal injury claim against the other driver.

Exhibit C: Compare and Contrast the Damage

Another significant aspect of proving fault is noting the damage done to your vehicle compared to theirs.

In most cases, vehicle damage is like a puzzle, with the indentations from the victim’s vehicle fitting perfectly into those on the defendant’s car.

Typically, the at-fault vehicle will have less damage (if it is not a significantly smaller vehicle), and the indentations will be shallower. That changes in head-on accidents since both vehicles are traveling toward each other at equivalent speeds.

As a result, the damage to the front of the vehicles is often very similar, as it produces a mirroring effect of sorts.

That said, the damage can cement the fact that the other driver was involved in the incident and can be combined with other evidence to confirm who was at fault for the accident.

Damage From a Head-On Collision

Don’t worry if you find yourself at a dead end with using the damage to your car as evidence, as another type of critical evidence exists that involves property damage, which is all the more likely to be a factor since a head-on collision requires at least one car to be going in the wrong direction.

Auto Accident Public Property Damage

A vehicle going the wrong way can easily cause and sustain additional damage before and after a head-on collision. This additional damage, combined with where it came from, can help you prove that the other vehicle negligently drove in the wrong direction.

For example, if there are tire marks and scrapes on the median that separates the two traffic directions, displays indentations and scrapes that match one of the two cars’ tires and bottom point to that car being at fault for causing the crash because it caused the damage while crossing over to the other side of the road.

Some drivers might attempt to justify their reasoning for going the wrong way. However, most instances will involve a car driving into oncoming traffic due to negligent behavior and will likely identify them as the at-fault party.

A blue car and pink car in a head-on collision accident.

Insurance adjusters play a crucial role when it comes to collecting evidence for an insurance claim or an accident claim, especially after significant head-on or rear-end collisions.

They examine the damage on both cars involved, often consulting with body shops where the vehicles are sent for repair.

Their reports and findings can be a goldmine of helpful information for the plaintiff suing the defendant and indicate to the insurance company that they should not fight the case and instead pay in the form of a settlement.

If, for instance, the other driver’s car is at a body shop, records related to the damage, repair costs, and photographs of the vehicle can be retrieved. These records can provide further insights into the severity and cause of the accident.

Moreover, car accident attorneys and law firms (personal injury lawyers specializing in car accident claims) will frequently liaise with these adjusters and body shops to gather as much evidence as possible.

Doing so ensures they have a comprehensive understanding of the incident and can effectively represent their client’s interests.

Don’t Pass Up a Free Consultation and Case Evaluation

Quick head-on collision accident fact: If you are a victim of a head-on crash, you should schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, as it is crucial to hire an attorney to represent you and not try to settle the case with the insurance company on your own.

Their legal advice and negotiation strategies, combined with having a high understanding of the law, can make all the difference between your receiving an unfair settlement amount or the large and just settlement you rightly deserve.

Exhibit D: Police Reports

One of the most authoritative pieces of evidence in motor vehicle collision cases is the police crash report. When an accident occurs, especially when there are serious injuries or a clear violation of traffic laws, law enforcement is often dispatched to the scene of the accident.

These reports are particularly valuable as they provide an objective and comprehensive overview of the incident.

The police write down info about each car’s make and model, as well as details about the intersection, such as whether the traffic signals were flashing yellow or red.

The Police Report Encompasses a Range of Critical Details

Firstly, it states whether any driver committed a violation, like not stopping at a stop sign or a flashing red light, which can decisively pinpoint who is at fault in a head-on collision or any other type of motor vehicle accident.

In scenarios where a driver had to swerve abruptly to avoid a collision or a pedestrian, or if a driver was going the wrong way on a one-way street, the police report would detail such maneuvers.

Moreover, the report would typically include any visible evidence from the scene, such as skid marks. Skid marks can be particularly revealing.

They can indicate if a driver tried to brake suddenly, potentially revealing the sequence of events leading to the collision.

This can be vital in understanding the dynamics of the crash and can substantially strengthen a claim by revealing details that other evidence might overlook.

Police Report

Furthermore, law enforcement officers are trained to evaluate accidents and interpret the scene accurately.

The police officer’s assessment can provide an objective viewpoint on who violated traffic laws or exhibited negligent behavior, making their report a pivotal piece of evidence.

They may have documented additional physical evidence, such as alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia, that could prove to be very helpful to your car accident lawyer.

Furthermore, law enforcement officers are trained to accurately evaluate accidents and interpret the scene.

The police officer’s assessment can provide an objective viewpoint on who violated traffic laws or exhibited negligent behavior, making their report a pivotal piece of evidence.

For example, they may have documented additional forms of physical evidence, such as open alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia.

Your car accident lawyer can capitalize on these details by including them as part of a convincing argument to the insurance adjusters to convince them to settle outside of court and not risk you and your attorney having to litigate at a jury trial, which poses the risk of your losing and not getting any compensation.

It’s crucial to request a copy of the police report as soon as it’s available. Just like traffic camera footage, this report provides a nearly irrefutable account of the incident.

Together with witness testimonies, traffic camera footage, and the analysis of the damage to involved vehicles, a police report completes the ensemble of evidence that can conclusively determine fault in a motor vehicle collision.

Combining these exhibits offers all parties involved a better understanding of the incident.

It’s vital to gather and scrutinize every available piece of evidence to build a compelling personal injury case and overall legal strategy.

That includes every police report, traffic camera recordings, and every medical record and document in between.

The Caveat: No-Fault States

It’s not just the federal government (president and Congress) that oversees the United States, as the state governments also regulate many laws, which provides the benefit of avoiding unilateral oversight and helping legislators focus on their constituents’ particular needs.

While this is good, it brings more complications and variables, of which you must be aware.

For instance, some states have completely different laws regarding who pays regardless of fault in motor vehicle collisions.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

While filing a lawsuit against an at-fault driver for causing a head-on collision is a possibility in every state, depending on the state, car accident victims may need to file a claim with their own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance company to recover the cost of medical treatment first.

It’s important to note less essential treatments like massage therapy are less likely to be paid for by PIP.

PIP - Personal Injury Protection

Only then, if specific minimum requirements are met, may they proceed with filing a lawsuit against the other driver (typically a claim with their personal injury liability policy insurer).

Tort States and Car Accident Liability

In most states (tort states) and car accident situations, the at-fault party’s insurance company will be directly responsible for negotiating and paying out a settlement to financially compensate the victim for their injuries and loss of income caused by the accident. .

That said, 12 states are “no-fault states,” meaning motorists in those territories must first file claims with their own insurance policy providers before they can consider suing the at-fault driver (depending on the state, they must also meet additional requirements).

No-fault insurance laws prevent us from initially filing claims against the person who caused the accident and require everyone to deal with their own insurance provider until certain minimum thresholds are met.

List of 12 No-Fault States in the US:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky*
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey*
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania*
  • Utah

Most of the time, people who find themselves in a car accident and live in a no-fault state will not need nor be allowed to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver since their injuries are relatively minor and do not meet the requirements needed to do so and must stick with only filing a claim with their car insurance company.

Driving in the United States

However, this no-fault insurance restriction can quickly become a moot point regarding head-on collisions due to the severity and high treatment costs commonly associated with the accident type.

So, if you are a victim of a head-on collision and suffered extensive injuries, there is a high likelihood you will need to file a claim against the at-fault party, which their insurance company will likely handle.

*There Are Three Choice No-Fault States

It is important to note that Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are “choice” no-fault states.

That means those three states allow their citizens to choose whether they want no-fault insurance or a traditional policy that allows for private claims.

Closing Statements About Head-On Collisions

Getting involved in a motor vehicle collision (head-on or otherwise) seriously affects your health and financial status.

The injuries necessitate immediate medical treatment, and the American medical system is not what one might call “sympathetic” to your monetary woes.

Most medical bills associated with car crashes exceed tens of thousands of dollars, which only increases with head-on collisions.

We at Express Legal Funding recognize this and that a head-on motor vehicle collision will impact your health and finances.

Dealing with so many unexpected and expensive costs can make it difficult to keep paying for essential services like power and housing.

Also, after you suffer a car accident, you will have less income due to your needing to miss work for medical treatment and to let your body heal.

Just because you are hit with sudden bills does not mean you will have the extra money to cover them.

Car accidents are notorious for causing people to get behind on their routine payments, which is why filing a car accident claim can be so critical.

Insurance Companies Delay the Lawsuit Process

Insurance companies understand this level of financial importance and want to do everything they can not to fairly compensate you for your loss.

They aim to do this by intentionally dragging out the negotiation process, which is a classic textbook 101 insurance adjuster strategy.

It improves the odds for them that they can convince you to agree to a “lowball settlement offer” for an amount of money that is far less than you deserve for your injuries and loss.

A Head-On Collision Lawsuit

The good news is even with all of this unfairness on the part of the insurance company, we, as a pre-settlement funding company, can help remedy this issue for you in the meantime and speed up the financial light at the end of the tunnel.

How can we do this for you? We can make this a reality for you and your family by providing you with a pre-settlement cash advance, which is a contractual exchange (buy/sell trade) between you, the claimant, and us, the legal funding company.

So, you assign us a portion of your potential case proceeds to receive the pre-settlement funds advanced from us, which makes it a risk-free agreement since we only get paid when your claim resolves successfully.

That means if you lose your case (recover no money), you don’t have to pay us any of the pre-settlement funding money back, as unlike a loan, repayment is contingent upon there being case proceeds (settlement or court award money). At the end of the day, that is a big plus for you and a risk for us.

Concept of Pre-settlement Advance Funding

To summarize the concept of how pre-settlement funding works and how it can help while your case is pending:

Legal funding can be an excellent financial option if you have an ongoing personal injury claim and have bills due or upcoming purchases you need to make that can’t wait for you to settle your lawsuit.

So, if this sounds like your unique circumstances, call us or apply online anytime, 24/7, for legal funding cash. We are a national leader in pre-settlement advance funding and are here to help!

Important fact: Please note that the funds being risk-free is technically not the case for recourse lawsuit loans, the only type of consumer legal financing permitted in a select few states.

We hope you found this an insightful article and that it is full of valuable info.

Now that you have finished reading this article about head-on collisions, we encourage you to read more of our industry-leading company blog and expert content in the coming days and years. Knowledge is power, and you can get it here with us.

About the Author

Author profile
Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Author Website

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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