Rochester, NY Head-On Collision Lawyer
Simply imagining a head-on automobile collision is terrifying. The real-life results live up to the horror. After the majority of frontal crashes, at least one family must commence funeral arrangements for a lost loved one. For survivors, long and painful recoveries often await. Understanding the legal issues of head-on collisions may help you if your family must someday cope with this unwanted challenge.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than half of all frontal collisions cause at least one fatality. The government body’s research also found that the majority of head-on collisions occur in rural areas. Owing to slower speeds in more populated areas, fatal head-on collisions are relatively rare in urban settings.
Each automobile collision is unique and multiple factors may play a role. Typical causes for head-on collisions include:
- Aggressive Driving: Impatience and poor judgment lead to unwise passing attempts with oncoming traffic.
- Fatigue: Monotony, coupled with fatigue, has led more than one driver on a two-lane rural road to forget that the lane on their left includes oncoming traffic.
- Inclement Weather: Slick conditions hike the risk of sliding into an opposing lane. In a few extreme cases, cars have even vaulted median strips on divided-lane highways.
- Unfamiliarity: Motorists in unfamiliar settings may mistake a rural highway for a low-speed access road.
- Tailgating: In some recorded cases, contact from a tailgater has tipped a car driven by a prudent driver into oncoming traffic.
The Physics of Head-On Collisions
Nearly everyone has seen slow-motion footage of head-on collisions staged in an automotive research facility. While extraordinarily violent, these experiments often understate the effects of a real-life collision. Automakers design the front sections of their vehicles to dissipate energy in collisions while protecting the passenger compartment. A well-aligned collision takes full advantage of the crushable structures built into modern automobiles and dissipates energy across the full width of both vehicles.
Sadly, the majority of head-on collisions occur with an offset, causing an overlapping crash. For the unfortunate occupants, this overlap concentrates energy onto a smaller section of each vehicle. These collisions hike the risk of the passenger compartment collapsing under the impact, particularly in the foot-pedal area. While crushing injuries are catastrophic by themselves, they are still not the worst possible outcome in a real-life overlap crash. In the most severe overlap collisions, structural members may penetrate the passenger compartment and inflict puncture wounds.
Another real-life consideration is vehicle size. When a large vehicle collides with a smaller car, the occupants of the smaller vehicle will fare the worst in the encounter. Small cars have less material between an oncoming vehicle and the fortified passenger section, thus imparting more force on the occupants of the smaller automobile.
Besides the NHTSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is the other North American organization that conducts and records crash tests of automobiles. The IIHS began its testing program in 1995 with a driver-side frontal overlap collision test that more accurately reflects real-life crash damage. Decades of research revealed that even relatively small areas of overlap in a frontal collision may provoke fatalities.
For a more realistic accident picture, the institute began small-overlap tests for the driver-side of new vehicles in 2012. Five years later, the group began testing the passenger side for head-on collisions. Viewing crash test results is a sobering endeavor. Nonetheless, if you are considering a vehicle purchase, the site provides data that may save your family’s life.
The Compensation Path
For the survivors of a head-on collision, compensation for medical bills quickly becomes the focus of their lives. New York’s no-fault automobile insurance system is the first step on that path. The no-fault system aims to minimize lawsuits and speed compensation to injured persons. A mission-critical step in this process is the timely filing of your NF-2 form with the state government. Failure to file your NF-2 within 30 days forfeits your rights to compensation in the no-fault system and sabotages your right to file a lawsuit.
Along with a timely filing, your NF-2 must contain a complete and accurate account of your medical treatments up to the filing date. Failure to report a treatment likely forfeits your compensation for that procedure.
New York’s Lawsuit Standards
The medical bills following a head-on collision may well outstrip the compensation available in no-fault policies and even comprehensive health insurance. To pursue compensation from a party whose negligence caused injuries, New York residents must clear the state’s serious injury threshold. Conditions spelled out in the threshold include:
- Loss of one or more limbs
- Permanent organ impairment
- Bone fractures
- Fetal death
In addition to these straightforward descriptions, the statute outlines other conditions that leave substantial room for interpretation by a judge. This ambiguity highlights the value of engaging an experienced personal injury attorney. Over years, court rulings subtly shape the meaning of the state’s personal injury statutes. An attorney can offer you an accurate reading on whether or not your injuries cross the state’s threshold.
Moving forward with a lawsuit does not mean that you will have to attend a trial. The overwhelming majority of lawsuits resolve with a settlement agreement. Nonetheless, your attorney should have the proven ability to carry a case through a trial.
Wrongful Death Suits
Owing to the high fatality rate in frontal collisions, surviving family members understandably wonder if a wrongful death lawsuit is possible. In the New York state, only the personal representative of a deceased person can file a wrongful death action. Typically, a will is the document that designates this personal representative. A surviving family member may not bring suit unless this individual is also named as the representative.
A wrongful death suit typically pursues two types of compensation:
- Economic damages include medical bills, funeral expenses and an estimate of potential future earnings.
- Non-Economic damages comprise qualities that defy easy listing on a spreadsheet. Emotional support for a spouse and parental guidance for children who are minors are typical issues. A 2019 state law narrowed the range of non-economic damages for wrongful death actions. This statute eliminated emotional trauma and the traditional definition of pain and suffering.
A third avenue of compensation, punitive damages, is lawful in New York, but extraordinarily rare. To claim punitive damages, a plaintiff must establish that a defendant’s conduct went beyond negligence and displayed a deliberate attempt to inflict harm. Beyond surmounting this very high hurdle, a personal injury attorney will also evaluate a defendant’s ability to pay. If a defendant lacks financial resources, a punitive damages action is futile.
The Roots and Results of Cellino Law
The roots of Cellino Law run deep in New York state and span more than six decades. Our firm focuses on representing persons injured by another party’s negligence, and towards that mission, we have supervised more than $2 billion in settlements. With offices in Rochester, Buffalo, Manhattan and Melville, we represent clients from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Consultations are always free and carry no obligation. If we take your case, there are no upfront fees, and you will owe us nothing unless we recover money for you. If you or a loved one now confronts an injury, we invite you to contact us today.