The state of New York definitely sees its share of car crashes. Every year, about 1,000 New Yorkers die in traffic accidents. Sadly, 51 of those fatalities occurred in Monroe County in 2020 — a five-year high. Monroe County was also the sixth-highest in the state for car accident fatalities in 2020.
Head-on collisions are among the most dangerous and deadly types of car crashes. While they are not the most common crash, they represent many fatalities.
What Is a Head-On Collision?
A head-on collision happens when the front ends of two vehicles hit each other while traveling in opposite directions. You may also hear the term frontal impact to describe the same event.
Whatever you call it, a head-on collision is very dangerous. These crashes comprised 58% of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2020. The vehicles included cars, pickup trucks and SUVs. Not surprisingly, most of the people killed were in the front seat at the time of the crash.
Why Is a Head-On Collision So Dangerous?
When a single passenger vehicle strikes an inanimate object, such as a telephone pole or parked car, the force of the impact depends on how fast the driver is going. On the other hand, a head-on collision between two vehicles driving toward each other packs a much bigger punch. It is because the force combines the speeds of both vehicles.
Say, for example, a car traveling 30 miles per hour crashes into a wall. That’s bad enough, but two vehicles traveling toward each other, each at 30 miles per hour, double that force.
Statistically speaking, even a low-speed frontal crash can be dangerous. Compare the risk of serious injury in these two crashes: a rear-end impact and a head-on collision. One study showed that the risk of serious injury reaches 1% in a rear-end crash of about 42 miles per hour.
One percent seems pretty low, right? Consider that you have the same odds of serious injury if you are in a head-on collision at only 17 miles per hour. That’s slow, even for a busy city street.
Head-on collisions carry the highest level of injury risk compared to other crash types — even at low speeds. That is why head-on collisions are so dangerous.
What Injuries Can Happen During a Head-On Collision?
Possible injuries during a frontal crash can vary widely. A lot depends on the driver’s or passenger’s size, height and age. Factors even change with how a person’s body is positioned during the crash and how close the seat is to the steering wheel or dashboard. More variables include:
- The presence of other passengers or objects in the car that could collide with a person
- The use (or lack) of seat belts
- The presence of airbags
- The driver’s sobriety
Head and Neck Injuries
Drivers and passengers can sustain injuries to the head and neck during a frontal crash. Whiplash is a real possibility due to the sudden and forceful impact of two cars crashing into a sudden stop. Passengers may strike the windshield, steering wheel or dashboard, leading to concussions, skull fractures or traumatic brain injuries.
The force of a head-on collision can cause spinal injuries or broken vertebrae, leading to long-lasting pain or trouble moving and walking.
Cuts and Lacerations
Broken glass and projectiles in the car can cause lacerations and bleeding.
Bruises and Broken Bones
The sudden impact of a head-on collision can lead to bruising as passengers strike the door, steering wheel, dashboard or other objects in the car. Bones can break in the impact of a collision, especially in the lower extremities. The force of hitting the dashboard can bruise or break bones in the hip, knee and thigh.
Foot and Ankle Injuries
Smaller drivers are more likely to sustain ankle and foot fractures. Their positioning relative to the floorboards and pedals leaves them more susceptible to injury.
The impact of a head-on collision can inflict damage to organs, including the lungs, heart, liver and spleen.
How Do Head-On Collisions Happen?
A driver can swerve to avoid debris or an animal in the road, or a mechanical failure can cause a driver to lose control. These circumstances can put their vehicle in the path of another car. However, drivers can also end up on the wrong side of the road when they are:
- Drunk or using drugs
- Distracted by something inside the car
- Driving while drowsy
- Confused (such as going the wrong way on an interstate)
Do You Need a Lawyer After a Head-On Collision?
New York is a no-fault state regarding motor vehicle accidents. If you have insurance in a no-fault state, your insurance company pays the expenses you incur regardless of who caused the accident.
The no-fault law is a benefit to those who carry insurance. You have coverage for hospital bills, lost wages and medical equipment.
Your Expenses May Exceed the Minimum Coverage
The minimum required insurance coverage can run out before you finish paying your expenses. If this happens, one option is to bring a claim against the responsible party to recover the costs exceeding your coverage.
When No-Fault Insurance Doesn’t Apply
Some things fall outside the scope of no-fault insurance. It does not apply to property damage. You can make a claim against the at-fault party if your vehicle is damaged or totaled.
Serious injuries also fall outside the realm of no-fault insurance in New York. If another driver caused the head-on collision you were in, and you are seriously injured, you can file a claim against the driver.
Serious Injury Under New York Law
New York law defines a serious injury as:
- Dismemberment or serious disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus
- A fracture
- Permanent loss or limitation of the use of a body organ or system
- A serious long-term injury
You can hold the at-fault driver liable if you have serious injuries, as the New York laws define them. You can do this through a third-party insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Categories For Which You Can Receive Compensation
You can pursue compensation for all loss categories if your injuries qualify as serious as defined by state law. These categories include non-economic damages such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological trauma
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of activities
Hiring an Attorney To Help With Your Claim
The no-fault insurance law in New York can sometimes make things easier. However, many circumstances go beyond what no-fault insurance covers.
Any car accident can shake you up, even in the best-case scenario. A head-on collision is especially precarious because it is one of the most severe car accidents. You have a high probability of injury, even at low speeds.
Hopefully, you can get through a head-on collision with minimal trouble. There is a good chance, though, that you can benefit from the help of an attorney. You might not know whether the law considers your injuries serious. You may also need assistance filing a claim for property damage.
Rely on Cellino Law After a Head-On Collision
Cellino Law attorneys have experience dealing with head-on car accidents. They can help you determine whether you have a claim against the responsible party.