Who Is Liable For a Head-On Collision?

Head-on collisions are often considered to be some of the most serious auto accidents due to the high risk for catastrophic or fatal injuries. A head-on collisions happens when the front end of two vehicles collide with one another. Because of the potential for serious and lasting injuries in a head-on collision, determining who was liable for causing the accident is often essential for injured victims to recover for their financial losses. However, many different parties–including other drivers, companies, or even the government–may have some responsibility in a head-on collision. Because determining liability can be complex, it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney helping you to evaluate your rights following this type of accident.


The following are only a few examples of parties who may be liable in a head-on collision:


Drunk Drivers

Many head-on collisions occur when one car crosses over a double yellow line and moves into the lane of a car moving in the other direction, which leads to a collision if the oncoming driver cannot move out of the way in time. Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol are notorious for swerving on the road and having trouble staying in their own lane. Unfortunately, this often results in them crossing a center line into oncoming traffic. Furthermore, drunk drivers also may have a tendency to drive the wrong way on a highway or one-way road, which can also lead to head-on collisions with oncoming vehicles.


Distracted Drivers

Another group of drivers who may often unintentionally exit their lane is distracted drivers. When a driver is not looking at the road, their vehicle can easily stray from their intended lane into the path of other vehicles. Common visual distractions that can cause a driver to cross the centerline include texting and driving, reaching into the backseat, programming a GPS, and more.


Third Party Drivers

In many situations, a driver may be doing everything right when another driver–who may be drunk or distracted–suddenly encroaches on their lane space. In order to avoid colliding with that vehicle, the first driver may have to suddenly jerk the wheel, which may cause them to depart from their designated lane into oncoming traffic. In such a situation, neither party involved in the head-on collision may be at fault. However, in these cases, it is common for the third party driver to keep driving and may never be identified. These cases may require an injured party to make a claim with their uninsured motorist coverage due to a “phantom driver” and there are strict time limits and requirements for such a claim set out in South Carolina auto insurance law. If you fail to meet these strict requirements, you may lose your rights to recover for your injuries at all. For this reason, it is critical that you contact an experienced auto accident attorney immediately if you have been injured due to a “phantom” driver.


Dangerous Roads


In some cases, a head-on collision may not be caused by any driver, but instead by the local government where the accident occurred. Local and state governments have the legal duty to do the following:


  • Design roads that are safe for travel;
  • Have set speed limits that are not too fast for road conditions;
  • Warn drivers of potentially dangerous road conditions, such as dangerous intersections, isolated traffic signals, and more;
  • Regularly inspect roadways for any defects or road hazards; and
  • Repair and maintain roadways to avoid dangerous road hazards.


Unfortunately, many governments fail to do the above and, as a result, dangerous roadways exist throughout South Carolina and can lead to serious accidents. If a car suddenly hits a pothole, the driver may lose control of the vehicle and may be involved in a head-on collision.


Roadways can especially be to blame for head-on collisions in rural areas. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), head-on collisions occur more frequently in rural areas than in urban areas. This is often because of the nature of rural roads, which can be narrow with many curves and hills and not much of a shoulder. Vehicles often cross the center line to pass another vehicle or if the speed limit is too high for the winding nature of the road. This can also occur if there is an animal or another obstacle in the road and a driver must swerve to avoid it.


Defective Auto Parts


Auto manufacturers can also sometimes be held liable for the injuries of victims of head-on collisions. Manufacturers have the duty to sell auto parts that are free from defects and that will not suddenly malfunction and lead to a potential accident and injuries. However, one must only take a brief glance at the NHTSA recent auto recall list to realize that many manufacturers allow defective and/or dangerous auto parts to be installed into vehicles.


If a tire suddenly blows, steering fails, or an airbag suddenly deploys without warning, it can be easy for a driver to lose control and depart from their lane, which can cause a head-on collision. In such cases, injured victims must take on the auto manufacturer to recover for their losses and victims should always have the help of an experienced law firm that has the resources to face off against large companies.


Call a South Carolina Auto Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Head-on collisions can leave you with catastrophic injuries including brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and paralysis, burns, among many others. Following a head-on collision–or any other type of auto accident for that matter–it is essential that you discuss your legal options and rights with an attorney who understands how to identify liable parties and pursue compensation for you. In addition, cases involving large companies, uninsured motorists, government entities, and similar parties can be particularly complex and you need an experienced Greenwood auto accident lawyer who fully understands all relevant South Carolina laws. If you would like to discuss a possible case for free, please call the law firm of Ayers, Smithdeal & Bettis, P.C. as soon as possible.

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