Who is Liable for a Head-On Collision?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on June 3, 2022 in Car Accidents
Updated on June 13, 2024

head-on collision Recent statistics show that head-on collisions only account for about two percent of all crashes, but they cause over ten percent of all traffic deaths. Even when victims survive, they may suffer life-altering injuries and need costly, long-term medical care.

How do these crashes happen and who can be liable?

Learn about your legal options if you have been injured in a head-on collision. You may be eligible to recover significant compensation, but seeking legal help is a critical first step.

At PKSD, we are deeply committed to holding at-fault parties accountable and helping the injured recover maximum compensation. Our Milwaukee-based car crash attorneys have been helping injured victims for decades and have recovered millions on their behalf.

Find out if you have a case at no cost or risk to you. We are here to listen and ready to help.

Call 24/7 for a FREE Case Review. 414-333-3333

What is a Head-On Collision?

A head-on collision, or wrong-way crash, happens when two vehicles approaching from opposite directions strike each other.

The location of damage to both vehicles easily identifies the type of crash. The extent of damage helps to determine the speed at impact.

How Do Head-On Collisions Happen?

Head-on collisions have many different causes, but they can happen on any type of roadway. Most often they occur in rural areas, especially where there is poor street lighting and narrow roadways. However, they also happen on high-speed freeways.

Some of the most common causes of head-on collisions include:

  • Drunk driving/driving while impaired: Drivers in this condition exhibit poor judgment, are disoriented and may easily lose control of their vehicles.
  • Distracted driving: Drivers may unknowingly drift into oncoming traffic while texting. Other common distracted behaviors include grooming, tending to kids, adjusting vehicle GPS or grabbing stuff off the floor.
  • Driving drowsy: Being fatigued behind the wheel has been proven to be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Drivers may easily nod off and cross over the line into oncoming vehicles.
  • Inexperienced drivers: Young drivers with less time behind the wheel are more likely to lose control of their vehicles. Common reasons include drunk driving, unexpected road hazards, mechanical difficulties, bad weather, and speeding.
  • Speeding: Even slightly exceeding posted speed limits can be disastrous and lead to a wrong-way crash, especially in bad weather.
  • Aggressive driving: Reckless behavior, such as tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic may cause another driver to swerve into oncoming traffic.
  • Not driving appropriately in bad weather conditions: Bad weather, such as heavy rain, fog or snowstorms, impairs driver visibility. Drivers may lose control of their vehicle in these conditions or even unknowingly drift into oncoming traffic.

Who May Be Liable for Causing a Head-On Crash?

Determining the cause of a head-on collision is tricky. Most often, the wrong-way driver is to blame, but sometimes more than one party may be at fault. Crash scene investigators need to consider many factors to determine who was negligent.

Why Wrong-Way Drivers Are Often Liable

When a driver hits another vehicle head-on, it is usually because of his or her own negligence. Here are some examples of common scenarios where a wrong-way driver is at fault for a head-on collision:

  • An inexperienced driver attempts to pass traffic on a one-lane rural road but misjudges the speed and distance of oncoming traffic.
  • A truck driver is fatigued but instead of pulling over to rest, he or she nods off at the wheel and crosses over the line into an oncoming vehicle.
  • A speeding driver in an unfamiliar area misses a “wrong-way” sign and ends up on a one-way road before hitting an oncoming vehicle.

Third Parties May Sometimes Share Partial or Full Liability

While it is less likely that a third party is at fault for a head-on collision, it is possible.

Some examples of how another party’s liability may apply include:

  • Another driver: Driver A is weaving in and out of traffic and ends up drifting into Driver B’s lane. Driver B swerves to avoid being hit by Driver A but instead loses control and crosses into oncoming traffic. Driver A may be partially or even fully liable for the head-on crash.
  • Pedestrians: A driver may not see a pedestrian walking on a poorly lit rural road at night until it is too late. To try to avoid hitting the pedestrian, the driver may swerve and/or slam on the brakes. Depending on the road conditions, the driver could end up swerving into oncoming traffic. In this situation, both parties may be liable. The driver may have been impaired, distracted or going too fast. The pedestrian could share fault for walking on a road at night without watching for traffic.
  • Manufacturers: If a defective auto part led to a head-on crash, the manufacturer could be held liable. For instance, if there is a tire blowout, the driver loses control of the vehicle and ends up in a head-on collision. If the tire in that crash was found to be defective, the manufacture may be liable.

Can Victims Seek Punitive Damages for Injuries From a Head-On Crash?

Wisconsin does allow victims to seek punitive damages. However, these cases are very difficult to prove. The victim must prove the at-fault party caused the crash intentionally or due to reckless, malicious or aggressive actions.

One example where punitive damages could apply to a head-on collision is if the crash was caused by someone driving while intoxicated. In Wisconsin, there are no caps on punitive damages caused by a drunk driver.

It is worth mentioning that punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim. They are meant to deter others from engaging in similar behavior.

Call Our Firm Today for Legal Help You Can Trust

PKSD is a trusted law firm representing the injured in Wisconsin and beyond. We have recovered millions on behalf of our clients. If you have been injured by a wrong-way driver, we are ready to help you.

Do not risk your claim by waiting too long to call a lawyer. Our firm is available to take your call anytime, night or day. Set up your free initial consultation now and get the answers you need. If we represent you, there is nothing to pay up front or while we handle your case.

PKSD Proven Results. Call 414-333-3333 today.

Back to top