You cannot control many things when sharing the road with large commercial vehicles. No matter what you do to stay safe, your own well-being depends on the truck driver and their vehicle. A truck driver or trucking company with nothing to do with you can change your life when they carelessly cut corners. One of the most severe types of truck accidents that they can cause is a head-on crash. Your life will likely never be the same, or you may have lost a loved one to one of these accidents.
Tractor trailers weigh up to 80,000 pounds when they have full loads. The average passenger vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds, so there is a huge size disparity. The truck itself will unleash enough force in the crash to crush a smaller vehicle.
No matter what safety equipment or innovations the passenger vehicle has, almost nothing can protect the driver or their passengers from serious harm. Catastrophic injuries are common in any truck accident, but especially in head-on truck collisions. You or your family can seek guidance from an experienced truck accident lawyer and proceed with filing a claim.
How Drivers Suffer Injuries in Head-On Truck Accidents
The passenger car driver can sustain severe injuries in several ways in a head-on crash, including:
- The impact can throw the driver or their passengers through the front windshield of the car directly onto the oncoming truck
- The car can collapse around the driver, and the truck can make a direct impact with the driver
- The collision can trap the driver between the truck and part of the car
- The driver can suffer trauma when the airbag violently deploys
Even if the truck does not directly hit car occupants, the force of the impact can violently jolt their bodies around, often causing multiple injuries. This is one of the best-case scenarios, however, as flying through the windshield or a direct impact with a truck can often be fatal.
Because truck accident injuries are often so severe, the losses victims suffer are also commonly extreme. Victims need to ensure they seek and receive the full compensation they deserve under the law. This can help them move forward from the accident with justice and financial support.
Head-On Truck Accident Statistics
Even though head-on truck crashes are rare, they account for a large proportion of truck accident fatalities. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, nearly one in every three passenger vehicle occupants who die in truck accidents is in a head-on crash. Head-on accidents comprise roughly one in every fifty accidents, giving you a sense of the serious danger of these collisions. When a truck hits a car head-on, the risk of fatalities significantly increases.
Those who survive these accidents will often have life-changing injuries. They will never be the same again, and their families may need to care for them for the rest of their lives. Catastrophic injuries are common, and the severity of these crashes can make the legal process more complex and challenging, increasing the importance of proper legal representation.
Where Most Head-On Truck Accidents Occur
An overwhelming majority of head-on accidents happen on two-lane roads, where there is traffic going in both directions and no median to separate the lanes. Most of these crashes happen in rural areas, often occurring at night.
However, head-on crashes can also occur under different circumstances. For example, the truck can cross the median of a highway, or the driver can enter the roadway in the wrong place. The truck driver may fail to adjust to a change in direction in a highway work zone.
However your head-on truck accident happened, always discuss your legal options and liability with a truck accident attorney.
Causes of Head-On Truck Accidents
Often, the truck driver is the one to blame for your accident. Trucks are huge vehicles, and the driver cannot always fully control them. Drivers may not take the appropriate amount of care behind the wheel. All it takes is a simple mistake for the driver to lose control.
Here are some common causes of head-on truck accidents:
- Truck driver inexperience – Truck companies hire less-experienced drivers because of a shortage of trained operators, and employers do not want to pay the money it takes to hire an experienced driver.
- Distracted truck drivers – Drivers can drift out of their lane from a split second of inattention. When truck drivers are on long trips, they may be doing other things behind the wheel, such as texting or eating, that can distract them from the road.
- Mechanical problems – A truck driver may lose control because of a mechanical issue, such as a problem with the steering or a tire blowout. Even the most experienced truck drivers cannot avoid an accident when a tire suddenly blows out.
- Driver error – The driver may over or understeer, causing them to drift out of their lane. This danger is acute on a two-lane road, with oncoming traffic in the other lane.
Of course, there are many other causes of these crashes. Your lawyer can assess what happened and who you can hold liable for Bakersfield truck accident.
Trucking Company Liability for Head-On Truck Accident Cases
When a trucking company employs the truck driver or allows them to drive a company truck, you can file a lawsuit against the company. It is a basic principle of agency law that the employer bears responsibility for the actions of their employees when they occur within the scope of employment. You can even hold trucking companies liable for their independent contractors.
You have likely suffered severe injuries and significant damages. The truck driver will certainly not have the money to pay for them. The trucking company should have a large insurance policy to protect its business from liability claims. If the trucking company does not have enough insurance coverage, they will need to pay you from their assets. If they do not have enough assets to pay a judgment, they will need to declare bankruptcy, and you will become a creditor.
Injuries in a Head-On Truck Accident
Those who have survived head-on truck accidents are likely dealing with severe and life-changing injuries. There is little chance of walking away from one of these accidents unharmed.
Here are some of the severe injuries associated with head-on accidents:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Lacerations and contusions
- Internal injuries
- Organ damage
- Broken bones
Some people can also develop PTSD from a head-on collision, as seeing an 80,000-pound truck barreling right toward you is a traumatic experience.
Damages in a Head-On Truck Accident Case
Your head-on truck accident damages must pay you for the injuries that you have suffered. Since your injuries are likely to be serious, it follows that your compensation in these accidents should be higher. The only set formula for damages in a truck accident case is that you should receive compensation for the economic and non-economic damages you have sustained.
These damages will include:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Cost of caretakers
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress
Wrongful Death Claims After Head-On Truck Accidents
Unfortunately, death is a common result of head-on truck collisions. The sheer force of a truck crash will often destroy the car.
Your family can file a wrongful death claim if your loved one has died in a head-on truck accident. In this case, losing your loved one is your family’s personal injury.
The first element of a wrongful death claim is that you must prove the death was wrongful. You will need evidence that shows that the defendant committed some action that caused the death of your loved one. For your case, you will need to prove the truck driver’s negligence or recklessness.
Once you prove that the truck driver was legally responsible for the accident, you will proceed to the damages phase of your wrongful death claim. Your family will receive the damages you suffered when you tragically lost your loved one. Your wrongful death damages will combine your economic losses and the emotional costs to your family.
Wrongful death damages can include:
- The income that your loved one will have earned for the rest of their career
- Payment to your family for the loss of support and guidance that your loved one provided
- The shock and grief that your family endured when you suddenly and tragically lost a loved one
Punitive damages are not a part of wrongful death claims in most states, but they might apply to a survival action you file on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. Although a jury will not award punitive damages in a normal truck accident due to ordinary negligence, they can choose to punish the trucking company for:
- Extreme negligence or recklessness on the part of the truck driver
- A history of safety violations on the part of the trucking company
- The trucking company pressuring the truck driver to break federal trucking rules
- The trucking company knows safety issues or other dangers and doing nothing about them
The prospect of punitive damages may give you and your family some leverage in settlement negotiations. The more serious the truck accident, the more likely a jury will be angry about what happened to you.
The trucking company likely wants to avoid your case going to trial. They may need to pay out of their pocket because they do not have enough insurance coverage to pay your damages. Your family’s verdict can even mean the end of the trucking company.
Why You Need a Lawyer for a Head-On Truck Accident Case
There is simply no way you can deal with the legal process because you do not have the knowledge or the ability to deal with the details when you suffered a severe injury.
You may recover significant compensation, but you only get one chance to settle a truck accident claim. You do not want to take a large potential settlement and make it smaller because you trusted the insurance company to do the right thing. They will never do that, especially when their money’s on the line.
A head-on truck accident lawyer will fight for you to get the maximum compensation for your injuries. They will also stand up for you when the insurance company tries to deal with you unfairly. A top-rated personal injury law firm‘s lawyer knows you have leverage, and they know how to use it.