Head-On Collisions—Additional Sources of Recovery

by Mike Myers on May 28, 2014

Head-on collisions are the most dangerous. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials head-on crashes kill 5,200 Americans each year.

About one in five non-intersection fatal crashes involves two vehicles crashing head-on. Of these, 75 percent occur on rural roads and 75 percent on undivided two-lane roads. For all roads, one-third of head-on crashes involve vehicles “negotiating a curve” and two-thirds are related to vehicles “going straight.”

Most head-on crashes are likely to result from a motorist making an “unintentional” maneuver—the driver falls asleep, is distracted, or travels too fast in a curve. Contributing factors may include speed and alcohol use.

The factors identified by AASHTO were involved in a head-on accident that killed Megan L. Brown and Frederick A. Brand.

Troopers continue to investigate who or what caused the crash. They suspect the Audi crossed the center lane. By the time law enforcement arrived, however, all of the occupants except Brown had been extracted from the Audi by firefighters. So troopers were working to confirm, for certain, who had been driving the car before giving out that information to the public.

Investigators also were looking into alcohol as a possible factor. An EMT reported smelling alcohol on one person in the Audi, and bottles and cans of beer were found in the car, according to the state patrol.

Automobile insurance policies may not be enough to cover all the damages. It’s important to look beyond the parties at the scene of the accident.

Intoxicated drivers had to get intoxicated somewhere. Where the driver came from a bar, a claim against the bar (not just the intoxicated driver) should be investigated. If a tavern continued to serve a driver who was apparently intoxicated, the bar may be liable for over-service (and typically bars carry at least $1,000,000 in insurance coverage).

It’s also important look at the way the road was designed and maintained.

The government collects billions of dollars in taxes that are used to build and maintain of our roads. The government has a basic duty to provide reasonably safe roads. The government has an obligation to eliminate hazards and other dangerous conditions that pose a threat to the lives of drivers–for example, head-on collisions.

Head-on collisions can be reduced by proper use of guardrails and median barriers. Even if they weren’t needed when the road was built, the government has to monitor accident history. If a road turns out to be dangerous the government has to take steps (or additional steps) to make it reasonably safe. If the government drops the ball, it can be responsible just like a tavern or the at-fault driver.

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