On December 13, 2022, a wrong-way driver crashed head-on into a car on State Road 44 east of Interstate 4 in Deland, Florida. Three people died. Additional victims suffered injury. The driver fled the scene.
Our Pensacola accident lawyers see the tragedies resulting from head-on car crashes and work hard for victims and their families to bring wrong-way drivers to justice.
What is a Wrong-Way Head-on Crash?
A wrong-way head-on crash occurs when a vehicle travels in the wrong direction. They travel against traffic signs and the flow of traffic when they collide with a vehicle that is going the right way.
Why do wrong-way head-on crashes occur?
Possible causes of wrong-way head-on crashes include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Operating while tired or fatigued
- Intentional reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Medical episode
- Becoming confused by unclear signs and markings
- Poor road, ramp, and interchange design
- Weather conditions that limit visibility
- Low lighting
- Not being familiar with the roads
Most wrong-way head-on crashes are the result of accidental conduct. Usually, they do not happen on purpose. However, negligent conduct, like failing to follow traffic signs, can be sufficient to create legal liability for a crash. In addition, a driver is legally responsible for reckless conduct, including driving while intoxicated and extremely tired, for example.
Understanding the Dangers of Wrong-Way Head-On Vehicle Crashes
The Florida Department of Transportation says wrong-way, head-on crashes are a serious problem. In a five-year period, there were 280 confirmed wrong-way head-on crashes in Florida. These crashes caused 75 deaths and more than 400 injuries. (FDOT, Statewide Wrong Way Crash Study). Due to statistical recording methods, the actual number of crashes may be much higher.
Why are wrong-way head-on crashes so dangerous?
Wrong-way head-on crashes are so dangerous because of their potential to cause serious injury and death. While they are not the most common type of crash, more than half of wrong-way head-on crashes result in injury (51%). 18% result in death. (FDOT).
When two vehicles collide head-on, the force applied during the crash is high. If each vehicle is moving towards each other at the time of the collision, the speed of each vehicle is compounded. The result is a serious crash with a high likelihood of injury and death.
Despite studies, educational materials, and safety improvement recommendations, wrong-way head-on crashes continue to cause serious injury and death throughout Florida. If you’re injured, you may have a right to compensation.
Injury Risk From Wrong-way Head-on Crashes
Common types of injury from wrong-way head-on crashes are:
- Paralysis, loss of movement, spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury, concussion, loss of consciousness
- Broken bones, including legs, ribs, pelvis, and arms
- Airbag injuries, broken nose
- Burns, cuts, and lacerations
- Road rash
- Internal organ damage and dysfunction
- Mental health injuries and damages
- Wrongful death
Because of the high rates of speed involved, a victim may be thrown from the vehicle or pinned in it. A vehicle may roll over, increasing the likelihood of brain and spinal cord injury. When a crash occurs, securing emergency medical attention for injured parties is the top priority. Call emergency responders for medical attention and to report the crash to the police.
Legal Liability in Wrong-Way Head-On Crashes
If you are the victim of a wrong-way head-on crash, you may deserve financial compensation. Florida is a no-fault state, but when injuries are severe, permanent, or disfiguring, the victim may claim compensation from the responsible party.
To receive compensation, injuries must reach a threshold of severity. (Florida Rev. Stat. § 627.737). When the threshold is met, the victim may claim compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, and other damages.
Often, victims of wrong-way head-on crashes can prove they have a qualifying injury. When they meet the injury threshold, they may claim full compensation for their losses and damages. They must prove their right to compensation, including the legal fault of the wrong-way driver, a resulting crash, the correlation of damages, and the damages included in the claim for compensation.
Liable parties for a wrong-way crash
Parties who may be liable for a wrong-way crash are:
- The driver who fails to follow traffic control signals
- Employer of the driver who is responsible for their actions
- Someone who loans their vehicle to someone else
- Government for road design
- Vehicle manufacturer if a vehicle design defect contributed to the crash
Of course, the most likely person to have legal fault in a wrong-way head-on crash is the vehicle driver. You may not think that the government could have liability. However, the State of Florida has identified ways to improve traffic control to prevent these crashes, like upgrading signage in advance of interchanges, larger signs, flashing lights, and clearer pavement markings. Multiple parties may have legal fault for the crash. (FDOT).
You may pursue compensation even if there are criminal charges
It is not uncommon for a wrong-way driver to face serious criminal charges. See Himmel v. State, 542 S.E.2d 557 (Ga. Ct. App. 2000), where a defendant was found guilty of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and serious injury by vehicle after driving for long periods with very little sleep and driving the wrong way, causing a head-on collision. Wrong-way head-on crashes are often investigated as criminal matters. However, there does not have to be a criminal charge for the victim to bring a claim for compensation.
It is usually advantageous for a victim to bring a claim whether or not the offender faces criminal charges. A civil claim allows the victim to pursue the compensation they deserve while controlling the litigation and settlement process. It is important not to wait – the statute of limitations continues to run in a civil case while criminal charges are pending.
Legal Help for Wrong-Way Head-on Crash Victims in Pensacola
If you are the victim of a wrong-way head-on crash, you may deserve financial compensation. The process can be especially complex when damages are high. The insurance company may try to fight liability for a high-value claim. Our experienced lawyers are here to fight for justice.
Our Pensacola car accident lawyers understand the steps for claiming compensation for wrong-way head-on crash victims. We take your case seriously, beginning with our investigation and thoroughly building your case. Let us fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us now to talk about your case.