Who is Liable for a Head-On Collision?
Head-on collisions are among the most dangerous types of car accidents. According to data from the Insurance Information Institute (III) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10 percent of all fatal vehicle accidents involve head-on collisions, including 13 percent of all fatal accidents in rural areas and seven percent of all fatal urban crashes. Even when a head-on collision isn’t fatal, drivers and passengers will often suffer life-altering physical injuries and emotional trauma.
Due to the severity of head-on collisions, most cases will involve insurance claims outside of personal injury protection (PIP). Under New York’s “no-fault” insurance law, all drivers are required to carry PIP insurance, and injured drivers are limited to seeking PIP coverage in many cases. However, if you were seriously injured or a loved one was killed, then you may be able to secure additional compensation by filing a fault-based claim against the other driver, or potentially against a third party.
When Can You Seek Financial Compensation (Outside of PIP) for a Head-On Collision in New York?
For the purposes of this article, we will assume that you suffered serious traumatic injuries in a head-on collision in New York. Your losses far exceed your PIP coverage, and you need to seek additional compensation. Who is liable for your injuries?
1. The Other Driver
In the case of a head-on collision, the most likely candidate is usually going to be the other driver. Driver negligence can take many forms, and many forms of driver negligence can lead to head-on collisions. Whether the other driver was distracted, drunk, drowsy, or lost control while speeding, if he or she made a mistake that led to the crash, then his or her insurance company should be liable.
For crashes occurring in and around cities like New York and White Plains, it is also important to determine whether the other driver was on the clock at the time of the crash. When drivers cause accidents within the scope of their employment, their employers will often be directly or vicariously liable for accident victims’ losses.
2. A Vehicle Manufacturer or Dealership
In some instances, drivers lose control not because they are being negligent, but because their vehicles malfunction. If your crash was caused by a defect in your (or the other driver’s) vehicle, then the relevant vehicle manufacturer may be liable under New York’s strict liability law. In product defect cases, strict liability attaches to each company involved in the “chain of distribution,” so a component manufacturer, dealership, or other company could be liable as well.
3. A Vehicle Maintenance or Repair Shop
Negligent maintenance or repair work can be just as dangerous as negligent driving or a vehicle defect. If the other driver’s steering went out, if his or her brakes failed, or if any other malfunction occurred as a result of faulty service work, then the shop that performed the work could be fully liable for the financial and non-financial effects of your injuries.
4. A State or Local Government Agency
Turns that are too sharp, medians that are too narrow, and other issues with the road can also factor into head-on collisions. If the road where your accident occurred was not designed and constructed safely, then the government agency that is responsible for the road could be responsible for your losses as well.
5. A Road Construction Contractor
Likewise, if the government agency that is responsible for the road hired a construction contractor to design, build, or maintain the road, then the contractor could be liable for your injuries. In addition to design and construction issues, maintenance issues such as failure to repair potholes can also cause drivers to unexpectedly lose control and cross the center line.
While these are the individuals and entities that are most likely to be liable for a head-on collision, this list is not exhaustive. There are various circumstances under which other parties could be liable as well. For example, perhaps a third driver forced the driver who hit you out of his or her lane and into oncoming traffic. Or, maybe a passenger in the other vehicle was trying to play around and grabbed hold of the wheel. In order to determine who is liable for your injuries in your case, you will need to hire an attorney to conduct an investigation promptly.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation at Lever & Ecker, PLLC
Were you seriously injured in a head-on collision in White Plans or New York City? Have you recently lost a loved one in a head-on collision in which you believe someone else may have been to blame? For a free, no-obligation consultation with a car accident lawyer about your legal rights, call us at 914-288-9191 or request an appointment online today.