After a head on collision (or any car accident type) the longer you wait to file your lawsuit, the longer it will take for you to recover from your damages, possibly leaving you to deal with bill collectors for an extended time, or even forcing you into bankruptcy. Contact an auto accident attorney as soon as you can.
Head on car collisions—those in which two cars collide at both of their front ends—can result in serious injuries. Often both vehicles involved are traveling at a relatively high rate of speed and one crosses the center line and crashes into the other. Despite the seat belt use rate being over 90 percent in Florida in 2017, that same year there were over 3,100 automobile deaths in the state. A variety of factors can contribute to head on collision accidents, including road conditions and distracted drivers.
5 Types of Head On Collision Injuries
Head on collisions often result in serious injuries due to the speed at which many of them occur. Some injuries can have a lifelong impact on you and, by extension, your family. Others might affect your ability to work—either for a short period of time or indefinitely. Maybe you can work, but now lack the mental or physical ability to work in the field in which you previously worked and are forced to take a lower paying job. The injuries below are frequently associated with head on collisions.
- Lower extremity injuries – Injuries to feet, toes, upper and lower legs, and knees are all common in head on collisions. The National Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a study in 2012 which showed these types of injuries are in fact among the most common injuries sustained by front-riding vehicle occupants in head on collisions. Lower extremity injuries can require surgery, physical therapy, and in the most severe cases, amputation.
- Whiplash – While more common in rear end collisions, whiplash is an injury to the neck which is caused by a rapid and forceful back and forth movement of the neck. The motion resembles that of cracking a whip, hence the name. Whiplash can inhibit the range of motion in the neck and cause dizziness, fatigue, neck pain which may increase with neck movement, or tingling and numbness in the arms.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – Whiplash is a common cause of traumatic brain injuries that result from car accidents. TBIs most often occur when the head receives a jolt or blow, but the jostling of the brain in a whiplash incident can also cause them. You may also experience a traumatic brain injury if your head hits the dashboard, steering wheel, or side window. Diagnosis of this type of injury is difficult because patients may not express any symptoms until days or weeks after the incident. Compounding the issue is that the severity of TBIs ranges from a mild concussion to a coma and numerous manifestations in between. The symptoms also vary greatly and range from lethargy and speech difficulties to lifelong cognitive deficiencies.
- Chest injury – Those hurt in head on collisions may experience chest injuries. While seat belts save lives, and of course anyone who gets into a vehicle should wear one, they can cause bruising and soreness to the chest. A driver’s impact with the steering wheel or the impact from an airbag might break ribs which then puncture the lungs.
- Spinal cord injury – Herniated discs, cracked vertebra, nerve damage, paralyzation, and even death can occur when the force of a front end collision travels up the spine and disrupts its alignment.
Immediately After Your Accident
If you’ve been in a head on collision, you have likely suffered injuries. What do you do after your accident now?
Under Florida’s no-fault insurance law, drivers in the state are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage on their vehicles covering the insured person, people operating the insured’s motor vehicle, passengers in the motor vehicle, and other persons struck by the motor vehicle who suffer bodily injury. This policy has to cover at least $10,000 in medical benefits for treatment of injuries caused by the accident, $10,000 in disability benefits, and $5,000 in death benefits.
The Florida Legislature got tricky when it passed this legislation in 2012, though, and gave insurance providers a way to pay only 25 percent of medical costs by determining that you did not have an emergency medical condition. That’s right—insurance companies can claim that your injuries don’t satisfy policy requirements pay you only $2,500 on a $10,000 policy.
To have your insurance company pay on your policy, you must submit your claim within 14 days of your accident. You claim simply will not be accepted after 14 days. After that, the insurance company has 60 days to investigate your claim for the possibility of fraud. However, even if the company suspects fraud, it still must pay your claim within 30 days.
Document all of the costs you incur associated with your accident. Keep all medical bills, from your ambulance ride to your last physical therapy appointment. Keep receipts in a safe place and keep them all together.
PIP Medical Costs
Your PIP plan will cover 80 percent of medical costs. For your medical costs to be covered by PIP, your treatment has to be provided, ordered, supervised, or prescribed by a licensed physician, dentist, or chiropractor or be provided in a hospital or facility a hospital owns. Your PIP policy will also cover emergency transportation.
Once your initial care is over (you’re released from the hospital), you are entitled reimbursement for follow up care related to your underlying initial diagnosis—but only if they are prescribed, ordered, or supervised by certain medical professionals. Qualified types of follow up care include those provided by:
- A hospital or ambulatory surgical center
- An entity wholly owned by one or more physicians, chiropractic physicians, or dentists and their spouse, parent, child, or sibling.
- An entity that owns or is wholly owned, directly or indirectly, by a hospital
- A licensed physical therapist if that care is based upon a referral by certain providers, or
- Certain health care clinics
PIP Disability Costs
Florida PIP plans are required to cover 60 percent of lost gross income and loss of earning capacity from the inability to work caused by the injuries sustained in your wreck. It also has to cover expenses you incur from other services you can no longer perform for your household that you otherwise would have provided free of charge. This could include household duties, childcare, or lawn and garden maintenance.
For disability claims, you will have to provide your insurance company with wage verification from your employer that goes back 13 weeks from the date of your accident. Some companies also require documentation from the doctor who made the diagnosis of the condition that has left you unable to work.
Just as it is important to document your medical costs, you should also make sure you keep track of the hours and days you have to miss work and the wages associated with that time. This is especially important if you are paid on an hourly basis and your employer does not provide short- or long-term disability benefits.
PIP Death Benefits
Florida drivers must also carry at least $5,000 in death benefits on their PIP plans. This limit applies to each person who is fatally injured in the accident and is in addition to medical and disability benefits provided by the driver’s plan. Those who may receive the death benefit payout include the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s will or any of that person’s relatives—by blood, marriage, or adoption.
When Your Provider Does Not Want to Pay
Because insurance companies only have to pay $2,500 if they determine you did not have an “emergency medical condition”, you can rest assured they make that determination often. An experienced Florida car accident attorney can help you evaluate your situation and determine whether or not it is in your best interest to take legal action against your insurance company in such a dispute.
When PIP Insurance Isn’t Enough
If you carry the minimum coverage amounts on your PIP insurance, it is possible that those benefits will not cover all of the costs you incur to diagnose, treat, and heal from your injuries. If you have a lengthy hospital stay, that cost alone may eat up the $10,000 coverage under your PIP plan, without even touching follow up care and any ongoing therapeutic or rehabilitative costs. You can certainly carry more than the minimum coverage amounts, but as you might expect, you may not change your coverage levels once you’ve submitted a claim. Consider upping your coverage now.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In addition to fighting for the compensation due you from your insurance company, depending on the facts of your case, an Orlando car accident attorney may advise you that the best course of action in your case is to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. Florida law allows you to recover certain monetary damages from a negligent party. Some of those types of damages are listed below. Remember that each case is unique and whether or not and how much of each type of damage you’re entitled to is heavily fact-dependent.
- Economic damages – Economic damages seek to compensate an injured party for direct monetary loss and require direct proof. Of course, to recover these damages from the other party, they must exceed the amount of compensation you received under your PIP plan. These damages include initial medical costs (your emergent treatment and initial hospital stay), post-discharge costs such as appointments with specialists or a later surgery, various sorts of therapy (physical, occupational, or speech), rehabilitation, the cost of any specialized medical equipment you now require, money you spend to have someone perform household services you are now unable to take on yourself, and lost wages—both those you’ve already lost and those which you may lose in the future.
- Non-economic damages – These damages are harder to prove because they are not those for which you will not receive a bill in the mail. But experts can be brought in to assist with assigning a dollar amount to these losses. You may be able to recover for both physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, and inconvenience. In addition, certain of your family members (most often a spouse) may file a claim at the time of your suit for loss of consortium which seeks to compensate them for loss of consortium or companionship that resulted from your injuries.
- Punitive damages – Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants for their behavior and to serve as a deterrent to others who may do the same. In Florida, these damages are reserved for only the most egregious behavior (usually the intentional infliction of harm). They are rare in personal injury cases, but may be an option for you depending on the facts of your case.
Document the economic damages you incur in the treatment of your injuries for purposes of a personal injury suit just as it is for submitting your PIP claim. You will be required to provide evidence of the costs of your injuries. Keep all your bills. And if you’re wondering whether or not to keep something, keep it and show it to your attorney.
Contact an Auto Accident Attorney for Questions and More Information
Car accidents can leave you reeling—both physically and financially. It is always a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. If it is appropriate to file a lawsuit in your case, Florida law requires you to do so within four years of the date of your accident. While that may seem like a long time, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into preparing a lawsuit so the more time you can give your attorney, the better off you’ll be.