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A moment of distraction can have lifelong consequences: understanding your compensation rights after a head-on collision


Attwood Marshall Lawyers Compensation Law Senior Associate Tina Davis delves into the devastating impact seen by compensation lawyers when individuals are involved in head-on collisions. The message of driving safely is simply not getting through to road users.

Head-on collisions are among the most devastating type of road accidents, often resulting in serious injuries or fatalities.

Despite being so easily preventable, these accidents occur all too frequently. Contributing factors to head on collisions include inattention to the road due to a mobile phone, driving tired, or under the influence of drugs and alcohol, excessive speed, and unsafe overtaking. There is no justification for such negligence.  Swerving to miss an animal on the road can also lead to disastrous consequences.

A single lapse in concentration can upend lives. The consequences of a head on collision can be profound, affecting not only those injured in the collision for a lifetime, but also their loved ones.

Unfortunately, as personal injury lawyers, we regularly see firsthand the devastating consequences of inattentive driving.

We recently acted on a case where our client was seriously injured due to another driver’s inattention.  Within a matter of seconds, the other driver’s vehicle had crossed over double white lines and into the path of oncoming traffic causing a head on collision with our client’s vehicle. Both drivers suffered serious injuries and the consequences of the accident have been profoundly life altering.

In this case, the impact also extended beyond our client. Our client’s wife suffered significant emotional trauma due to the accident and the life-threatening injuries which our client experienced, through no fault of his own. We represented her in a nervous shock claim and successfully secured compensation for the psychological distress she endured.

The imperative to drive safely

A head-on collision involves two vehicles travelling in opposite directions, which collide into the front end of each other’s vehicle.  Generally high-speed head-on collisions are more likely to result in serious injuries or fatality.

Many victims involved in head on collisions suffer injuries so significant that they require immediate hospitalisation and often carry the burden of lifelong effects of those injuries. This is exceptionally unfair for those who have been injured through no fault of their own but due to the negligence of another road user. 

Every May, National Road Safety Week reminds us of the many senseless deaths and catastrophic injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents on Australian roads every day.

In 2024, the theme was “Pledge to drive so others survive”. This involves making a firm commitment to:

  • Drive as if your loved ones are on the road ahead;
  • Remove all distractions and never use your mobile phone whilst driving;
  • Never speed, drive tired, or drive whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and
  • Protect vulnerable road users – especially those whose job places them in harm’s way – by slowing down and giving them room to be safe.

We all play a vital role in maintaining a safe driving environment. By following these tips, we can help make the roads safer.

How to navigate the legal system after being injured in a head-on collision 

Victims of serious motor vehicle accidents must obtain legal advice as soon as possible so that they understand their legal rights and entitlements to compensation for their injuries.

In most cases, the driver at fault will take responsibility for the collision. 

However, in some circumstances, the accident may be so catastrophic that both drivers have suffered severe injuries, and neither can recall what happened. 

In this scenario, a Forensic Crash Unit will carry out an investigation to determine the cause of the accident and the driver considered most at fault. Police investigators will obtain witness statements, dashcam footage, and electronic data from the damaged vehicles. They will also take photographs of the scene, examine tyre marks on the road, damage to nearby property and the extent of the damage to each vehicle. They will investigate whether drugs or alcohol played a part in the collision and whether any criminal charges should be brought.  

If relevant, they can also obtain data from mobile phones to show at what time and for how long the driver was looking at, texting, or talking on their mobile phone.

Types of compensation available

Victims involved in head-on collisions may be eligible to claim compensation for costs related to the collision, including medical and hospital expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, domestic assistance (paid and unpaid), and rehabilitation services for physical and psychological injuries. 

In some cases, injuries from a head-on collision are so severe that the National Injury Insurance Scheme, Queensland (NIISQ) may also be involved. NIISQ fund necessary and reasonable treatment, care and support for victims who experience an eligible, serious personal injury in a motor vehicle accident in Queensland.

An eligible serious personal injury includes:

  • Permanent spinal cord injuries.
  • Traumatic brain injuries.
  • Multiple or high-level limb amputations.
  • Permanent injury to the brachial plexus.
  • Severe burns.
  • Permanent blindness caused by trauma. 

Learn more about NIISQ here.

Legal advice on the NISSQ scheme should be sought as early as possible.

In the case of a head-on collision that has caused fatality, spouses or dependents may be eligible for compensation, including for the loss of financial dependency and the loss of services provided by the deceased.

These claims would be for a one-off payment comprising their past and future losses from the head-on collision and, in some cases, a “nervous shock” claim for any psychological injury a person may sustain due to witnessing or hearing about their loved one’s death.

Strict deadlines for lodging and pursuing a claim

In Queensland, if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision and you have the registration details of the vehicle at fault, you must serve a Notice of Accident Claim Form within 9 months after the date of the accident or within one month of consulting a lawyer about the accident, whichever is the earlier.

In certain circumstances, the Claim Form can still be lodged after nine months if a reasonable excuse for delay is provided. The claim must then commence in court (or otherwise time limit protected) within 3 years of the date of injury, or the claim will be statute-barred, and you may be permanently prevented from making a claim.

For claims where the at-fault vehicle was unidentified, unregistered or uninsured, a Notice of Accident Claim Form should be given to the Nominal Defendant within 3 months of the accident. If you have failed to submit the form within 3 months but you can provide a reasonable excuse for the delay, you may still be able to submit the form up to 9 months from the date of the accident.

Claims must be filed in court within three years of the accident. Otherwise, they will be statute-barred, and any right to compensation will be lost.

Different time limits apply to minors under 18 years of age or individuals who do not have legal capacity.

Shorter time limits also apply in New South Wales, which follows a different compensation process. 

The earlier you obtain legal advice about your potential entitlement to claim compensation, the better your outcome will be. Our expert legal team can guide you through your motor vehicle accident claim to ensure you give yourself the best chance to achieve an optimal outcome, giving you access to the treatment you need and the financial security you deserve for the future. 

Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping injured motorists for over 75 years

Our expert team of personal injury lawyers have the state-specific knowledge and experience to help anyone who has suffered serious injuries on Queensland and New South Wales roads.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and need advice and support to obtain the treatment you need, contact our friendly team by calling our Compensation Law Department Manager, Tyra Hall, on direct line 07 5506 8261, emailing, or free call our 24/7 phone line on 1800 621 071.

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Tina Davis Compensation Law Associate Attwood Marshall Lawyers

Tina Davis

Senior Associate
Compensation Law

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The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

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