Understanding Wrong-Way Accidents: How They Happen And What You Should Do Next

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When a motorist drives on the wrong side of the road, it often results in a head-on collision with another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. This crash has twice the force of other types of vehicle accidents, putting drivers and front-seat passengers dangerously close to the point of collision. 

At Max Meyers Law, our knowledgeable Washington car accident legal team understands the devastating injuries caused by wrong-way accidents and strives to help you find justice and restitution for your circumstances.  Washington Injury Attorney | Wrong-Way Accidents

Common Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents 

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are approximately 500 wrong-way accidents in the U.S. each year. Although this might seem like a relatively low number compared to the rate of other types of car crashes, even one is too many. Here are some of the reasons for wrong-way collisions. 

Driving Under the Influence 

It’s a common problem: a motorist impaired by drugs or alcohol mistakenly enters some type of roadway heading in the wrong direction. Even if they realize their mistake, their reaction times are slowed due to their altered state, resulting in an unfortunate crash. 

Medical Emergencies 

Some wrong-way accidents take place when a person suffers from a medical emergency, such as low blood sugar, heart attack, or a stroke. In the height of the medical emergency, an individual loses control of their vehicle, swerving into the wrong lane.  

Nighttime Driving and Poor Weather 

Reduced visibility due to low lighting or hazardous conditions, such as snow, rain, or fog, can lead to driving onto the wrong onramp and crashing into oncoming traffic. 

Elderly Drivers 

Older motorists may have different medical issues, such as problems with eyesight or mental acuity, that affect their judgment while behind the wheel. They might also have more difficulty navigating if they’re unfamiliar with an area or don’t drive much.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a problem even when motorists are traveling in the right direction. But behaviors such as texting, eating while driving, and grooming take their eyes and hands off the wheel, making it all too easy to miss important one-way signs.  


Drowsy driving is a serious concern. Sleep deprivation causes numerous problems, such as blurred vision, difficulty making quick decisions, struggling to pay attention to the road and other vehicles, and falling asleep behind the wheel. 

Poor Road Signage or Design 

In some cases, wrong-way accidents could have been prevented if not for poor road signage or poor road design. In these cases, even clear-headed drivers with good visibility may get confused and enter a roadway headed in the wrong direction. 

Poor Passing Attempts 

Other wrong-way accidents happen when a driver attempts to pass another motorist on a two-lane highway. In these incidents, the crash occurs either because the passing driver made a bad judgment or because the oncoming motorist was speeding or driving recklessly. 

What to Do After a Wrong-Way Accident 

The first and most critical thing to do after a wrong-way accident is to have a thorough medical exam. These are often high-impact accidents that have severe health consequences, even if you don’t feel them right away due to shock or adrenaline. Once your medical needs are met, you can move on to the next steps. 

Write Down Everything You Remember 

If you’re able, do this as you can after the crash, and don’t hesitate to put as many details as possible, even if they don’t seem important. Encourage anyone else who was present to write down their observations as well. 

Follow Your Doctor’s Orders 

It’s essential to fulfill all treatment directives—not only for your health but also for your wrong-way accident claim. Take any prescribed medications as directed, and keep track of your treatments, follow-up care, medical costs, and home supplies. 

Don’t Talk to Insurance Companies Without Talking to an Attorney First

Insurance adjusters are trained to protect the bottom line of insurers. If there’s an opportunity to reduce any degree of fault away from their client and onto you, they’ll take it. For example, if you say sorry at the accident scene to the other driver just because it feels like the right thing to do, it can be perceived as an admission of guilt. Additionally, you’re not required to provide a recorded statement unless your attorney thinks it’s necessary.

Common Wrong-Way Accident Injuries  

Some common wrong-way accident injuries include: 

  • Traumatic brain injuries 
  • Punctured or lacerated organs 
  • Spinal cord injuries 
  • Broken bones 
  • Paralysis 
  • Back and neck injuries 

These injuries might keep you hospitalized and out of work for days, weeks, or months. They can also cost huge amounts of money in treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation. In some cases, permanent injuries can change the course of your life.

Recovering Damages After a Wrong-Way Accident 

Survivors of wrong-way accidents may be owed monetary compensation for their losses in the crash, such as:  

  • Medical bills 
  • Future medical bills 
  • Lost wages 
  • Permanent disability 
  • Loss of quality of life 

In order to collect damages from a crash like this, it’s imperative to prove that another party or parties were responsible for causing the accident. The reputable legal team at Max Meyers Law collects all of the evidence in your case, using it as the foundation to prove the other party’s liability and why those actions make them responsible for your financial recovery.

Wrong-way car accidents can be extremely traumatic: you were following all the rules and doing your best to drive safely when suddenly a vehicle barreled straight toward you—and there was nothing you could do about it. At Max Meyers Law, we want you to know there is something you can do about it now. Even though you can’t take back what happened, you can gain control of your future and demand a fair outcome.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.