If you wave, you may be held liable–don’t do it!

There are two lanes of traffic traveling south.  A driver stopped in the outside lane waves through a car coming out of a gas station.  The car coming out of the gas station attempts to cross both lanes and is hit by a vehicle traveling in the inside lane.

Who is at fault?

Without a doubt, the driver coming out of the gas station is at fault for failing to yield the right of way to the car that hit him.

Is the driver that waved him through liable in any way?

The answer is that she or he may be held partially liable.

Apparently, there are two major positions taken by courts in the United States.  The first position is that by waving someone through, you are simply allowing the other drive to pass in front of you without making any representations of the safety of doing so.  The second position is that waving someone in front of you may be more than mere courtesy and may involve liability, a determination that can, and should, be made by a jury.

In one example I found on a law office website:

Pennsylvania courts will look at the full circumstances of the incident to determine whether or not the waving driver can be held liable.

The factors to be considered are

  • the type of signal given;
  • the reasonable interpretation of the signal given;
  • whether or not giving the signal was negligent; and
  • whether the negligent signaling was a cause of the accident in question. See Askew by Askew v. Zeller, 521 A.2d 459 (PA Super, 1987)

It’s nice to be courteous to others when driving.   However, if the courtesy results in an accident, you may be liable.

On the day after Christmas, we were involved in a car accident very similar to what I described above.  Karen ended up in the emergency room and our car was ruled by the insurance company a total loss.  The person who waved the other car through drove away after the other car was backed up into the gas station.

After being in this accident, I’ve been less inclined to be courteous in these situations – and I won’t pull out across traffic when others wave me through unless I am sure it’s totally safe.

Now that I know I may be liable if there is an accident, being Mr. Nice Guy in this kind of situation just ain’t going to happen.

What about you?

Does knowing that you might be held liable change anything?


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