Can I be sued for waving a car in front of me?

If you are driving and you have the right of way, would you consider waving another car to go ahead of you? Most people think this is a kind and considerate act. But can you get in trouble for waving someone into traffic? Yes, you can.

There are circumstances in which a wave of this manner can subject a driver to tort liability for a resulting accident. Basically, when a person unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm, even with good intentions, they can be legally liable for injuries and financial losses.

Suppose you’ve been in a car accident that occurred after you waved another driver to proceed. In that case, a knowledgeable attorney will also be able to advise you on the specific laws and regulations that apply to your situation. The aftermath of such an incident can be confusing and stressful, especially if you’re dealing with injuries, property damage, and potential legal consequences.

An experienced car accident lawyer in Virginia can be a valuable advocate in this situation. They can help you navigate the complex legal system and help protect your rights.

Virginia law about waving drivers into oncoming traffic

The Virginia Supreme Court has adopted a legal principle from 1980. Basically, if a driver’s waving signal was or could be interpreted by another driver as a signal to proceed across lanes of oncoming traffic then the driver who waves has to be certain the other driver can cross safely.

In 1990, the Virginia Supreme Court confronted the waving issue again. In the more recent case, the Court found that the driver giving the signal “was so positioned that the jury reasonably could find that he could have and should have seen the danger of traffic approaching from the rear in the left turn lane.” If that was the case, and if the jury found that the driver being waved out reasonably believed that the wave was a signal to proceed into the left turn lane, the waving driver would have been found liable.

The dangers of waving another motorist into traffic

Waving another motorist into traffic can be dangerous and potentially lead to serious accidents. There are several reasons why this seemingly harmless act can put both the waving driver and the driver being waved into traffic at risk.

Limited visibility

Limited visibility is one of the primary dangers of waving another motorist into traffic. The driver who is waving may not have a clear view of all lanes, especially if larger vehicles, curves, or other obstructions are present. Even if you think you can see everything happening, this limited visibility can prevent you from accurately assessing the situation’s safety, potentially putting the other driver at risk.

For example, if a driver in the right lane waves another motorist to turn left across multiple lanes of traffic, they may not see an oncoming vehicle in the far left lane, leading to a collision.

In a related example, imagine a scenario where a driver stops at a crosswalk with pedestrians walking across the street. The driver in the adjacent lane, seeing the stopped vehicle, may assume that it is safe to proceed and wave another driver through the intersection. However, the pedestrian, who has the right of way, may still be crossing or about to cross the street. If the driver who was waved through the intersection fails to see the pedestrian crossing, a serious accident can occur.

Miscommunication

Miscommunication is another significant risk associated with waving motorists into traffic. A wave can be easily misinterpreted, leading to confusion and accidents. The driver being waved in may assume that the waving driver has checked all lanes and that it is safe to proceed, even if this is not the case. Additionally, other drivers on the road may not be aware of the waving driver’s intention, which can result in unexpected maneuvers and collisions. For example, they may change lanes into the lane where the driver has been waved in.

A driver being waved into traffic may develop a false sense of security, assuming it is safe to proceed without properly checking for oncoming vehicles on their own. This can be particularly dangerous if the waving driver’s view of the road is obstructed or traffic conditions have changed since the initial wave.

Protect yourself and others

Although waving another driver in front of you seems like a nice thing to do, you do not want your well-intentioned actions to lead to an accident. The proper procedure is for all drivers to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others by thoroughly assessing the situation before entering traffic, regardless of another driver’s gesture.

A waving driver is open to legal liability

Drivers who wave another car in front of them could be found liable if an accident or injury occurs. If you’re wondering, “Can I be successfully sued for waving a car in front of me?” The answer is yes, possibly. Our recommendation is don’t wave them in. You can leave a gap and let them in but don’t make eye contact or wave people in because you may be taking on a duty. Waving or gesturing can indicate that it’s safe, which means you’re taking on a duty/responsibility to ensure that it is actually safe.

The legal implications of this duty of care can be significant, as the waving driver may be held responsible for any injuries or damages suffered by the other driver, passengers, or other parties involved in the accident. The extent of the waving driver’s liability may depend on factors such as the specific circumstances of the accident, the actions of the other driver, and the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred.

The legal consequences of breaching the duty of care can be severe. The waving driver may face civil lawsuits seeking compensation for medical expenses, damage to the victim’s car and other property, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. In some cases, they may even face criminal charges if their actions are deemed particularly reckless or negligent.

How to avoid waving-related accidents

One of the most effective ways to avoid waving-related accidents is to refrain from waving or gesturing to other motorists altogether. While it may feel impolite not to acknowledge another driver’s courtesy, waving can be easily misinterpreted or create a false sense of security. Instead of waving, drivers can maintain a safe following distance and allow other motorists to make their own decisions based on traffic conditions and their own judgment.

In situations where another driver waves you into traffic, remember that you are ultimately responsible for your own safety. Don’t assume that the waving driver has checked all lanes or that it is safe to proceed. Take a moment to assess the situation yourself, checking for oncoming vehicles and ensuring that you have a clear path before entering traffic.

Yielding the right of way is another critical aspect of avoiding waving-related accidents. Always follow traffic laws and yield the right of way when required, regardless of other drivers’ gestures. Remember that traffic laws are designed to keep everyone safe, and adhering to them can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. If you have the right of way, proceed cautiously and be prepared to react to other drivers’ unexpected actions.

How a car accident attorney can help

A car accident lawyer can provide valuable assistance to a driver who was involved in an accident where they either waved another driver into traffic or were waved in by another driver.

Personal injury lawyers who handle car accident cases can review the details of the accident and help determine who may be liable for the resulting injuries and damages. They can analyze factors such as the actions of both drivers, the specific circumstances of the accident, and the applicable traffic laws to build a strong case.

Your attorney can help gather crucial evidence like witness statements and notes from the police officer who was on the scene, the official police report, medical records, and surveillance footage, if available. They can also work with accident reconstruction specialists to demonstrate how the waving gesture contributed to the accident.

The insurance company will often try to minimize the amount they pay for a claim. A car accident lawyer can handle communications with the insurance companies involved and negotiate on behalf of the driver to ensure they receive fair compensation for their injuries and damages.

If the case goes to trial, a lawyer can represent the driver in court proceedings. They can present evidence, argue the driver’s case, and work to protect their rights and interests throughout the legal process.

A car accident lawyer can provide valuable advice on the driver’s legal rights and options. They can explain the potential consequences of the accident, including any legal liabilities the driver may face, and help them make informed decisions about how to proceed with their case.

Contact Allen & Allen for legal help with a car accident case

If you’ve been involved in a car accident that resulted from either waving another driver into traffic or being waved in by another driver, talk to an experienced car accident lawyer. At Allen & Allen, our knowledgeable attorneys understand the complexities of these cases. We can help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and fight for the compensation you deserve. Don’t hesitate to contact Allen & Allen today for a free consultation and let us put our experience to work for you.

For over a century, Allen & Allen has been dedicated to upholding our commitment to our clients, team members, and the communities we serve. We have built lasting relationships founded on the core principles that have been our guiding light since our establishment in 1910: integrity, respect, empathy, and trust. These values form the bedrock of our firm and continue to shape our interactions with those who entrust us with their legal matters. Call our firm at 866-772-1384 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

About the Author: Dave Douthit is a personal injury attorney with Allen & Allen. Dave practices primarily out of the firm’s Richmond, VA and Mechanicsville, VA branches. His background with big insurance companies and knowledge of how they work behind the scenes is an advantage for his clients when he is negotiating and fighting for their rights.