We've all been there. You're in your car, waiting to make a turn. A polite driver in an opposite lane slows to a stop and waves at you to go ahead in front of them.
It's a thoughtful gesture, the kind of thing that contributes to the "Midwest nice" phenomenon.
But it's not safe and could get you — as either the waver or the waved-to — in trouble if it leads to a bad car accident.
Various states have different rules about who is responsible in accidents initiated by a wave. In Ohio, the situation is confusing with conflicting court opinions on liability.
When a traffic maneuver or turn is attempted on a wave, usually it's only the drivers directly involved that are aware the normal rules of the road are about to be temporarily suspended. Other drivers on the road may try to pass. On streets with two lanes of traffic in each direction, someone may wave you into one lane but not see cars speeding by in the other.
It's okay and often advisable to simply just decline a wave-in.
Who's at fault in a car accident caused by a wave?
Most states don't have hard-and-fast rules about who is at fault in an accident influenced by a polite wave.
Three states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia — allow you to sue someone if they waved you into an intersection and it resulted in a crash. In Georgia it's different. There the law says that, in most cases, you cannot sue someone over a wave-in.
In Ohio, we have conflicting opinions. The state Supreme Court has ruled that you "cannot rely on a signal given by a stopped vehicle." Doing so, the court said, might be "negligent." Since then at least one district court has ruled that the question of liability changes case-to-case and should be decided by a jury.
Some traffic experts say that the best way to be courteous on the road is to never wave or accept a wave-in. You're better off observing standard right-of-way rules. This keeps traffic moving and reduces the risk of accidents.
Who has the right of way?
To follow the right-of-way rules, you need to know them. Here's what "right of way" means in Ohio
- When vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
- The only time you should follow a wave-in is if it's coming from a police officer or other recognized official conducting traffic.
- When entering onto the highway or another street you must yield to vehicles already on the roadway.
- You must yield to oncoming traffic when turning left and when turning right on a red light.
- You must always yield to emergency vehicles like police cruisers, fire trucks, and ambulances if they have their lights and/or sirens activated.
Take back control after a car accident
Midwesterners are known for their niceness, but there is nothing nice about having to deal with the aftermath of a car accident involving a waving driver.
Even if you think your crash seems straightforward, the insurance company for the driver who caused your accident will probably try to avoid responsibility. Insurance company agents often work hard to reject or minimize claims, and in a lot of cases, they blame victims for accidents. Keep in mind insurance companies are financially motivated to pay you as little money as possible, and if you're not careful, that's exactly what might happen.
That's why you need an experienced car accident lawyer who knows how to fight for injury victims in Ohio.
At Michael D. Christensen Law Offices LLC, our dedicated legal professionals have a proven record of success and take pride in helping our clients recover the compensation they're entitled to.
We also offer legal representation on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no upfront money, hourly rate, or retainer for you to pay. Our fee is a percentage of your final settlement or judgment, and if we don't win, you don't pay. It's that simple.
Find out how our law firm can help you and contact us today for a free consultation.