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Don't be Too Courteous--Missouri Drivers who wave other motorists to turn in front of them may be liable for any crash that occurs as a result.

We have all been there.  Traffic is backing up in your lane of traffic. You see someone coming from the opposite direction, waiting to make a left turn into a driveway, across your lane of traffic.  You stop and give that person a gap so that he can make his left turn, and then wave to him to go ahead and turn in front of you.  He starts his turn, and then WHAM, a car coming down the lane next to you hits the turning driver you just signaled to turn. You think to yourself, "Hey, not my fault--I was just being nice and have no control over what other drivers do."  Well, under Missouri law, you may be wrong about that.  You could be at least partially at fault for the accident.

 

“A driver of a motor vehicle who voluntarily undertakes to signal the driver of another motor vehicle to pass is liable for all damages for all reasonably foreseeable consequences if in the giving of the signal he does not exercise the highest degree of care for the safety of others.” Miller v. Watkins, 355 S.W.2d 1, 4-5 (Mo. 1962). In Miller, the Court considered the timing and physical facts surrounding the accident, which included the fact that the driver who was signaled had an obstructed view and that the signaled driver’s path would cross with the victim’s. Id. at 4. The Court concluded that a jury could reasonably find the signaling driver negligent. Id.

 

It is never prudent to signal another driver to turn in front of you unless you first have ensured that it is safe for that person to do so.  Signaling them to turn in effect makes you assume some responsibility that you would not otherwise have.  So, even though it seems to be the courteous thing to do, waving a driver to turn in front of you may not be the smartest thing to do. 

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