Posted on November 10, 2014 in Personal Injury
When riding a bike on Virginia’s roads you have the same rights and duties as the other vehicles. It is your responsibility to move with the flow of traffic while obeying all signs and traffic signals. Most cyclists are aware of this, as well as the fact that they are the smallest, lightest, and slowest vehicles on the road. This causes many of them to be particularly courteous and careful, not wishing to hold up drivers or cause inconvenience. This care and courteousness does have a practical side; regardless of who is at fault, the cyclist will nearly always come off worse in any collision.
One of the most common ways cyclists help drivers on the road is with hand signals. For example, a biker may motion for a motorist to proceed first through an intersection or pass on a two-lane roadway. These gestures are not as simple and innocent as they may seem. Virginia law states that a person choosing to act takes on the duty to act carefully. Therefore, if a car took your hand signal to mean that the way was clear of other vehicles and a collision results, you as the cyclist may be held liable. A court will try to determine whether the signal given could have been interpreted as a communication that it was safe to proceed, and whether the driver could reasonably rely on that signal. If both are true, a cyclist can be held responsible for a collision they were not involved in.
A wave may seem like a friendly and helpful thing to do, but it is just too vague of a gesture. No communication is preferable to miscommunication. It is better to let the driver make their own observations and draw their own conclusions, so that they maintain responsibility for their own safety.
About The Author: Sandy Gregor is a personal injury attorney in Fredericksburg, VA with the law firm of Allen & Allen. She handles a variety of injury cases including bicycle accidents, car accidents and premises liability accidents. She is an experienced litigator whose practice is dedicated to standing up for the rights of clients who have been seriously injured through no fault of their own.
To learn more about bicycle safety, please visit the Allen and Allen website.
See Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-800, at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-800.
See Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-830 at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-830, and § 46.2-833 at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-833.
See Ring v. Poelman, 240 Va. 323 (1990); Cofield v. Nuckels, 239 Va. 186 (1990) at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=5485366678160909927&q=Cofield+v.+Nuckels&hl=en&as_sdt=6,47&as_vis=1; Nolde Bros., Inc. v. Wray, 221 Va. 25 (1980) at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6324204545314040720&q=Nolde+Bros.,+Inc.+v.+Wray&hl=en&as_sdt=6,47&as_vis=1.
For instance, in Nolde Bros. v. Wray (see previous footnote 3), the Court held that the person who waved was clearly not in a position to see the motorist who struck the plaintiff, so that the motorist who pulled out could not have reasonably relied on the wave to mean the way was clear.