The latest gaming craze, Pokemon Go, has captured the imagination of a lot of folks. Called an “augmented reality” game, meaning that it blends the virtual world with the real world, it is free to use and debuted in early July of 2016. The point of the game? To “catch” Pokemon, which are electronic creatures. Basically, it’s a digital scavenger hunt.
Pokemon Go has been praised because it gets people out of their houses so they can interact with others. But single-minded pursuit of Pokemon creatures can present hazards to you and to others.
Following Pokemon to the ER
Believe it or not, a number of players have become so engrossed in Pokemon Go that they suffered physical injuries. Some have reported minor scrapes and visits to the ER; one person even reported breaking a bone from stepping into a hole because they were intensely focused on finding Pokemon. Other reports have noted people walking, skating, or biking into objects with enough force to cause injuries.
Then there are those who “Pokemon and drive.” One distracted driver crashed into a parked police vehicle; another rear-ended a vehicle in Washington State. Louisiana has seen multiple reports of accidents due to PWD (Pokemon while driving).
In case you missed the message: Do not hunt Pokemon while behind the wheel. It’s only a matter of time before someone is killed in such an accident.
When There Are Injuries or Violations, Who is Liable?
If someone else crashes their car into yours while chasing Pokemon, it’s probable that they would be found negligent due to distracted driving. That seems straightforward enough. But suppose an uninvited person is injured on your private property? Believe it or not, you might be held liable if someone trespasses on your property while they are hunting Pokemon. Therefore it is in your best interests to keep your property well-maintained and safe, free of debris and hazards.
The pendulum can swing both ways, however. A homeowner in New Jersey filed suit against the makers of Pokemon Go (Niantic Inc. and Nintendo) after repeated trespasses by Pokemon hunters, some going so far as to ring his doorbell, demanding access to his fenced-in backyard. Although the companies involved have put out disclaimers regarding injuries or other potential harm while using the game, some believe that it is only a matter of time before a claim is brought against Pokemon’s corporate owners. Niantic’s disclaimers may not completely satisfy their legal duty.
Augmented reality games open up an entirely new area of the law and legal responsibilities, including the possibility of class action if frenzy to find a rare Pokemon results in many people converging on an area and engaging in riots and general mayhem.
Play, But Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Finally, crimes have been committed by using Pokemon Go to lure unsuspecting victims. Suspected perpetrators used Pokemon Go’s geolocation feature in Missouri to entice eight victims to a fake Pokestop (location containing Pokemon characters) and rob them at gunpoint. Still others have used the game to attract players to potential crime scenes with dead bodies, as has happened in Riverton, Wyoming, and San Diego, California.
While playing Pokemon Go, it’s always a good idea not to do so alone, especially after dark, or in areas that appear deserted or are known to have a high crime rate. Have fun, but stay safe.
We’re listening. How can we help?
At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we have devoted our practice to defending the rights of personal injury victims. We know how traumatic a serious accident can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a loved one was seriously harmed, you may be entitled to various kinds of financial compensation, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident, you should not delay. Contact Steve today for a free initial consultation by calling (410) 625-4878, or use our online form.