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What happens if you’re in an accident caused by the other driver playing Pokémon Go?
In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Pokémon Go is a mobile gaming app that is quickly gaining popularity since it’s release early July 2016. For those of you unfamiliar with how the game works, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality smartphone game that encourages you to catch creatures called Pokémon in real-world locations using your mobile phone’s GPS signal.
With hordes of people wandering around cities — some even driving — with their eyes fixed on their smartphones, critics of the game claim that the new craze poses a public safety risk; with auto accidents and even robberies occurring as a result of folks playing Pokémon Go.
On July 11, a Texas A&M Police Department released a statement via Twitter about a driver who had illegally stopped his car in the middle of the road in order to catch a Pokémon, which caused an accident.
7/11-Traffic accident: Illegally parked car struck from behind (*Airbags deployed in 2nd car). 1st driver had exited to catch a Pokémon.
— Texas A&M Police (@TAMUPolice) July 13, 2016
The Tennessee Highway Safety Office issued a stern warning to drivers after reports surfaced of people driving while distracted by playing Pokémon Go:
The idea that people are driving around town while playing games on their phone seems ridiculous when you first hear it, but consider that in 2014, over 400,000 people were injured because of drivers distracted by using their cell phones.
In these kinds of texting-and-driving cases, the plaintiff is awarded punitive damages in some instances, above and beyond medical costs, and pain and suffering of a normal auto accident case. These punitive damages serve to act as a deterrent to dissuade other drivers from driving while texting. In the case of someone playing Pokémon Go, it can be safe to assume that courts will treat these cases similar to texting-and-driving claims, though it’s too early to tell, as the first cases have not yet gone to court.
These safety concerns don’t end with drivers. Folks are also worried pedestrians may be exploring the streets immersed in the game and end up walking directly into traffic without noticing.
In Crewe Virginia, the Crewe Virginia Police Department has been concerned with pedestrians crossing streets distracted while playing the popular smartphone app. They issued this warning on July 10:
Another Police Department in O’Fallon Missouri issued a statement about a string of robberies that were reported to have been linked to Pokémon Go. Police say that robbers were placing several “Pokémon Lures” to lure distracted players to different locations late at night and then robbing them at gunpoint when they are distracted playing the game. The O’Fallon Police Department issued the following statement regarding the incidents:
Another Pokémon Go player was surprised when she discovered a dead body while playing the game.
In a separate instance, an Uber driver named Alex Ramirez was live-streaming video of himself playing Pokémon Go while driving for Uber, and claimed to have witnessed a murder. The video instantly went viral, and Ramirez was subsequently suspended when Uber received numerous complaints regarding his distracted driving from viewers of his videos.
Here at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers, we’d never want to stop you from having fun but we ask you to please refrain from using your smartphone while driving — whatever you are doing, it can wait until you’ve parked – LEGALLY – in a safe location.
If you’ve been injured in an accident by someone who was using their smartphone while driving, contact us today for a free consultation about your rights to compensation and the potential for punitive damages.