What happens if you’re hurt in an accident and the other driver was playing Pokémon Go while driving?
In case you haven’t heard about it yet, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game for your smartphone where players explore real-life locations to catch creatures called Pokémon. The app uses your smartphone’s GPS signal to lead you to different locations within the game.
With millions of flooding the streets – some even driving vehicles with their eyes fixed on their screen instead of the road, critics of the game say it presents a public safety risk. There have even been auto accidents and robberies reported as a result of people playing Pokémon Go.
On July 11, a Texas A&M Police Department released a statement via Twitter regarding a driver who caused an accident by illegally stopping his car in the middle of the road to catch a Pokémon.
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 also published a warning responding to reports of people seeing drivers on the road distracted because they were playing Pokémon Go:
The idea that people might be driving while playing a game may seem farfetched when you hear it at first, but when considering that in 2014, over 400,000 people were injured because of drivers distracted by using their cell phones, the idea doesn’t seem so unlikely.
Sometimes in texting-and-driving cases, the plaintiff is awarded what are called punitive damages, meaning payments that go above and beyond the damages of a regular auto accident case. These additional damages are meant to act as a deterrent to discourage other drivers from engaging in similar behavior. In accidents caused by drivers playing Pokémon Go, it can be safe to assume that courts will treat their case similar to a texting-and-driving case, though it’s far too early to tell, as the first cases have not yet gone to court. Even so, it will be interesting to learn how the first cases turn out.
There has also been concerns raised about people walking around completely immersed in the game. People are worried that pedestrians may end up walking directly into the path of traffic without noticing.
The Crewe Virginia Police Department issued a warning to distracted pedestrians on July 10:
Another Police Department in O’Fallon Missouri issued a statement about a string of robberies reported to have been caused by Pokémon Go. Police say that the robbers were placing what are called “Lures” in order to lead potential victims to different locations late in the evening and then robbing them at gunpoint.
The O’Fallon Police Department put out the following statement in response:
In a separate incident, another Pokémon Go player was surprised upon discovering a dead body while playing the popular smartphone game.
In yet another incident, an Uber driver named Alex Ramirez was observed to be live-streaming video of himself playing Pokémon Go during his downtime while driving for Uber (DO NOT DO THIS… EVER.) When Uber received numerous complaints from his viewers regarding his distracted driving, Ramirez was temporarily suspended.
Here at The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers, we’d never tell you from playing games on your phone but please refrain from using your smartphone while driving — we assure you, whatever it is, it can wait until you’ve parked in a safe, legal 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.