What happens you’re in an accident and the other driver was playing Pokémon Go?
In case you haven’t heard, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality smartphone game in which you walk around to 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 people taking to the streets, and even driving vehicles with their eyes fixed on their screen instead of the road, critics of the game say that the technology poses a public safety risk. There have even been auto accidents and robberies occurring 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 issued a warning in response to reports of drivers distracted while playing Pokémon Go:
The idea that people might be driving while playing Pokémon Go seems ridiculous when you hear it at first, but when consider that in 2014, over 400,000 people were injured because of drivers distracted by using their cell phones, it seems pretty likely.
In texting-and-driving cases, the plaintiff is sometimes awarded Punitive damages, above and beyond the damages of a regular auto accident case. These punitive damages are supposed to be a deterrent to discourage other drivers from texting and driving. When someone causes an accident because they were 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 too early to tell, as the first cases have not yet gone to court.
There is also concern about pedestrians walking around immersed in the game. Folks worry that pedestrians may end up walking directly into traffic without noticing.
In Crewe Virginia, the Crewe Virginia Police Department has been concerned with distracted pedestrians crossing streets. They issued the following warning on July 10:
Another Police Department in O’Fallon Missouri issued a statement about several robberies that were reported to have been caused by Pokémon Go. Police say that the criminals were placing Pokémon “Lures” to attract potential victims to different locations late in the evening and then robbing them at gunpoint when they arrive. The O’Fallon Police Department put out the following statement:
In a separate incident, another Pokémon Go player was surprised upon discovering a dead body while playing.
In yet another incident, an Uber driver named Alex Ramirez was discovered to be live-streaming video of himself playing Pokémon Go (DO NOT DO THIS… EVER.) while driving for Uber. Ramirez got temporarily suspended when Uber received numerous complaints from his viewers regarding his distracted driving.
Here at Bryan Ramey & Associates, we’d never want to stop you from playing games on your phone but we ask you to please refrain from using your smartphone while driving — we assure you, 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.