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Pokémon Go: Questions of Liability in the App Economy

by Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC, posted in Florida Auto Accident

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Pokémon Go is a video game that allows players to use their smartphones to search for virtual Pokémon creatures and amass points by collecting the creatures. What is unique about the game is that to catch the Pokémon creatures, players must search in public places and locations. In fact, a player’s character in the game will even mirror their actual movements. You can read more about how the app works in ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Pokémon Go’ published by Bloomberg.

While the game has been downloaded and played by millions of users and found a devoted following, it also has been associated with injuries caused by distraction. Many players are hyper-focused on their screens to catch the virtual creatures and may slip and fall or drive through a traffic light. The National Safety Council has urged pedestrians to use caution when playing the game.

Distracted Driving & Pedestrian Accidents

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Even more dangerous than walking is driving and playing Pokémon Go. One of the most common causes of distracted driving is the use of cellphones. Fueled by the desire to catch the creatures, Pokémon Go players are using the app while behind the wheel, and putting everyone sharing the roadways at risk of injury. The American Automobile Association has issued a warning that drivers playing Pokémon Go pose a serious risk of causing distracted driving accidents.

Who Is Liable in a Crash Caused by a Driver Distracted by Pokémon Go?

The obvious party to turn to when a car accident raises the question of liability is the distracted driver who was playing a video game or looking at a cell phone. Every single driver in Florida has a duty to operate their motor vehicle with a level of care that would be considered reasonable by a person of ordinary prudence. The average person of ordinary prudence would certainly agree that playing Pokémon Go while driving is unsafe. As such, a driver who caused an accident playing the game should be held liable for any injuries caused to victims through a civil lawsuit.

quoteIn addition to the distracted driver who causes the crash, some have argued that the maker of the Pokémon Go game should also face liability under product liability laws. Product liability laws state that the manufacturer of a product has a duty to manufacture products that are free from any defects or dangers. It should be
noted that this would not be the first time that an app has been the focus of a product liability claim. Snapchat faced litigation based on the fact that the app has a filter that shares the speed at which a user is traveling, potentially encouraging users to drive at unsafe speeds and use their phone.

It is difficult to predict whether the game’s manufacturer would be liable for any injuries associated with playing Pokémon Go. It would likely depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the accident. It might be argued that the Pokémon Go app is dangerous because it encourages users to focus on it so heavily that they fail to pay attention to their surroundings, resulting in car accidents, or entering into other hazardous situations.

Warning Label

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Warning labels are an important part of a number of products with potential hazards. For example, hairdryers and various other electronic products typically contain a warning label stating that if the devices come in contact with water while they are plugged in, there is a risk of electrocution.

In regard to game apps, an article published in The National Law Review suggests that apps should contain warning labels informing users of the risk of distraction.

In regards to Pokémon Go, Niantic (the app’s maker) did add a warning instructing users to be aware of their surroundings, as well as another warning – unrelated to distracted driving – to children about getting in cars with strangers.

Others suggest that in addition to warning labels, gaming apps should require that users acknowledge that they have read distraction warnings prior to being able to download the app.

Even if apps do have warning against distractions, the article highlights that plaintiffs’ attorneys will likely still be able to argue that the warnings were not sufficient, and that the apps were dangerously designed.

What to Do if You Have Been Injured as a Result of Pokémon Go

If you have been injured because of Pokémon Go – either as a player yourself who was injured while distracted by the app, or as a pedestrian who was hit by a driver who was distracted by the app – our attorneys at the Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC, would like to hear from you to discuss your case in more detail.

If you were hit by a distracted driver who was playing a video game, you may very well have a valid claim against the driver for compensation for your injuries. Our attorneys can work with you to gather evidence to show negligence on the part of the distracted driver.

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Contact the Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC Today

The sooner that you call us, the sooner that we can get to work on building your claim and protecting your legal rights. It is important that you understand your legal rights after an injury caused by another party. To schedule your free case consultation with our experienced product liability and car accident attorneys today, call us now or contact us by filling out our online form.

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