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Could Pokemon Go Creators Be Liable for Accidents?

The Pokemon Go craze that swept the country resulted in all sorts of bizarre stories about video gamers trolling lawns late at night trying to “catch” the cartoon creatures. But there was on recent report that piqued the interest of our Boston car accident lawyers: That of a 26-year-old man who caused a major accident in Massachusetts after stopping in the middle of the highway to nab a Pikachu. iphone

As it turns out, the story is 100 percent false. Although it gained some traction on social media, it was published on a phony news site.

However, that doesn’t mean the potential for an incident isn’t there. Reports have been made concerning motorists who are hunting down the characters while behind the wheel. What does this mean in terms of liability?

If anyone was injured in a Boston car accident while playing Pokemon Go, it’s unlikely the game company itself could be liable. The Terms of Service for the app likely precludes any litigation against the company. Those terms indicate users should play at their own risk and that they agree to abide by all applicable laws, rules or regulations and will refrain from engaging in any activity that will result in injury, death or property damage.

That means those who fall of their skateboards, crash their cars or are otherwise injured trying to catch them all are probably going to face an uphill battle in any kind of legal action.

However, if players injure someone else, it may be possible for those individuals to take action against the company.

There is a feature of the game that discourages players from playing the game while driving by disallowing credit for distance-based “hatching” of the creatures if a person is traveling more than 20 mph. However, several other functions of the game still work at higher speeds.

These kinds of facts would come into play in the event a lawsuit was filed. Some may argue that if the game is still functional to any degree while a person is driving, developers may not have done all they could or should to prevent injury.

We saw an example of this following a car accident lawsuit against ride-sharing company Uber that alleged a girl’s wrongful death was at least partially the fault of Uber software developers who created features that caused drivers to become inattentive or distracted.

In another recent case, a victim in a car accident sued social media site Snapchat after it was alleged the distraction-related crash could have been prevented if the company had anticipated the foreseeable risk of users playing with the app at dangerous speeds.

These lawsuits haven’t yet been decided on the merits, but it seems as technology is advancing, we may be seeing an increasing number of these kinds of cases.

The game itself may have a number of positive attributes, including getting people to engage outdoors and get some exercise. But players need to use some commonsense. That means avoiding the technology while driving and biking and to be fully aware of one’s surroundings even while on foot.

If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

No, A Man Didn’t Cause a Major Car Accident While Playing Pokémon Go, July 10, 2016, By Matt Novak, Factually.gizmodo.com

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Tesla Crash in Automated Driving Mode Leaves Questions, July 21, 2016, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog