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Pokemon Go – A Personal Injury Lawyer’s Perspective

Finally, a video game that gets people OFF the couch and outside. Who could have anticipated the barrage of backlash, injuries and legal implications?

How about a personal injury lawyer? Here’s my take…

First off, I want to be clear that any game that encourages people to get outside is a good thing.

Personally I feel that much of the backlash is by those who haven’t considered that angle and are apt to complain about new technology in general. But curmudgeons aside, there are some real legal risks surrounding Pokémon Go.

Legal Risks Of Playing Pokémon Go

The first risk is the possibility of reduced compensation if you’re injured by a moving vehicle while playing the game.

When a pedestrian is hit by a car and sues the driver’s insurance company for compensation, the natural response from that insurance company is to minimize the payout by arguing contributory factors. For example, if you crossed on a red light, that would be a contributory factor.

The insurance company will want to argue that the pedestrian should share culpability as much as possible. It seems mean-spirited, but imagine you were a driver and a pedestrian unexpectedly stepped out on the road in front of you. Is it 100% your fault you hit them?

Now imagine you are playing Pokemon Go and, wisely, you lower your phone as you near an intersection. Nonetheless, a car making a right hand turn clips and injures you.

Your friend mentions on the police report that you were both playing Pokemon Go. The opposing insurance company could now argue that you were distracted (even if you know you weren’t) and thus bear some of the culpability, thus your payout could only be a percentage of what it would otherwise be.

Has this happened? Not that I know of (yet) but it’s entirely possible and something to be aware of.

The next legal issue is trespassing.

We all know that one of the big complaints of Pokémon Go is that players regularly trespass onto private land; for example, a backyard. Some homeowners in the USA are already taking action against the game company, Niantic, for placing Pokémon gyms and Pokestops in their backyards.

I can understand the frustration of hundreds of people knocking on your door for permission to enter your backyard, although the real issue is that many players don’t ask permission and are happy to trespass.

It begs the question: What happens if you are injured while trespassing on private property, can you sue?

The default answer is ‘no’.

Now there may be an argument to be made in your favour (sometimes the law is a moving target when it comes to this specific issue) but one thing you can be sure of is that, if you’re injured while trespassing in someone’s backyard for any reason including trying to catch a Pokémon and you need compensation, you will be in for a fight that you may not win.

Pokémon Go Safety Tips Which Should Be Common Sense But Are Not

My advice as both a lawyer and a parent? Be safe and use your common sense.

  • Don’t enter private property to catch a Pokémon, fuel up or enter the pokegym. Let it go. You can certainly ask permission, but you’ll likely be met with an irate homeowner who’s already been bothered 20 times that day.
  • Restrict your play to safe public areas like parks, malls and designated pedestrian areas.
  • When I say ‘parks’, I am not referring to parks that have cliffs, bodies of water or other dangers.
  • The moment you near a road, lower your phone until you’re back in a safe pedestrian area FAR away from the road. I’d include sidewalks in this danger zone. Sure, they’re “pedestrian areas” but use your common sense. People are injured by cars on sidewalks more often than you think. You must stay aware of your surroundings!
  • Don’t use earphones. My sources assure me that the sound adds very little to the overall experience, and even if you’re in an enclosed park with no hazards, you’re safer when you’re can hear the noise around you.

Provided you’re smart about it, I think Pokémon Go is a great way to get active and safely explore your neighbourhood. Just stay aware of your surroundings and don’t trespass! Good luck & may the best trainer win.


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