A number of Pokémon Go players, distracted from their surroundings as they play the game, have suffered injuries, and observers raise the possibility of lawsuits against the game’s maker.
Among the injured are two men who fell off cliffs in Encinitas, California, and a 15-year-old Pennsylvania girl who was hit by a car. All three Pokémon Go players were distracted from their surroundings by the game, BlastingNews.com reports.
Pokémon Go is a mobile game developed by Niantic Labs and published by the Pokémon Company. The game can be played on iOS and Android devices and it has quickly become a national craze. Players travel in the real world, battling, capturing, and training virtual creatures—Pokémon—who appear on the player’s screen as though in the real world. The game makes use of the mobile device’s camera and GPS system.
Players must physically travel from location to locations to find and capture Pokémon. As the player moves, his or her avatar moves along the game’s map to find Pokémon. The game has attracted controversy because of accidents and injuries and complaints that the game has caused a public nuisance at some locations.
The mother of the Pennsylvania girl who was hit by the car blames the game for requiring her daughter to cross a busy highway during evening rush hour. BlastingNews reports that the girl remains in the hospital in stable condition.
There are other dangers to Pokémon Go players besides distraction. The Associated Press reports that a Florida homeowner fired shots at two Pokémon Go players in a car outside his house. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office says that at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday the homeowner approached the car and fired shots as the car sped away. The mother of one of the teenagers in the car called the sheriff’s office to report that the car had a flat tire and several bullet holes. She told the authorities that the two teens had been playing Pokémon Go on a smartphone.
In addition to injuries to Pokémon Go players who are not paying attention to their surroundings, there are reports that game players have been crime victims. Police in Missouri arrested four people who were using the game to lure players to desolate areas where they robbed them at gunpoint.
Niantic Labs has a disclaimer on it website, warning players of their risks. The same disclaimer appears onscreen before the player can begin the game, BlastingNews reports. The lengthy disclaimer tells players, “During game play, please be aware of your surroundings and play safely. You agree that your use of the App and play of the game is at your own risk, and it is your responsibility to maintain such health, liability, hazard, personal injury, medical, life, and other insurance policies as you deem reasonably necessary for any injuries that you may incur while using the Services.”
The disclaimer covers a variety of scenarios but does not address the possibility that someone in the vicinity of a Pokémon Go player might be injured when the distracted player bumps into or crashes into them.