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Smartphone Gaming and Car Accidents

What happens if you’re in an accident with a driver who was playing Pokémon Go?

In case you weren’t already aware, Pokémon Go is a mobile gaming app that is rapidly gaining popularity since it’s release early July 2016. If you are unfamiliar with the game, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game for smartphones in where you catch creatures called Pokémon out in real-world locations. The app uses your smartphone’s GPS signal to determine your location and the pokemon available to you.

With millions of people taking to the streets, walking and even driving around with their eyes fixed on their smartphones, critics say that this new technology poses a significant public safety risk with instances of auto accidents and even robberies occurring as a result of people playing Pokémon Go.
On July 11, a Texas A&M Police Department released a statement via Twitter about a driver who had illegally stopped his car in the middle of the road in order to catch a Pokémon, which caused an accident.

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 issued a warning responding to reports of drivers distracted by playing Pokémon Go:

The idea that people are driving around while simultaneously playing a smartphone game seems ridiculous when you first hear it, but consider that in 2014, over 400,000 people were injured because of drivers distracted by using their cell phones.

In some texting-and-driving cases, the plaintiff is sometimes awarded punitive damages, above and beyond the costs involved in a normal auto accident case. These extra damages serve to act as a deterrent to dissuade other drivers from driving while texting. In the case of someone being distracted by playing a game, one would assume that courts will treat these cases similar to texting-and-driving claims, though it’s too early to tell, as the first cases have not yet gone to court.

The safety concerns don’t stop with drivers. There are also concerns that pedestrians may be walking around distracted by the game and end up walking directly into traffic without noticing.

In Crewe Virginia, the Crewe Virginia Police Department has been dealing with distracted pedestrians crossing streets while distracted by the popular smartphone app. They published this warning on July 10:

Another Police Department in O’Fallon Missouri issued a statement about robberies that were reported to have been caused by Pokémon Go. Police say that the defendants, who have been caught, were placing Pokémon “Lures” to lure unsuspecting victims to different locations late at night and then robbing them at gunpoint when they showed up. The O’Fallon Police Department issued the following statement about the incidents:

Another Pokémon Go player was surprised when she found a dead body while playing the game.

Last week, an Uber driver named was live-streaming video of himself playing Pokémon Go while driving for Uber, and in one of his videos claimed to have witnessed a murder while playing the game. The driver, Alex Ramirez, was temporarily suspended when Uber received numerous complaints regarding his distracted driving.

Here at The Jeffcoat Firm, 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 a car 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.

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