You’ve probably seen them-individuals walking down the sidewalk, across a field or in a parking lot, eyes alternating between their devices and the landscape in front of them. What are they doing-playing Pokemon Go, the “augmented reality” game from Niantic, where players use their devices-phones, pads and even laptops-to find virtual treasures, in the form of eggs or creatures, such as Pikachu, Bulbasaurs and Charmanders. But lawyers are also seeing potential treasure in the global phenomenon, especially personal injury attorneys.
In Florida recently, a man fired a gun at two teens playing the game in a car, believing them to be burglars. In Washington, DC, less than an hour after the release of the game, a player broke his foot when he fell in a ditch while distracted by the game. In early June, in Auburn, New York, a 28-year-old driver careened off a tree while playing the game at night. Officials say the extent of the damage to his vehicle indicated that the crash could have been fatal, had he struck another vehicle. In Massachusetts, a driver caused a multi-car crash on a highway while chasing an elusive Pikachu and a driver in Baltimore sideswiped a police cruiser in July.
Public safety officials have long known that the primary cause of traffic accidents is distracted driving. Over the past 10 years, with the explosion in hand-held devices, the rates of injury and death on American highways tied to driving and texting/e-mailing/surfing the web have gone up dramatically. With no mechanism currently in place to prevent a person from playing Pokemon Go while driving, personal injury attorneys say the likelihood is that motor vehicle accidents involving persons playing the game while driving will continue to escalate.
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