It may not come with a warning label, but the candid truth is that Pokémon Go, the new mobile reality game for iOS and Android devices, can be harmful to your health. The game swiftly rose to the top of the charts for Apple’s free apps and has been downloaded more than 100,000 times from Google Play. Unexpectedly and unfortunately, the game has also been linked to a number of reported injuries.


Players – with their eyes glued to their screens – are walking into trees, buildings, and traffic, falling off bridges, tumbling into holes, pits, and ditches, and trespassing onto properties where dangerous conditions may put them at serious physical risk. It’s an international phenomenon. The Japanese government has even printed a flier urging Pokémon Go players to take safety measures and avoid “dangerous areas.”

Pokémon Go was released in July by the San Francisco-based software development company Niantic. The “augmented reality” game, where players search for and “catch” digital monsters in the real world, has players wandering onto private properties and locations that have included the Arlington National Cemetery, the National Holocaust Museum, and Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan.

While some players have trespassed and otherwise behaved inappropriately, others have sustained serious injuries. Predictably, people are posting to social media sites photos of themselves chasing fake dangerous creatures in actually dangerous situations and locations. Sometimes the creatures “appear” on top of moving cars or in the middle of busy intersections. The police department in Darwin, Australia, has asked players not to chase the creatures into their police station.


Pokémon Go players have reported a number of injuries. A 22-year-old freelance web designer, Kyrie Tompkins, fell on the sidewalk and twisted her ankle while chasing virtual monsters in downtown Waterville, Maine. Two men playing the game had to be rescued after falling off a 90-foot ocean bluff in Encinitas, California, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. They were taken to a trauma center.

A 28-year old man playing Pokémon Go while driving swerved off the road in Auburn, New York, and crashed into a tree, according to the Auburn Police Department. In Israel, a 35-year-old man was hospitalized with a broken leg and deep gash wounds after crashing through a glass door, and a 15-year-old Israeli girl suffered a cracked skull and intracranial hemorrhage after she fell off her bike while playing the game.


Another 15-year-old girl was playing the game about twenty miles outside of Pittsburgh when she was hit by a vehicle. Autumn Deiseroth says she was directed to cross a four-lane road to catch a Pokémon monster. “Kids don’t just cross the highway for no reason,” Autumn’s mom, Tracy Nolan, told reporters. All of these incidents raise an important legal question: can game-makers be held liable for injuries sustained by players who are being distracted by the game?


If, let’s say, a consumer injured while playing a virtual reality game wanted to sue the manufacturer of the game, it would most likely be in a product liability lawsuit, and a plaintiff would have to prove that the game was defectively designed or manufactured or that the manufacturer and distributors had a duty to warn users about possible hazards – and failed to. Thus, the legal question is this: Do app makers have a duty to warn consumers that a game may be distracting and that the distractions may be dangerous?

Some would say the answer is no, because the dangers associated with Pokémon Go, for example, are not dangers that arise from the product itself or even from the proper use of the product. Walking into traffic, for example, is dangerous whether or not you’re playing a game. So is trespassing on unfamiliar private property, especially without adequate lighting. In any event, the creators of Pokémon Go seem to have anticipated that the game might lead players into danger.


Pokémon Go’s gaming interface starts with a warning for players to pay attention to their surroundings, and the Pokémon Go Terms of Service includes a disclaimer which says in part: “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.”


In spite of the disclaimer, a number of law enforcement agencies have issued their own warnings to the public regarding Pokémon Go. Some of their recommendations are:

  • Do not trespass on private property just to catch a Pokémon creature.
  • Do not play Pokémon Go while driving a car or while riding a bicycle.
  • Avoid staring down at your phone while walking.
  • Be aware of waterways, roadways, and drop-offs.
  • Be cautious about sharing your location with strangers.
  • Do not play Pokémon Go alone at night.

In perhaps the most tragic incident linked to Pokémon Go, 15-year-old Arthur Digsby of Mariondale, North Carolina, was shot and killed after trespassing onto private property while attempting to “catch” a Pokémon. According to a friend who accompanied him, the teen walked into an enclosed back porch of a residence to find a Pokémon creature, and when it did not appear, he started checking windows on the house and attempted to open them.

In 2013, approximately 6,100 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in the U.S., and about 160,000 pedestrian injuries required medical attention, according to the National Safety Council. Pokémon Go isn’t the only thing that glues people’s eyes to the screens on their phones. The fact is that we’re all pedestrians at some time, so we’re all at risk. If you are injured as a pedestrian by a negligent driver in New York City, a Bronx personal injury attorney can review your case, explain your legal options, and advocate on your behalf if you have grounds to file a personal injury claim.


However, if you were injured while playing Pokémon Go because you were trespassing on private property or because of your own negligence, you probably have no legal recourse, and there may be little that a Bronx personal injury attorney or anyone else can do to help. The best advice is something we’ve all heard many times – watch where you’re going. Personal injuries are almost always preventable, and staying alert on the sidewalks of New York is always an imperative.