Liability risks for Pokémon Go users: catch ‘em all

Pokémon Go fever has swept the nation. The first mainstream augmented reality game to gain worldwide popularity uses a smartphone’s location tracking to send users on a digital monster hunt to designated “PokéStops” and “PokéGyms”. The game has become an overnight success since its Canada-wide release on July 17, 2016. Many players have been travelling around with their eyes glued to their mobile phones trying to “catch ‘em all”. But the rapid growth of the app has also posed an immediate concern for safety. Users and developers of augmented reality games such as Pokémon Go face real-world liability risks that they may not all be aware of.

Below are some of the liability risks to watch out for when playing games like Pokémon Go.

Trespassing on third-party property

The recent popularity of augmented reality gaming has led many gamers to overstep their boundaries in the real world. In order to “catch ‘em all”, Pokémon Go players are encouraged to discover new locations in their neighbourhood. Since Pokémon Go launched, there have been reports by home and business owners of users trespassing on their properties to catch rare Pokémon. When users do this, they put themselves at risk of personal injury. Not paying attention to surroundings can lead to game-related slip, trip and fall incidents.

As a home or business owner, maintaining a hazard-free site can help you reduce the risks of visitors (and trespassers) getting injured on your property. But having a comprehensive insurance policy will protect you in the event that a player does end up on your premises, trips and gets hurt, then attempts to sue you.

Motor vehicle accidents

Distracted driving accounts for many major traffic accidents and Pokémon Go has become one of the growing dangers of distracted driving. Since the game’s release, there have been photos posted online of Pokémon appearing on the dashboard of vehicles enticing drivers to capture them instead of paying attention to the road. The increase of distracted driving occurrences have caused many law enforcement agencies to release public safety announcements.

While most provinces and territories in Canada have regulations prohibiting the use of handheld devices while operating a vehicle, the possible fines don’t dissuade all drivers from playing on their phone while driving, thereby endangering other drivers. Obtaining liability coverage on your vehicle can help you protect yourself against losses resulting from accidents with distracted drivers, including bodily injury.

Privacy breach

Another concern for Pokémon Go users may be security and privacy risks. Augmented reality games usually require your GPS location and a data connection (either WiFi or cellular data), which means giving access to the app developer to track your whereabouts. By playing augmented reality games such as Pokémon Go, you may be allowing the sharing of metadata—such as details on who you are, where you live, locations you frequent, who you associate with, time spent in each locations, and so on. If you play such games on a mobile device that you also use for business, then that risk is heightened by the possible exposure to confidential company information. That’s why companies need to be aware of the risks associated with allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices for work purposes. Due to the risk of possible data breaches or downloaded viruses, it’s highly encouraged to obtain cyber insurance to protect your business.

As we start to see more and more of these augmented reality games emerge, the onus will be on players and property owners to assess their personal risks and take the necessary precautions to minimize their liability exposure. Meanwhile, play safe and have fun while catching Pokémons, but don’t forget to choose the right insurance coverages to protect yourself against liability risks.

® Northbridge Financial Corporation, licensed by Northbridge General Insurance Corporation (insurer of Northbridge Insurance policies).

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.