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Pokémon player gets hit by a car – are employers liable?

By Kristin Ramsey19 Jul 2016

Faces buried in smartphones is a familiar site this week as people everywhere are engrossed in the task of capturing, battling and training Pokémon creatures as they pop up at locations around the globe.

The game has only been available for a short period of time and yet it is evident to even the most casual observer that it has the potential to cause accidents, injuries and at times create a public nuisance (particularly in Pokémon hotspots otherwise known as “Pokéstops”).

Indeed, we have already heard some crazy stories from the USA about people falling victim to crime after being caught unawares whilst playing the game including one person who continued to play after being stabbed multiple times, two people falling off a cliff whilst playing, and two teenagers that were shot at after being mistaken for thieves.

Looking a little closer to home; however, the noticeable presence (and potential impact) of the game is abundantly clear during peak commute times and the lunch hour in Brisbane CBD. Large numbers of people are walking around oblivious to their surrounds whilst absorbed in their quest to hunt Pokémon.

Unfortunately, it won’t be surprising to hear of people in Australia getting hit by cars or being injured through trips and falls as a result of playing the game.

You may think this all sounds silly or excessive, but the risks of injury are real and have already caused law enforcement agencies around the world to issue public safety statements reminding people to look up and be aware of their surrounds, as well as to put the game down whilst driving.

For employers, this raises the question – could we be liable if one of our employees gets injured whilst playing Pokémon on their way to or from work, or during their lunch break?

Whilst the situation differs from state to state, in Queensland, employees ARE generally entitled to workers’ compensation if they are injured while traveling to or from work, or during authorised breaks from work. In these situations, the employment does not need to be a contributing factor to the injury.

This means that YES (in Queensland at least), an employer could be liable for an injury sustained by an employee whilst hunting the elusive Pokémon on their way to or from work, or during their lunch break.

Given the early days of the game, it is not clear whether it will be a passing phase or whether its popularity may be longer lasting. So what as an employer can or should you do about the risks that the game poses?

In reality, there may be little you can do to eliminate or reduce the risks to your employees associated with their participation in the Pokémon phenomenon.

What you can do, however, is remind them:

  • of the risks associated with playing any game or undertaking any activity which limits their awareness of their surrounds;
  • to look up and exercise normal caution when crossing roads or walking in public places; and
  • not to game and drive.

It's about common sense really but sometimes people do need a little reminder!