We won’t bother to tell you what Pokémon Go is. Even if you’re living under a rock, you still know what it is and chances are you’ve been playing it.
But could Pokémon Go make it impossible for you to get insurance? Or could other people playing the game cause your insurance rates to increase in the future? Yes!
How Can A Game Make It Difficult To Get Insurance?
One person asked online if they should try to catch Pokémon while driving across the country, or whether she should just pay attention to the road. Obviously, paying attention to the road is the safe choice, but that’s not the answer the poster was looking for.
Do you know what they call playing an augmented reality game while you’re driving? “Reckless and Careless Operation” in most states. Often, this comes with a license suspension, and that’s if they just catch you doing it. If you cause property damage, bodily injury, or death as a result of that poor choice, Reckless and Careless is the least of your concerns.
There are certain questions an insurance company can ask to determine if you’re a risk that’s acceptable to the company. While we don’t expect to see “In the last five years, have you played Pokémon Go?” as an underwriting question, there is enough data in your claims history to determine if you’ve had a claim that can be directly tied to the game.
Those claims, especially if there are several, could make it difficult or impossible to get Renters Insurance, auto insurance, and potentially even life insurance. Life insurance companies already have several categories of activities that denote you as a high risk individual, such as skydiving. Could “augmented reality gaming” become the next one?
Not Paying Attention Because You’re Catching Pokémon? You’re Going To Get Robbed!
In Pokémon Go, a lure attracts both Pokémon and other players. That’s good if you’re looking to play the game and have some fun. If, however, someone has nefarious intent, it can be bad. As many as nine robberies are tied to a group of teenagers who used an in-game lure to attract people they knew would be distracted.
They intentionally chose secluded locations, and when people showed up to chase Pokémon, they became the victim of an armed robbery. This particular group of people has been stopped, but do you really think they’re the only ones? And let’s be honest, an adult wandering into that trap is probably a result of their own negligence.
But this is a game that also attracts children, and the lack of structure and ability to create lures on the fly is creating a level of risk that parents aren’t used to dealing with. There’s not really a good way to even evaluate that risk, because it’s continually changing as the game and players evolve. We sincerely hope that these robberies will be the worst crimes someone is lured into, but that hope is unlikely to be borne out.
“Hey, You Kids! Get Off My Lawn!” Is No Longer Just The Refrain Of Angry Old Men
Boon Sheridan, of Massachusetts, and his wife like unique homes. So when they found a church built nearly two centuries ago, they decided to go for it. But not long after the release of Pokémon Go, they began to notice foot traffic, and even people just hanging out nearby in idling vehicles. What was the commonality between all of those people? All were distracted by their phones, because his home had been marked as a Pokémon “gym”.
Someone saw the church on a map, thought it would be a good place for people to congregate around without bothering anyone, and marked it as a gym. Unfortunately, no one actually took the time to see if it was a functioning church or had, say, been turned into a private home.
Sheridan has made an effort to be friendly to the people who come and go, but he does so at great personal risk. The tenant or property owner can sometimes be held responsible for injuries that occur on their property even if the injured person was not invited.
Remember that hole in your front yard that you know is there, but it’s in your front yard and not bothering anyone? The one you’ve just never bothered to fill because no one could possibly be impacted by it? Now that there is a steady stream of people marching across your lawn in search of electronic critters, that hole is a significant liability risk.
Even if the reason they got hurt is because they weren’t paying attention, that may not matter. The standards regarding who can recover for negligence when both parties are partially at fault vary by state, and the negligence of the injured person may not be relevant at all.
For what it’s worth, there is no known way to remove a location that you own or lease from the game. Doing so, of course, would go a long way towards relieving you of the liability risk from people playing Pokémon Go at your home. Generally when someone is on notice that they shouldn’t be on your property, your defense to their claim is in a far better position. Removing the location from the game could serve a similar purpose, but there is no easy way to do that.
But What About The Children?
Overall, we’re in favor of anything that encourages children and teenagers to get outside and get some exercise. They’re still outside, they’re still playing a game, and they might even be playing a game with friends. Imagine that, right? But there are risks to be considered by both parents and those people who own or control locations in the game.
Pokémon Go has many positives, but you need to be cognizant of the risks to you and your family. While we touched on liability above, it’s also worth mentioning that when there is a steady stream of people at your home or business, there is a strong chance of an eventual theft or vandalism claim as well. Know your risk, insure appropriately, and enjoy the game responsibly.
Just spotted a Pidgey… With that, we’re out. (Don’t worry, no one’s wife is in labor this time)