Lots of people are using VR for different reasons, but it’s important to take caution.
Amid increasing reports of injuries related to virtual reality headsets, lawsuits are increasing, too. Here’s what you should know if you’ve been injured.
As the use of virtual reality (VR) continues to surge in popularity, it's crucial to understand the potential risks involved. This guide provides an overview of VR-related injuries, notable lawsuits, liability issues, and preventive measures for safe usage.
Unraveling the types of virtual reality injuries
Users engaged in VR can encounter a broad range of physical and psychological injuries due to the immersive nature of the technology. Let's take a closer look:
- Collisions: Immersed in a virtual world, users might inadvertently run into walls or furniture, resulting in bruises, cuts, or more serious injuries like fractures and concussions.
- Falls: Users could trip over unseen objects or lose their balance, leading to sprains or broken bones.
- Strain injuries: Extensive use of handheld VR controllers can cause repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.
- Cybersickness: Much like motion sickness, users can experience nausea, disorientation, and dizziness due to the disconnect between physical and virtual motion.
- Emotional distress: Intense VR experiences could potentially lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some users, especially those with pre-existing conditions.
Delving into U.S. statistics: Virtual reality injuries
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) tracks consumer product-related injuries. According to NEISS, VR-related injuries have steadily increased since the early 2010s. For example, with the advent of popular VR systems like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in 2016, VR injury reports started to climb. By 2020, the number of reported VR-related injuries had reached several thousand annually.
The spike in VR-related injuries has led to an increase in lawsuits. Some notable examples include:
- A man in California sued a VR arcade in 2017 after running into a wall while using a VR headset. He claimed the arcade failed to provide adequate safety instructions or supervise his use of the equipment, leading to his injuries.
- In 2018, a New York woman filed a lawsuit against a VR headset manufacturer after tripping over her couch and breaking her ankle. The lawsuit alleged that the manufacturer failed to warn users about the risks of injury adequately.
- A unique case in 2019 saw a man file a lawsuit claiming a horrifying VR experience at a haunted house resulted in long-lasting psychological trauma.
Assigning liability: Who is responsible for a virtual reality injury?
Determining liability in VR injury cases can be complicated and often depends on the specific circumstances of the injury:
- Manufacturers: If a defect in the VR equipment led to the injury, the manufacturer could be held responsible. Additionally, manufacturers have a duty to warn users about potential risks, and failure to do so could lead to liability.
- Property owners or business operators: If the injury occurred at a business (like a VR arcade), the owner or operator might be held responsible if they failed to provide a safe environment or insufficient instructions or supervision.
- Individual users: Users also have a responsibility to use VR technology reasonably and safely. If a user ignores safety warnings or uses the equipment dangerously or inappropriately, they may bear some responsibility for their injuries or injuries to other people.
Legal steps: How to file a lawsuit for a virtual reality injury
If you've been injured while using VR technology and believe someone else is at fault, here are some steps you might take:
- Seek medical attention: Your health is paramount. Plus, medical records provide crucial evidence of your injury in a lawsuit.
- Document the incident: Record the circumstances leading up to the injury. Include photos of the location and the equipment if possible.
- Preserve evidence: If possible, keep the VR equipment in the same condition it was in at the time of the injury. This could be important evidence.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer: VR injury law is a new and complex field. A knowledgeable lawyer can help guide you through the process and ensure you understand your rights and options.
Safe virtual exploration: Tips for preventing virtual reality technology injuries
Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some tips to prevent injuries while using VR technology:
- Create a safe space: Clear the area of any obstacles or hazards before using VR equipment.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions: Carefully read and follow the safety instructions provided by the VR device manufacturer.
- Use safety features: Many VR systems include safety features like boundary systems. Make sure to use these features to prevent accidents.
- Take regular breaks: Extended VR sessions can lead to exhaustion or disorientation. Regular breaks can help prevent these issues.
- Stay aware of your surroundings: Even when immersed in the virtual world, try to keep a basic awareness of your physical surroundings to prevent accidents.
With the increasing popularity of VR technology, understanding potential risks and safety measures is crucial. If you’ve suffered a VR-related injury and believe someone else is at fault, don't hesitate to seek legal advice. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you navigate the legal landscape and protect your rights.