From the hilarious to the hazardous: TikTok challenges and personal injury lawsuits

From the hilarious to the hazardous: TikTok challenges and personal injury lawsuits

Adventure seekers and extreme sports enthusiasts would easily tell you that they love challenges because they help develop mental strength, test one’s limits, and overcome fear. But not all challenges are created equal. Climbing the highest peak in the world is challenging; slathering your hair with Gorilla Glue in front of an online audience is not. The latter falls under a subcategory of challenges termed TikTok challenges.

Are TikTok challenges really challenging?

No, but they can cause trouble, and dealing with that is a challenge.

TikTok, a social media platform for sharing short videos with others on the app, has taken the world by storm. It has become well-known for its silly challenges and stunts that users post online. TikTok challenges come from viral videos and usually reference a song, movie quote, dance move, and the like. These viral videos call on users to capture themselves performing a bit for an online audience. But sometimes, things go too far.

Recently, there has been an increasing number of people injuring themselves while doing TikTok challenges, with some people even suing TikTok as a result. If you join a thousand-mile race and end up injuring yourself, you’re liable to yourself only. By contrast, if you participate in a TikTok challenge and injure your co-star in a video or spread misinformation that leads to some sort of harm, you may be answerable to the law.

If a TikTok challenge sounds ludicrous or dangerous, it probably is

An example of a TikTok challenge is the “Wipe it down” challenge, which involves users taking a video of themselves looking at the mirror and cleaning it. Then, as they wipe across the mirror, their reflection changes into something different from what was previously seen. It’s generally wholesome and fun, and more importantly, it does not send anyone to the hospital.

On the other hand, there are challenges that, when performed, should require the supervision of an adult or just anyone with a smidgen of common sense. For instance, the “Benadryl challenge” involves ingesting large doses of Benadryl, an anti-allergy medication, to trigger hallucinations. Not only is performing this challenge life-threatening, but it also seems devoid of fun.

Another ill-conceived challenge is the “Plan B/Morning-After challenge” in which TikTokers convince people that a certain type of pregnancy test (the type you pee on) contains a morning-after pill. This pill-shaped object isn’t actually a morning-after pill and should, therefore, never be ingested.

But in terms of the level of stupidity and offensiveness, it’s hard to top the “Seizure challenge”. This challenge involves users mimicking having a seizure to the song by rapper Juice WRLD who died in December 2019 after having a seizure.

Can you sue someone for TikTok-related injuries?

The short answer is yes. That said, determining whether someone else could be held legally liable for injuries sustained while doing a TikTok challenge can be challenging.

Case in point: the “Skull-breaker challenge”. This challenge requires three participants, and one of the participants should be unaware of what the challenge’s purpose is. To do the challenge, three people stand in a row purportedly to learn a dance routine that involves all three jumping on cue, with the clueless participant standing in the middle. As all three of them jump, the two participants on either end knock the middle person’s legs from under them to make this person (i.e., the victim) fall. Fun will be had by all except the person who smacks their head and loses consciousness.

In January 2020, a 13-year old fell victim to this prank as he was chosen by his schoolmates to be the person in the middle. The boy hit his head and fell unconscious when he and two classmates did the challenge at their school in New Jersey. His classmates were charged with third-degree aggravated assault.

It’s worth noting that Washington State has a parental responsibility law that makes the parents responsible when their minor children commit intentional and malicious acts.

In summary, TikTok challenges can be dumb, fun, and can lead to legal trouble

You don’t need a lawyer’s advice when participating in TikTok challenges. All you need is some common sense and good judgment not to do dastardly things, such as pour wax on someone’s face, eat cereal off someone’s mouth, and other acts that could potentially harm someone else.

If you need advice on a personal injury case in the Evergreen state, TikTok-related or otherwise, call personal injury attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams.