Sexual Assault and Rideshare Companies

Posted by Randy Andrus | Apr 19, 2022

Many of us choose to take a rideshare service out of safety or necessity. After a night out with friends or as a way to get to work, we trust that using our rideshare app is the responsible thing to do – a harmless choice. Unfortunately, for many, the decision to take an Uber or Lyft has been anything but harmless. Evolutions in technology and lifestyle have catapulted rideshare apps in recent years, almost extinguishing traditional taxi cab usage. While significantly more convenient, rideshare services may not be as safe. In 2021, Lyft, a notable rideshare company, released a long-awaited report that revealed that the company had collected over 4,000 reports of sexual assault from 2017 to 2019. Two years earlier, Lyft's main competitor, Uber, acknowledged 6,000 sexual assault reports that occurred in 2017 and 2018. In this blog, we're going to discuss the potential legal options for victims of Uber or Lyft sexual assault, as well as the legal concerns impacting the rideshare app industry as a whole. 

If you've been sexually assaulted in an Uber or Lyft, know that you are not alone, and our sexual assault lawyer in Salt Lake City, Utah will work hard to get you the justice you deserve. To set up an initial case review, call us at 801-535-4645, or fill out our confidential online form here

Uber/Lyft Sexual Assault Statistics 

Unfortunately, sexual assault in Ubers, Lyfts, or other rideshare companies, is a serious and growing problem. Various safety reports have confirmed that additional and improved measures must be taken to ensure that riders and drivers are safe. In this section, we'll discuss the shocking statistics within the rideshare industry when it comes to violent crimes, physical assaults, and motor vehicle accident deaths.

  • Lyft disclosed 4,158 sexual assaults were reported on its app from January 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2019; this data included 360 reported rapes
  • Uber disclosed about 6,000 sexual assault reports on its app in 2017 and 2018; this report included 235 rapes
  • Uber reported that there were 107 motor vehicle fatalities in 2017 and 2018
  • Of those reported fatalities, with a total of 97 fatal crashes involving users on the Uber app
  • In those same years, Uber reported that a total of 19 fatal physical assaults occurred
  • The same data from Uber revealed that an average of 3.1 million rides took place daily  

These numbers are not the entire story. It's extremely likely that assault incidents are much higher than the reports acknowledge. RAINN, a nonprofit anti-sexual violence organization, estimates that nearly 2 out of 3 sexual assault incidents go unreported. 

Who's Liable in Uber and Lyft Sexual Assault Cases?

In Uber and Lyft sexual assault cases, the rideshare company or driver may be held liable. In a number of cases, the driver is assaulted by the rider. Hundreds of women across the country have filed lawsuits against both Uber and Lyft. Many cases are still ongoing, and outcomes are yet to be determined. However, as of the publication of this blog post, holding rideshare companies vicariously liable for the drivers has not been generally successful. Vicarious liability comes from the legal doctrine of “Respondeat Superior,” which holds employers liable for the actions of their employees. Ride-hailing companies have been able to escape liability so far by classifying their drivers as “independent contractors” versus employees. While this has made it more difficult to hold these companies responsible for sexual assault claims, pending legal actions are attempting to address this. Specifically, in a case involving the stabbing of an Uber rider, a Washington D.C. District Court opinion held that the independent contractor classification was irrelevant to the case. Other courts have ruled similarly.

Typically, the independent driver can be held liable in a sexual assault claim. Committing sexual assault is a criminal act, as well as civil wrongdoing. By filing a civil claim, victims can hold drivers accountable for various damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and more. Both economic and non-economic losses may be imposed in a sexual assault settlement. Sometimes punitive damages are also ordered by a court in these cases. An Uber sexual assault lawyer can help you calculate your potential damages.  

How Can Rideshare Companies Be Held Liable?

In certain cases, rideshare app companies may be held liable for sexual assault injuries. Companies have a legal duty to enforce safety measures to keep customers reasonably safe. This is also true when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and training employees and contractors. When a company has neglected fulfilling this legal duty, leading to sexual assault, the company may be held responsible. Thus, plaintiffs may have the means to be compensated for damages by Uber and Lyft.  

How Ridesharing Companies Have Been Negligent

Ridesharing companies have been negligent in not providing a safe environment for app users in various ways, including:

  1. Improper hiring practices - Background checks have been a consistent point of contention for Uber and Lyft. They use third-party background check companies with unreliable practices in an effort to save time and money. Uber settled a $25-million-dollar claim that stated the company had hired 25 drivers with criminal backgrounds (some of whom had been convicted of kidnapping and murder) due to failed screening practices. 
  2. No driver training - No training occurs when rideshare drivers are hired, despite Uber and Lyft drivers having to use their phones to navigate and utilize the rideshare driving app while operating their vehicles. This likely explains the reported large number of car accidents.
  3. Lack of safety measures - Despite the data indicating real issues with various forms of assault and other violent crimes and wrongdoings, rideshare companies haven't taken sufficient actions to increase necessary safety measures. One example is the lack of transparency on the app – many assaults have involved drivers who were posing as Uber or Lyft drivers. Additionally, some incidents have involved minors illegally using apps to book trips.  

Call Our Lyft/Uber Sexual Assault Lawyer

If you've been assaulted in an Uber or Lyft, know we have your back. We will fight for your right to justice and ensure your voice is heard. We know this is an extremely difficult situation, and we applaud your courage in taking the next steps to justice. To schedule an initial, confidential conversation with our trusted and experienced sexual assault lawyer, call us at 801-535-4645, or you can fill out this secure online form. Our entire team at Andrus Law Firm is here for you. 

For additional resources that may help you navigate your legal situation, please visit our blog. Know that a legal blog is not intended to be legal advice, however, we hope it gives you additional perspective into your circumstances. When you're ready, our attorney is available to help guide you in the right legal direction and give you specified advice on your unique case.  

            

About the Author

Randy Andrus

BIO   Education University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (LL.M. 1987) Business and Taxation – Transnational Practice Courses and International Bar Association Convention, Salzburg, Austria Southwestern University School of Law (J.D. 1984) Dean's List American Jurisprudence...

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