Why Rideshare Assault Happens
The nature of ridesharing gives predators a unique opportunity to exploit and assault drivers and passengers. There are several reasons why sexual and physical assault may occur more frequently in the rideshare industry.
Risks Of Gig Workers
Unlike a taxi service, rideshare drivers are generally independent contractors. They are not required to follow the same regulations or licensing requirements.
Uber and Lyft conduct criminal background checks when a person applies to be a driver. However, until recently, neither company reran background checks to see if a driver committed a crime after being hired by the company. This is one example of how these companies may have failed to protect their customers and contract drivers.
Safe Option Stereotype
One of the reasons ridesharing has become so common is people often use the service to get a designated driver. In our society, ridesharing is often portrayed as a safe form of transportation when a person isn’t able to drive due to intoxication. Unfortunately, many survivors of Uber and Lyft assaults are people who weren’t able to give consent or protect themselves at the time.
Several rideshare companies offer carpool features that bring multiple individual riders into a vehicle at one time. These people are not acquainted. This option often offers riders lower fares. In some cases, this has led to assaults between riders.
Lack Of Safety Measures
Because Uber and Lyft drivers use their own vehicles, the vehicles lack many safety features found in modern taxis, such as physical dividers, dashboard cameras or vehicle tracking. This can impact the safety of drivers and riders.
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Uber & Lyft Sexual Assaults
According to a report from Uber, users reported nearly 6,000 sexual assault cases to the company between 2017 and 2018. Lyft has not released similar sexual assault data. However, Uber’s report, media coverage and court documents provide some insights surrounding rideshare sexual assault.
Rideshare Sex Assault Victim Insights
Both passengers and drivers have been victims of rideshare sexual assault. However, based on Uber’s collected data, passengers may face a greater risk of victimization.
Uber’s report found in cases of “non-consensual sexual penetration,” passengers made up 92% of victims between 2017 and 2018. Drivers were the victims in roughly 7% of reported acts of non-consensual sexual penetration.
Despite lower odds, drivers are still at risk of sexual assault. Female drivers, especially, are at risk of unwanted physical contact, sexual violence or other acts of sexual misconduct. Although taxi drivers face similar risks, they tend to have more protections in place than rideshare drivers.
Rideshare drivers lack a number of protections seen in the taxi industry:
- Most rideshare drivers are independent contractors. As such, they have fewer rights to demand safer work conditions.
- Rideshare vehicles are commonly personal cars and often lack safety features to protect drivers and passengers. These might include partitions or ride-monitoring technology.
Rideshare Sex Assault Abuser Insights
According to Uber’s US Safety Report, rideshare passengers and drivers have been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Sexual assaults by Uber drivers make up 54% of the reported incidents. Riders were the accused party in 45% of the reported incidents.
Uber & Lyft Physical Assaults
In general, physical assaults and homicides are known hazards in the transportation industry. For example, taxi and limousine drivers face high violent death rates.
Rideshare drivers may face an even greater risk of violence given the lack of safety measures in place to protect them. Passengers are also at risk of violence and severe physical assaults while using rideshare services.
Uber’s US Safety Report only provides data surrounding fatal physical assaults. According to the company’s report, 19 fatal physical assaults were reported between 2017 and 2018. Of the 19 victims:
- Eight victims were riders/passengers.
- Seven victims were drivers.
- Four victims were third-party bystanders.
Lyft has not released similar data surrounding physical assaults, fatal or otherwise.
Although the transportation industry has a higher risk of violence, victims have found little help from rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft. For example, as independent contractors, assaulted drivers often shoulder the financial consequences and trauma of an attack on their own. Rideshare companies are under no obligation to cover medical bills or costs associated with a severe assault on a rideshare driver or passenger.
As more victims share their rideshare assault experiences, they may effect change at Uber and Lyft. Rideshare assault survivors are filing civil lawsuits against these companies for failing to protect users from harm.
Rideshare Assault Lawsuits
As the Uber and Lyft scandals become more widely publicized, more survivors of rideshare assault are taking legal action. Uber and Lyft currently face hundreds of lawsuits filed by assault victims. With these lawsuits, survivors seek legal compensation, justice and accountability.
Uber Assault Lawsuits
Although Uber has taken steps to prevent future assaults, the company is still facing lawsuits filed by survivors. Advocates question if the company has done enough.
Do I Need A Rideshare Lawyer?
If you or someone you know is a victim of Uber and Lyft sexual assault, physical assault, unwanted physical contact, indecent exposure or rape, you have legal rights. An experienced rideshare attorney can help you build a strong case and seek legal justice against your abusers.
How Long Do I Have to File a Rideshare Assault Lawsuit?
The deadline for survivors to seek legal action against an abuser is known as the statute of limitations. The statute for an Uber or Lyft assault case varies based on a number of factors:
- The state the crime takes place in. State lawmakers determine the statutes of limitations. Thus, statutes can vary from state to state.
- The severity of the crime. A more serious crime may indicate a longer statute of limitations.
- The type of charges or claim filed. The statute for pressing criminal charges may differ from the statute for filing a civil claim.
The sooner a survivor starts the legal process, the better. Taking early action can ensure a survivor does not miss the legal deadline. Prompt legal action can also drive more reliable evidence and witness testimony.
Can I Sue A Rideshare Company For My Assault?
Yes. Many survivors of rideshare assault have sued Uber and Lyft for failing to protect riders and drivers using their services. Many of these lawsuits claim the companies failed to run proper background checks on drivers, deceptively marketed their rideshare services as a safe option, and ignored or downplayed victim complaints.
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Will I Have To Travel To Appear In Court?
Taking legal action may not require out-of-state travel. Many rideshare assault lawsuits have been settled out of court.
Rideshare Sexual Assault FAQs
How Many Rapes Have Been Reported During Rideshares?
In Uber’s report, the company noted nearly 500 reports of non-consensual sexual penetration between 2017 and 2018. This number includes passengers and drivers as victims.
How Do I Report Sexual Assault?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
You can report a case of sexual assault to your local law enforcement agency. You are not required to press charges against your abuser when you report the assault. Depending on your situation, you might also consider seeking medical attention.
If you or someone you love is a survivor of sexual assault, there are victim resources available to help you. No survivor should have to deal with the trauma alone. You can contact your local rape crisis center or contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673).
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If you or a loved suffered a sexual or physical assault while using Uber and Lyft, you’re entitled to legal representation and possible financial compensation.
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Meneo Group managing partner: Ron Meneo
Ron Meneo is the managing partner of The Meneo Law Group. With more than 40 years of experience, he represents clients across the country on a variety of complex legal matters, including personal injury due to institutional sexual abuse, unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and other practice areas. He is a recipient of Martindale-Hubbell’s prestigious AV® Preeminent Rating. He has also served as an editor and contributor for several legal journals.
Chaumont Menéndez, C.K., Socias-Morales, C., Daus, M.W. (2017). Work-Related Violent Deaths in the US Taxi and Limousine Industry 2003 to 2013. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 59(8): 768–774.
Chun, R. (2020, February 6). Rough ride-share: why drivers are also at risk of violence. The Guardian.
Filipovic, J. (2020, August 10). The Ride From Hell. Marie Claire.
Gurley, L.K. (2019, October 4). Drivers Say Reporting Assault to Lyft is ‘Extremely Traumatic.’ Vice.
Mazareanu, E. (2019, July 9). Ridesharing services in the U.S.- Statistics & Facts. Statista.
North, A. (2019, December 7). It’s not just passengers being assaulted in Ubers. Drivers are at risk, too. Vox.
O’Brien, S.A. (2018, April 12). Uber tightens driver background checks. CNN.
Uber Technologies, Inc. (2019, December 5). 2017-2018 US Safety Report [PDF].