HomeUber & Lyft Sexual Assault

Uber & Lyft Sexual Assault

Rideshare companies, like Uber and Lyft, face criticism for a large number of sexual assaults associated with their services. These instances of rideshare abuse have led to lawsuits and increased company safety initiatives.

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Ridesharing & Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is not a problem unique to ridesharing services. However, the nature of ridesharing gives predators a unique opportunity to exploit drivers and passengers. There are several reasons why sexual assault may occur more frequently in the ridesharing industry:

  • Rideshare drivers are gig drivers – Unlike a taxi service, rideshare drivers are generally independent contractors. They are not required to follow the same regulations or licensing requirements. In recent years, Uber has tightened its driver requirements to ensure a safer service for riders.
    Rideshare services are seen as safe options – In our society, ridesharing is often portrayed as a safe form of transportation when a person has had too much alcohol to safely drive. Unfortunately, many survivors of rideshare sexual assault are those who were too intoxicated to protect themselves.
    Carpool features put multiple strangers together in one vehicle – Several rideshare companies offer carpool features that bring multiple individual riders into a vehicle at one time. In some cases, this has led to assaults between riders.
    Rideshare vehicles lack important safety features – Because rideshare drivers are using their own vehicles, the vehicles lack many safety features found in modern taxis.

Who Are the Victims of Rideshare Sexual Assault?

Passengers

Passengers are often sexual assault victims. A passenger can include the account holder who requests the ride or a guest rider.

Uber defines a guest rider as a rider who does not request the trip. A guest rider could be an individual riding with the account holder who requested the trip. A guest rider can also ride without the account holder present.

Sexual assault against passengers has been committed by both drivers and other passengers. According to a report from Uber, in cases of “non-consensual sexual penetration,” passengers made up 92% of victims between 2017 and 2018.

Drivers

The media regularly talks about assaulted rideshare passengers. But, drivers are also at risk of rideshare sexual assault. Female drivers, especially, are at risk of unwanted touching, sexual violence or other acts of sexual misconduct. Though 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 often lack safety features to protect both drivers and passengers. These might include partitions or ride-monitoring technology.
Rideshare Abusers

Rideshare passengers and drivers have been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault, according to data from Uber. Sexual assaults by Uber drivers make up 54% of the reported incidents. Riders were the accused party in 45% of the reported incidents. Prioritizing safety in the rideshare industry would provide greater protection to both riders and drivers.


Source: Uber Safety Report

Rideshare Assault Lawsuits

As rideshare sexual assault becomes more widely publicized, more survivors of sexual assault are taking legal action. Uber and Lyft currently face hundreds of lawsuits filed by sexual assault victims. If you or someone you know is a victim of rideshare sexual assault, you have legal rights.

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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 a rideshare assault lawsuit will vary 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 warrant 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.

Uber Sexual Assaults

In December 2019, the ride-hailing giant Uber released its first public company safety report. The report provides important data surrounding the company’s three main safety concerns:

  1. Motor vehicle fatalities
  2. Fatal physical assaults
  3. Sexual assaults

It also identifies ways in which Uber is combating these safety issues through technology and new company safety protocols.

According to the report, Uber received nearly 6,000 reports detailing incidents of sexual assault between 2017 and 2018. This figure includes sexual assault cases of Uber passengers and drivers. It also encompasses acts of sexual assault from non-consensual touching to non-consensual sexual penetration.

Sexual assault is often an underreported crime. Uber acknowledges this fact. Uber’s report only analyzes data submitted by users. The company understands the data may still not show the full extent of the problem. However, Uber hopes publishing the report will encourage other victims to report abuse.

“Most companies don’t talk about issues like sexual violence because doing so risks inviting negative headlines and public criticism. But we feel it’s time for a new approach. As someone who has prosecuted sex crimes and worked on these issues for more than 25 years, I can tell you that a new approach is sorely needed.”

Tony West, Chief Legal Officer at Uber

Uber Safety Report

Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits

With the high number of reported sexual assaults, Uber faces several lawsuits. Uber has been named in lawsuits over sexual assault allegations since 2017. Prior to 2018, the company used a mandatory arbitration clause to settle claims of abuse.

What Is Mandatory Arbitration?

A mandatory arbitration clause forces the involved parties to settle claims using a third-party mediator (arbitrator). This limits a victim’s right to sue a company for an injustice like sexual assault. Mandatory arbitration generally benefits companies over victims.


Source: Investopedia

The company ended its mandatory arbitration policy for sexual harassment and assault cases in May 2018. The decision was seen as a step in the right direction for the rights of victims.

Although the company still prefers to settle matters outside of court, victims now maintain the right to choose how they seek compensation. If a victim wants to seek legal recourse, he or she has every right to do so.

Uber is also no longer requiring a confidentiality agreement as part of a settlement. Victims are free to share the details of their experience. However, the company is maintaining a level of confidentiality surrounding the financial details of any sexual harassment or assault settlement.

Is Uber Dangerous for Passengers?

All ridesharing services come with risks. Uber’s report has shown that drivers and passengers need to take certain precautions when using the services.

However, Uber is taking the matter seriously and has been working to prevent future cases of assault. Apart from the report and the decision to drop the mandatory arbitration policy, Uber has taken several initiatives to protect both drivers and riders:

  • Uber requires all drivers to undergo mandatory background checks. Drivers are not only screened before they can drive for Uber, but once each year as well.
  • Uber designed several new emergency safety features within the Uber app that both drivers and riders can use. This includes an emergency button in the app that dials 911 when pressed.
  • Uber has 24/7 support staffed by trained safety experts to help all users.
  • Uber is working with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). The collaboration will help Uber enact safety measures and business practices that protect all users.

Lyft Sexual Assaults

In the wake of sexual assault claims made by users, Lyft has been criticized for the way it handles sexual assault allegations and its safety record. The company has not published any user data regarding sexual assault reports. Furthermore, although Lyft has enacted some similar safety measures to Uber, it has taken Lyft much longer to make these changes.

Lyft Sexual Assault Lawsuits

In September 2019, 14 women allege they were assaulted by their Lyft drivers. 19 more women filed sexual assault lawsuits against the company in December 2019. These lawsuits make several important claims against the rideshare company:

  • The company failed to implement important new safety features to protect riders.
  • The company did not handle the complaints properly.

Lyft also failed to cooperate in several police investigations of rideshare sex abuse.

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.

Many people may view the term “non-consensual sexual penetration” as synonymous with “rape.” However, Uber claims the term is “more expansive” than what is typically referred to as rape.

This statistic does not include lesser acts of sexual assault noted in Uber’s report. This number also 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).

Need Support?

Free, Confidential Case Evaluation.

If you or a loved one suffered abuse while involved with a rideshare service, you have rights.
Receive your response in 24 hours

Ron Meneo, Managing Partner at Meneo Law Group.

Meneo Group managing partner: Ron Meneo

With more than 30 years of practice in product liability and personal injury law, The Meneo Law Group and its partners have helped clients obtain more than $20 billion in total compensation.

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