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November 22, 2022

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Can I File an Uber or Lyft Sex Assault Lawsuit?

lawsuits filed against lyft sexual drivers

When Uber and Lyft became household names and common apps on everyone’s smartphones, no one expected that the rideshare service would also be linked with terrifying crimes - various sexual offenses, rape, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, and robbery.

However, rideshare apps induce unaccompanied, vulnerable, and sometimes intoxicated people to use their services with the expectation of safety, with no cameras or monitoring. Rideshare companies conduct minimal background checks, but Brooks & Radchenko - and many personal injury law firms - believe that they can and should do much more to prevent life-changing Lyft and Uber sexual assault crimes.

There have already been many claims and lawsuits against Lyft alleging sexual assaults - which indicates the serious nature of the problem.  This blog will provide information if you or a loved one have been subject to sexual assault in a rideshare vehicle — either as a driver or passenger for Uber or Lyft.

What Is a Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault describes a number of actions or behavior that occur without a victim’s consent or welcome. Sexual assault can occur while intoxicated or sober. Some forms of assault include:

  • Unwanted touching, fondling, or groping (even through clothes);
  • Kissing a sexual or nonsexual part of the body without consent;
  • Forcing a person to perform sexual acts;
  • Attempted penetration of the victim’s body (attempted rape);
  • Penetration of the victim’s body (rape).

Victims and survivors of Uber driver sexual assault often experience long-term mental and emotional effects, including anger, anxiety, depression, flashbacks, guilt, rationalization, mood swings, difficulting concentrating, and difficulting trusting others.

Lyft and Uber Sexual Assault Statistics

Uber published a 2019-2020 U.S. Safety Report that provides some insight into sexual assault reports. Uber emphasizes that 99.9% of trips in 2019 and 2020 ended without any critical safety event. However, this statistic grossly downplays and diminishes 3,824 sexual assault reports made in 2019-2020 across five categories. Lyft also claims that “well over 99% of all rides occur without any safety report at all”. In their safety report, Lyft reported the following number of events for 2019:

  • Non-Consensual Kissing of a Non-Sexual Body Part: 293 reports;
  • Non-Consensual Touching of a Sexual Body Part: 1041 reports;
  • Non-Consensual Kissing of a Sexual Body Part: 203 reports;
  • Attempted Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration: 114 reports;
  • Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration: 156 reports.  

Any review statistics of sexual assaults must consider that most sexual assaults are NOT reported, so the actual number of sexual assaults is likely much higher than Uber and Lyft reports. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, just 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. Some of the main reasons assault victims do not report crimes:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Believing police will not do anything;
  • Believing it was not important enough to report;
  • Believing police will not believe them.

If you or someone you love was assaulted during or after a Lyft or Uber ride in Texas, our rideshare sexual assault lawyers can help. Brooks & Radchenko is accepting new Lyft and Uber sexual assault cases in North Texas, including the DFW Metroplex, Denison, Frisco, and Sherman.

The Threat of Sex Assaults for Rideshare Users

Rideshare operators are not subject to the same government-run background check requirements that taxicab operators must complete. Even with improved initial and ongoing background checks, and increased safety tools for riders and drivers, the threat of sexual assault remains.

The very nature of Uber and Lyft has people - often alone - getting into vehicles with strangers. Riders are often under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and alone. After reviewing the thousands of reports of sexual violence and physical violence against Uber and Lyft drivers and passengers, many have asked, “Is Uber dangerous for female passengers?”.

Both Lyft and Uber have responded to numerous sexual assault incidents and attempted incidents, often detailed in lawsuits filed by survivors. Lawsuits have alleged that Uber and Lyft have focused much more on growth than rider safety.

Both operators have taken some steps, like offering in-app safety features to share ride progress with others or to reach a live person if feeling unsafe. But survivors of sex assaults, victims’ advocacy groups, and personal injury attorneys, all say that what is being done simply isn’t enough. One clear example of this is Uber and Lyft fighting aggressively to NOT have to do extensive background checks in Austin in 2016.

Hiring Practices by Ride-Sharing Companies Like Uber and Lyft

lawsuits filed lyft alleging sexual assaults

Rideshare drivers are part-time “gig” workers - and operators like Uber and Lyft want to onboard them as cheaply - and quickly - as possible. Lyft and Uber do not hold independent contractor drivers to the same high standards that other transit companies do when hiring full-time employees as private chauffeurs or airport shuttle drivers.

Although Uber and Lyft drug test potential hire for corporate positions as full-time employees, drivers are not drug tested prior to onboarding as a driver.

In 2016, Ridesharing Works for Austin, an Uber and Lyft-funded Lobbying group, spent $5.4 million fighting a fingerprint ordinance. They argued that requiring fingerprint background checks would stop people from applying to drive as independent contractors — and would lead to increased wait times for customers. Uber and Lyft left Austin for a year, and then returned when the requirement was removed - after they spent about $9 million in total fighting fingerprinting.

Just a couple of years later, Uber and Lyft came under extreme criticism for allowing drivers to drive for them that they never should have - like in 2018, a murderer on parole in Brazos County, Texas.

Sex Assault Lawsuits Filed Against Uber & Lyft

Many civil lawsuits have been filed against both Uber and Lyft, by individuals who claimed to be physically assaulted, kidnapped, or raped while riding in an Uber or Lyft vehicle. The lawsuits generally claim that the rideshare company failed to protect passengers from violent attacks, including failing to prevent hiring drivers with a history of physical violence, sexual assaults, and criminal behavior.

In one example, a woman sued Uber alleging a driver sexually assaulted her after she fell asleep in the back seat of a car. Another complaint was filed in 2022, on behalf of more than 500 women across the country, who claimed Uber failed to protect them from sexual assault.

Any company can be held liable for the negligent hiring of employees and independent contractors when it was foreseeable that the driver would cause harm to customers. Rideshare operators may be liable for damages in sexual assault cases when they had the opportunity to eliminate the risks and hazards because the driver’s actions were foreseeable.

After a sexual assault, a rideshare sexual assault law firm can investigate your potential claim and advise if you have an avenue for compensation against Uber or Lyft.

What Could Have Been Done?

uber sexual assault

Hindsight is often painful and in many cases, tragic events were indeed preventable. Lawsuits filed against Lyft and Uber have provided some actions that could prevent sexual assault occurrences. These primarily include:

  • Video monitoring of rides;
  • Requiring criminal background checks (initial and ongoing).

Lyft and Uber have started taking measures to train drivers and protect riders. For example, all Lyft drivers must now complete a mandatory safety program developed with RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in North America. Lyft claims to continuously monitor drivers for criminal convictions, and deactivate them when necessary.

Lyft and Uber have recently started sharing information with one another about drivers who have been deactivated for safety issues. Unfortunately, this measure came far too late for many victims.

How to File an Uber or Lyft Sex Assault Lawsuit?

You may have a claim for compensation if you were:

  • The victim/survivor of a sexual assault or rape by a Uber or Lyft driver while riding as a passenger.
  • The victim/survivor of a sexual assault or rape by a Uber or Lyft passenger while driving as an independent contractor driver.

Victims are well-advised to report the incident immediately to the police. This creates a record and allows the state to potentially begin a criminal case against the alleged Lyft or Uber sex offender A civil claim against the alleged perpetrator and Uber or Lyft will proceed separately and can be filed whether or not the driver or passenger is criminally charged.

If you reach out to Brooks & Radchenko promptly, we can have our team of Uber sexual assault attorneys and investigators review the timeline of the incident and gather evidence to support your claim. Because witness recollections fade and evidence like surveillance video and electronic records can be erased or deleted over time, it is always advisable to contact an Uber sex assault attorney in Dallas as soon as possible. We have recovered millions in personal injury claims and Uber and Lyft sexual assault lawsuits - and offer a free case evaluation to review your potential case.

How Much Are Settlements for Lawsuits Against Uber & Lyft?

Uber and Lyft have settled sexual assault civil lawsuits for millions of dollars. Because every case is different with unique circumstances and vastly varying degrees of physical and emotional harm, there is no typical or average settlement. Damages in a civil claim may include:

  • Medical care costs;
  • Lost earnings;
  • Loss of future wages;
  • Pain and suffering.

It is common for settlement amounts to be confidential, and confidentiality is one of the most attractive features of a settlement, as it prevents a legal record from “setting the bar” for future lawsuits and demands. However, it is known and understood that settlements for Lyft and Uber sexual assaults claims are often substantial, due to the serious and devastating nature of these events.

Aren’t Lyft and Uber Drivers at Risk as Well?

Yes. Lyft and Uber drivers have reported being assaulted by their passengers. One particularly concerning event occurred in 2019 when a 39-year-old pregnant Lyft driver was fatally stabbed by a passenger. Although not always the case, most of the drivers assaulted by passengers were women.

The Verge reported in early 2022 about female drivers failing to be protected or supported by rideshare companies after Lyft and Uber sexual assaults by passengers. The flip side of the freedom and flexibility of rideshare driving can leave drivers vulnerable, with drivers sharing their vehicle with strangers late at night, and passengers sometimes under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drivers have taken their own steps to discourage unwanted interaction and advances, such as wearing fake wedding rings and saying their partners are law enforcement officers, even if not true.

How to Protect Yourself When Using a Ride-Share App?

lawsuits filed lyft sexual assaults drivers

Although you should not have to take precautions when hopping in an Uber or Lyft, we know that you are safer when you do so. See our blog post discussing the top 10 Lyft and Uber safety tips for riders which include some ways to protect yourself from Lyft or Uber driver sexual harassment:

  • Tell someone where you are going: this is akin to sharing a “flight plan” or a boating “float plan.” Someone should know you are hopping in a rideshare vehicle when you get out so that they can take action should you go missing.
  • Sit in the back seat: this makes it harder for the driver to reach you and allows you to exit quickly if necessary. Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Don’t volunteer private information: some drivers are expert conversationalists. Small talk is okay, but don’t tell drivers personal information about where you live or work, or who you are meeting (or that you are going somewhere alone).
  • Decline the ride if something feels off: if you aren’t comfortable with the driver for any reason, say your plans changed and decline the ride.

Speak with an Experienced North Texas Sexual Assault Attorney

If you experienced a sexual assault, abuse, or attack while using Uber, Lyft, or any other ride-share service, speak with an experienced rideshare sexual assault attorney immediately. You may be entitled to financial compensation from the rideshare company for failing to take steps to protect you while using their services.

At Brooks & Radchenko, our knowledgeable, experienced lawyers have seen firsthand how deeply traumatic sexual assaults are for our clients and their families. We fight for maximum, full, and fair compensation in claims and lawsuits against Uber or Lyft. If you have experienced a sexual assault, contact our law office for a free and confidential consultation. If we represent you, we will not charge any legal fees unless we recover money for you.

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