Uber and Lyft are facing a new wave of sexual assault lawsuits, as survivors and their loved ones step forward to hold the ride-sharing companies accountable. Were you or a loved one victimized by an Uber or Lyft driver?
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Were you or a loved one sexually assaulted while using a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft? Our experienced assault attorneys may be able to help. On this page, you'll find full answers to some of your most pressing questions:
- Latest sexual assault cases filed against Uber and Lyft
- How pursuing a civil lawsuit can help survivors through recovery
- What are regulators doing to protect public safety?
- What are my legal options?
- How to learn more about your rights for free
How Victims Of Uber & Lyft Assault Can Pursue Justice
In the wake of a traumatic victimization, most assault survivors feel as though they have nowhere to turn. It can be extremely difficult to step forward, share your story and pursue accountability - rape and sexual assault are two of the most under-reported crimes in America. Some survivors fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially when their reports involve massive corporations. Some are terrified by the prospect that they will be slut-shamed into silence.
Many assault survivors are well-aware that pursuing accountability through the criminal justice system can be immeasurably hard. Most survivors just want to forget what happened to them, no matter how deep or cruel the violation. But forgetting is difficult, if not impossible. Many people will live with the after-shocks of their trauma for the rest of their lives, but hope is not out of reach.
Survivors File Suit Over "Negligent" Background Checks
A number of assault and rape survivors have stepped forward in recent months, filing private civil lawsuits against Uber and Lyft. In their lawsuits, these brave women accuse the ride-sharing companies of failing to protect consumers, allowing dangerous drivers to get behind the wheel and commit unspeakable crimes. Most of these cases focus on the background checks that applicants to Uber and Lyft undergo before being cleared to drive.
How Do Uber & Lyft Perform Background Checks?
Both Uber and Lyft out-source their background check process to third-party companies. Uber currently contracts with Checkr, a San Francisco-based startup devoted to "moderniz[ing] the background screening industry." Previously, the company out-sourced its background checks to Hirease.
Lyft works with a company called Sterling BackCheck, which is based in Washington State. In New York City, background checks are conducted by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Neither Uber nor Lyft are responsible for background checks in New York City.
Uber, Lyft Oppose Stringent Fingerprint-Based Checks
In the past, Uber has described its own background check system as the industry's "gold standard" for weeding out dangerous applicants. In reality, the company is one of the leading opponents of using fingerprints as a way to screen prospective drivers.
As The Hill reports, experts across the country agree that background checks based on fingerprints, which allow private and public employers to conduct nationwide criminal record screenings, are the gold standard in protecting public health.
Despite this widespread agreement, Uber has been dead-set against fingerprinting for years, with no signs of changing its policy. Lyft has followed suit, joining Uber in a string of recent court cases fighting against government regulators in California and Maryland, who want to impose a fingerprinting system on the companies.
Cities, Federal Prosecutors Fight Back For Public Safety
Thankfully, several regulatory bodies haven't caved in the face of Uber and Lyft's massive lobbying budgets. In New York City, both Uber and Lyft are required to fingerprint prospective drivers and conduct rigorous criminal background checks.
Houston imposes a similar requirement on Uber. When voters in Austin, Texas voted for the same requirements in May 2016, both Uber and Lyft pulled their services out of the city in "protest," according to the New York Times.
Uber Lost Right To "Safe Ride" Advertising
And, in a deeply symbolic victory, Uber was forced to stop advertising its background check process as the "gold standard," after being sued for $10 million by district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles, who claimed the company was misleading riders.
During the course of their investigations, prosecutors discovered that, in San Francisco and Los Angeles alone, Uber's "industry-leading" background checks had failed to screen out the criminal records of 25 drivers.
Two months earlier, the company had settled a similar legal case, a class action filed on behalf of around 25 million Uber riders, for $28.5 million. As part of the company's settlement, Uber agreed to rename its "safe ride fee" to a "booking fee," responding to allegations that its background checks are insufficient to guarantee rider safety.
Women Step Forward To Report Uber, Lyft Sexual Assaults
Critics across the country say that these actions make one essential point clear: Uber and Lyft aren't interested in doing what it takes to protect riders. Meanwhile, women continue to step forward with horror stories, describing brutal assaults and sexual harassment committed by Uber and Lyft drivers. Every few days, a new story emerges - it would be impossible, unproductive and demoralizing to list them all here. But every accusation is horrifying, and each deserves to be aired, both in criminal and civil courts.
Latest Uber & Lyft Lawsuit News
By Brian Kent
May 3, 2018 - CNN Report Finds 103 Uber Drivers Accused Of Sexual Assault In Last 4 Years
A CNN investigation has uncovered the identities and alleged misconduct of at least 103 US-based Uber drivers who have been accused of sexual assaulting riders over the last four years. Because ride-sharing companies do not publicize allegations of assault, rape or molestation against their drivers, CNN's investigative team conducted an exhaustive review of police reports and court dockets in 20 of the nation's major cities. The true number of Uber drivers who face serious allegations is undoubtedly higher.
April 27, 2018 - Women Ask Uber To Renounce Mandatory Arbitration Clause For Sexual Assault Class Action
A group of 20 women, all of whom claim to have been assaulted by Uber drivers, are publicly asking the company to release them from the mandatory arbitration clause contained in the app's terms of service, TechCrunch reports. The women filed a class action in 2017, accusing Uber of conducting insufficient background checks that allowed dangerous sexual predators to drive for the ride-hailing service. But Uber's mandatory arbitration requirement, the women write in court documents, "forc[es] female riders, as a condition of using Uber's app, to pursue claims of sexual assault and rape in secret."
April 12, 2018 - Uber CEO Announces Plans To Strengthen App Safety
Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has announced a new program to strengthen the company's background check scheme for drivers. In a blog post, Khosrowshahi expressed his intent to "double down on safety" in the app, including a new "Trusted Contacts" section that will allow riders to share the details of their trips with up to five friends or family members. A new emergency button, Khosrowshahi writes, will allow riders to instantly connect with 911 services, in the event that a ride becomes dangerous.
At the same time, Uber is stepping up its background check process, committing to re-screening drivers on an annual basis. "In the past," Khosrowshahi says, "Uber conductied background check reruns in jurisdictions where required. Going forward, we'll proactively rerun criminal and motor vehicle checks each year, regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to do so." The company also plans to invest in new technology that would help identify new criminal offenses committed by drivers. You can learn more about Uber's plans at the Los Angeles Times.
In Dallas, an Uber driver who is no longer working for the company was arrested after being accused of assaulting a 77-year-old woman during a ride from her church. In April 2018, a 30-year-old Uber driver fled the country after being charged for raping a woman in Quincy, Massachusetts. In Milwaukee, a woman accused a 27-year-old Lyft driver of raping her while she was unconscious in the back of his car. You can find an exhaustive list of sexual assault allegations against Uber and Lyft drivers at Who's Driving You?, a non-profit watchdog hoping to increase accountability in the ride-sharing industry by shaming the companies into change. The organization describes "Uber's process for onboarding drivers" as "dangerously negligent."
Legal Options For Survivors Of Sexual Assault & Rape
Again, we wouldn't subject you to a full recounting of the sexual assault and rape allegations that have been leveled against Uber and Lyft drivers. That would be cruel and pointless. But we can learn a few important lessons from these recent cases.
The first lesson is that crimes should be reported to the police. That probably seems obvious, but it's far more difficult in practice for sexual assault survivors to step forward and share their experiences. It takes extraordinary bravery and courage, but taking your story to the police and urging them to press charges is the only way to get dangerous people off of our streets.
The criminal justice system plays an essential role in protecting victims in the future who would be at risk from predators. At the same time, we can take away a second lesson that is just as important, since many assault survivors haven't been satisfied by exercising their rights in the criminal justice system.
Pursuing Justice Through Civil Litigation
Our attorneys have watched an extraordinary wave of civil lawsuits rise up against ride-sharing companies, as assault survivors and their loved ones pursue justice on their own terms. In filing a civil lawsuit, survivors are allowed to demand financial damages, along with accountability, from Uber and Lyft, forcing the companies to face up to their alleged negligence. As numerous survivors have learned, the criminal justice system often falls short in supporting victims. While courts have been empowered in recent years to include financial restitution in their sentencing decisions, most victims will have to fight for their right to be compensated. The civil court system provides many of these survivors with a viable avenue for recourse. It could offer you, or your loved one, a similar avenue.
How A Private Civil Lawsuit Can Help
Filing a civil lawsuit can be extremely powerful, and deeply empowering, for survivors who often feel that they have lost control over their lives due to a violent and abhorrent violation. Civil litigation allows you and your family to take control.
At the same time, a civil lawsuit allows you to pursue accountability from a far-wider range of parties who may have contributed to your injuries. Though several women have chosen to sue the drivers who assaulted them, few plaintiffs have been content to end their allegations there. Most victims have included allegations of negligence against Uber and Lyft in their complaints as well.
Needless to say, neither Uber nor Lyft will ever face a criminal charge for any of the assaults or rapes committed by their drivers. The companies have repeatedly argued that their drivers are independent contractors, not employees. Some courts have agreed with that assessment, which means, in many cases, that Uber and Lyft can't be held directly accountable for the actions of their drivers.
The companies can be held accountable, however, for the policies under which they screen potential drivers. That's the basic argument behind the vast majority of the Lyft and Uber lawsuits currently pending in court and, while controversial, it's been strong enough to force the companies to settle a number of major suits in recent years.
Uber Settles Recent Driver Assault Cases
In 2016, Uber settled a civil action filed by two women, one from Boston and the other living in South Carolina, who both claimed to have been raped by their drivers. While the settlement's terms have not been disclosed, the San Francisco federal judge presiding over the case had rejected Uber's arguments that, as independent contractors, the drivers' heinous actions couldn't be pinned on the company, Bloomberg reports.
Victim In India Files Defamation Suit
In 2017, even more troubling allegations led to a similar settlement, this time involving a woman in India who was raped by an Uber driver several years ago. The driver was convicted on sex crime charges in 2015 and is now serving a life sentence in prison, but the victim went further in her pursuit of justice, filing a private claim for compensation against Uber.
The company quickly settled the lawsuit, but a new scandal erupted in June 2017, when Recode published an exclusive report indicating that Uber executives had obtained the woman's private medical records (a potential violation of Indian law) and attempted to smear her reputation. In a second lawsuit, the assault survivor, who is named as Jane Doe in court documents, accused Uber of defamation, arguing that executives at the company had openly suggested that she was a shill for Ola, Uber's main competitor in India. Uber agreed to settle this second case in December 2017.
Contact An Attorney For A Free Ride-Sharing Assault Consultation
No previous case outcome can tell you anything about the strength of your own case. But the past victories we've just described can be a source of hope that your own claims will be taken seriously. We're here to help.
If you or a loved one were victimized by an Uber or Lyft driver, our experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting your best interests. You may have the right to pursue significant financial compensation by filing a civil lawsuit.
Contact our lawyers today for a free legal consultation. You can learn more about case eligibility, and the legal process in general, at no charge and no obligation.