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? You are not alone. Your voice needs to be heard. Our experienced assault attorneys may be able to help.
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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 and can happen anywhere. 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.
Just know that you are not alone. We are here to help. We want to hear your story, because we believe it. We believe you were victimized, and we understand the deep and powerful range of emotions you must be feeling. You did not deserve this. No one does. You deserve to be fought for no matter where your abuse takes place. Learn more from our team of nursing home sex abuse lawyers if you or a loved one have been abused in a care facility.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. These brave women are leading a national movement, inspiring more women to come forward and speak their truth out loud. Every few days, a new story emerges, every accusation is horrifying, and each deserves to be aired, both in criminal and civil courts.
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 believe you, and 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.
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. If you're not ready, know that our attorneys are here to listen to your story. We can help you find the courage inside to step forward, because 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.
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.
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 to take control, to find the strength inside yourself to fight for justice.
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.
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.
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.