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UPDATE - December 10, 2019 - Lyft, Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits Mounting
The nation’s two largest ride-share companies continue to receive allegations from drivers and passengers that they have been sexually assaulted. Dozens of women have joined lawsuits against Lyft and alleged the company failed to prevent drivers from sexually assaulting them. The allegations highlight a growing epidemic; Lyft was previously facing at least 34 lawsuits prior while its main competitor, Uber, received nearly 6,000 allegations over the last two years.
Nineteen More Women Sue Lyft
The New York Times reported that nineteen women sued Lyft in the Superior Court of San Francisco on Wednesday, December 4. The lawsuit said Lyft failed to prevent drivers from sexually assaulting them. The Lyft sexual assault lawsuits accuse the company of failing to enact basic safety messengers and bring up allegations that Lyft played down what happened while ignoring the women’s complaints.
Michael Bomberger, the San Diego-based lawyer representing the women, accused Lyft of silencing victims to protect the company’s image.
“It’s not just the fact that these sexual assaults happened. It’s about the cover-up,” Bomberger said.
Bomberger filed another lawsuit in September representing 14 women who said they had been sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers. Bomberger said that many of the women reported the assaults to local police departments, then later learned that Lyft refused to provide information that would have helped investigations. Bomberger also said that the company would not give the women the names of the accused drivers, making it impossible for the women to file temporary restraining orders.
Lyft responded to the allegations on December 5. Alexandra LaManna, Lyft’s spokeswoman, issued a statement describing the women’s stories as “something no one should ever have to endure.” LaManna made note of the disproportionate risks women face in their daily lives, saying that “everyone deserves the ability to move around the world safely.
LaManna also said that the company has taken measures to increase passenger safety. She said the company has introduced 15 new safety features, and that nearly one in five of Lyft’s employees are dedicated to safety strengthening initiatives. Following the September lawsuit, Lyft announced that the company was screening drivers’ criminal backgrounds daily and that the company already had effective security measures in place. Bomberger said these measures were not enough and that the company needed to do far more.
Uber Reveals Scale of Safety Complaints
The mounting allegations against Lyft reveal a bigger problem facing rideshare companies. Uber, the nation’s largest rideshare company, issued a report that showed they received 5,981 serious sexual assault alligations in 2017 and 2018. The assault claims range from unwanted kissing and touching to rape. The report is limited to instances within the United States.
NPR reports that Uber’s breakdown doesn’t cover the full scale.
Uber’s report covered what the company defined as the five most severe categories of sexual assaults: nonconsensual kissing of a nonsexual body part, attempted nonconsensual sexual penetration, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, nonconsensual kissing of a sexual body part and nonconsensual sexual penetration. Uber did not include other types of sexual misconduct such as verbal threats, asking for sex, or masturbation. Uber created the report with the help of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and other advocacy groups.
The sexual assault allegations in Uber’s report contain a wide range of claims. Some were investigated by police and criminally prosecuted while in others, Uber could not reach the person who reported the assault for additional information. Victims in the claims include both riders and drivers; passengers were accused of sexually assaulting drivers in almost half of the reports.
Since 2018, Uber has worked to invest in new features to increase the safety of passengers and drivers. The company released multiple safety measures such as the “panic button,” an in-app feature that connects users to emergency services and performs continuous background checks of drivers. Uber is currently considering additional safety features such as recording rides and sharing the names of banned drivers with other ride-hailing companies.
Like Uber and Lyft, rideshare competitors around the world are dealing with similar allegations and criticism. India-based Ola and China-based Didi have both come under scrutiny for how the companies handle complaints, screen drivers, and their inaction in removing offenders from the platforms.
Fostering an “Epidemic”
Bomberg said that he receives at least three calls daily from women who say they have been sexually assaulted by rideshare drivers. Rachel Abrams, another lawyer who has filed 19 Lyft sexual assault lawsuits, said her firm is currently representing over 70 women.
"If the public realized how many women are assaulted daily [by ride-hail drivers] they would be flabbergasted,"Bomberger said. "These companies have fostered an environment to let these things happen."
The majority of the alleged assaults have taken place within the last two years. The allegations range from battery to kidnapping to sodomy and gang rape. Both Abrams and Bomberger said they receive as many calls about women allegedly being attacked by Uber drivers, but they say Uber has a better record than Lyft of working with victims.
"We need systemic change," Abrams said. "We can have this not be an epidemic. We can have this not be happening every day to another woman."
The most popular rideshare vendors are Uber and Lyft, which are available in almost every major city as well as many smaller cities and towns. As rideshare continues to grow in popularity, the number of rideshare vendors and services continues to expand.
There are a number of different services offered by both Uber and Lyft – as well as other rideshare vendors – including normal ridesharing, carpool ridesharing, and premium service ridesharing.
There are typically three distinct types of rideshare drivers:
While ridesharing is more convenient for the average consumer than traditional taxi services (set fees and pricing, mobile-friendly platforms, ability to rate a drive, etc.) rideshare vendors have come under scrutiny for a number of issues, including their hiring practices and who they allow to become drivers.
Rideshare programs are often criticized for their lax vetting processes. Uber and Lyft have recently updated their driver background check criteria in response to a multitude of sexual assault cases filed against rideshare drivers. Both companies run a basic background check on all driver candidates. However, both Uber and Lyft background checks only look into criminal history for potential drivers running back seven years. The software that these companies use to run candidate background checks is relatively basic, and many previous violent crimes go under their radar. A recent investigation conducted by CNN uncovered thousands of felons driving for Uber; for example, some drivers with previous violent felony charges such as assault and sexual misconduct were found to be operating for the rideshare vendors without any notification or warning to the passenger of their driver’s history of violent behavior, either because the rideshare vendor chose not to disclose that information, or because the background check failed to expose this history. The degree to which background checks are conducted varies by vendor and even by individual vendor services, but generally, these background checks are conducted much more liberally than other chauffeuring services such as taxi drivers and private chauffeurs.
Because almost all rideshare cars are privately owned by drivers, Uber, Lyft and other vendors are not able to consistently monitor and check all of the vehicles that their drivers are using. There is some limited oversight that vendors have over car safety and efficiency, but for the most part, these companies leave this responsibility up to the drivers.
There are currently no specific vehicle safety requirements that rideshare cars have to meet in accordance with state or federal laws or regulations (barring general vehicle laws and regulations). Instead, Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services set their own vehicle standards on a state-to-state basis. Vendors require their drivers to submit their vehicles to a safety inspection at least once. Some vendors require drivers to submit their vehicle to routine safety inspections. This is not the case for all vendors or all locations and is actually only limited to a small percentage of all rideshare vehicles. In locations with services that do not require the driver to submit their vehicles to routine safety inspections, the drivers are given a checklist of requirements that their vehicles are expected to meet. In these instances, the vendors do not conduct routine safety standards checks on the vehicle and must take the driver’s word that the vehicles meet the safety standards set by the vendor. Even in locations with services that do conduct routine safety inspections, these inspections may only be limited to one or a few times total. If an issue arises with the vehicle, say an airbag system in the vehicle is recalled, there is no way that the vendor can ensure that their driver has addressed the issue. More expensive professional services, such as Uber Black, require drivers to submit their vehicles to routine inspections.
Another problem that arises is fraudulent drivers impersonating drivers in order to use the rideshare vehicle. There have been a number of reports of individuals driving under the false identity of friends, roommates, family members and other acquaintances who have been approved to be rideshare drivers. Rideshare services only require that the driver “turn-on” their availability on their phone app in order to start a shift. These vendors have run into the issue of having drivers’ peers borrowing their drivers’ phones and taking driving shifts under the false identity of the drivers, even though they have not been approved by the vendor to drive. There is almost no way to stop this issue unless a customer reports it, and it puts the passengers at a higher risk of being involved in an accident or victim to a crime.
Because of rideshare vendors’ lax vetting processes and lack of oversight, there are a number of risks that customers (passengers) face when using rideshare, especially when using non-professional driver services such as Uber-X and Lyft.
The passenger does not know the driver and is not familiar with his/her driving ability, so he/she does not know whether they are at risk of being involved in an accident or victim to a crime. The passenger must trust the rideshare vendor’s ability to vet drivers. This puts passengers in a unique situation where they must trust a stranger based on merit alone. Unfortunately, past incidents have proved that some rideshare drivers do not meet the expectations that we would hope for, and incidents do occur.
The most common incidents that rideshare customers report include:
Other drivers also face risks as a result of ridesharing:
Just as you do in any other situation where you are the passenger in a vehicle, as a rideshare passenger you run the risk of being involved in an auto accident. If you are involved in an auto accident in a rideshare vehicle, any injuries that you incur should be covered under the vendor’s supplemental insurance policy; although not all injuries are always covered.
As a rideshare driver, you are covered by the rideshare vendor’s supplemental insurance while you are on the app and available to pick up passengers or while you are driving passengers. Uber, for example, offers liability coverage for up to $1 million to drivers and passengers while the driver is on the app and available to pick up / currently driving passengers. If the driver is not on the app and available to pick up / currently driving passengers, they are considered a personal vehicle and covered only by their personal vehicle insurance.
Uber and other rideshare vendors have found a loophole to avoid paying out these policies – by classifying their drivers as “independent contractors” rather than “employees”, they are able to avoid liability in some instances where a driver has had an accident.
If there is a gap in the driver’s personal auto insurance coverage and the rideshare vendor’s supplemental coverage, the driver, any injured passengers, and any other parties injured as a result of the accident may not actually be covered by insurance. It is not uncommon for rideshare vendors to refuse payout or fight insurance claims made by both drivers and passengers who have been injured in an Uber accident, Lyft accident, or other rideshare accident.
Unlike other “ride-hailing” passengers, rideshare passengers can also share fault for an accident. If a passenger does something to initiate the accident, they can be held liable. Even if the passenger did not cause the accident, they can still share fault for putting themselves in harm’s way – for example, a rideshare passenger injured in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt can be held liable for their own injuries.
In these cases, the injured passenger or other injured parties may have to file an Uber lawsuit, Lyft lawsuit, or other rideshare lawsuits in order to receive compensation for their injuries.
Self-operating rideshare driver supplemental insurance works similar to other rideshare supplemental insurance policies. The driver is covered partially by the vendor through limited coverage. The driver also pays a fee for 3rd party coverage. Like other rideshare programs, vendors have been known to try and get out of liability for an accident. If you are a self-operating rideshare driver or were involved in an accident with one, you should contact an experienced auto accident lawyer right away.
The best thing that you can do if you were involved in an Uber accident, Lyft accident, or other rideshare accident is to seek medical attention right away. Even if you do not believe that you have suffered any major injuries, a medical examination from an emergency responder or other medical provider can indicate whether you have had any minor injuries / prolonged injuries, and will also document these injuries as a legal record in case you later choose to file an Uber lawsuit, Lyft lawsuit, or other rideshare lawsuits.
Document any and all injuries, interactions with medical professionals or insurance providers, interactions with authorities, and all other evidence after your accident.
Then, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to help determine whether you have a legitimate case for an Uber lawsuit, Lyft lawsuit, or other rideshare lawsuits.
Unfortunately, there has been a growing number of Uber assault cases, Lyft assault cases, and other instances of rideshare assault and mistreatment of passengers.
Uber assault, Lyft assault, and other rideshare assault can range from bodily harm, unwanted physical touching, sexual assault, and even rape of a passenger.
Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare vendors have responded to the growing number of assault allegations against their drivers by reconducting background checks and initiating more thorough background checks. While these are good first steps, they have by no means completely stopped these incidents from occurring. Both Uber and Lyft have come under scrutiny for misleading customers into believing that their drivers undergo a much more thorough screening process than they actually do.
Rideshare vendors can and should be held liable for any form of assault that a driver commits on a passenger. The vendor’s negligence lies in their hiring practices – the vendor should do everything in their power to ensure their customer’s (passenger’s) safety. If the vendor is allowing a possibly-dangerous individual to drive for them, they are failing to meet an expectation to keep their passenger safe. This expectation is legally defined as the duty-of-care: a duty that one party owes to another to ensure that the first party mitigates any risk to the second party. If the first party fails to meet a duty-of-care, they can be held legally liable for any injuries or loss inflicted onto the second party.
An Uber lawsuit has been filed against the vendor for failing to meet this duty-of-care. The plaintiffs allege that Uber failed to meet this duty-of-care by opting out of intensive background checks and employing hiring practices which allowed dangerous individuals to become drivers. The harmful actions these drivers committed range from assault and battery to sexual assault and rape. A similar Lyft lawsuit makes claims against Lyft for failing to meet the expected duty-of-care. A number of Lyft users have filed lawsuits against the company claiming that they had been assaulted or raped by drivers.
If the courts find that either Uber of Lyft has failed to meet the expected duty-of-care, legal precedents will be established for similar cases to be tried.
The Uber lawsuits and Lyft lawsuits further claim that both vendors have mislead consumers to believe that their drivers undergo a more intensive screening process than the process that the vendors actually have in place. The plaintiffs claim that this misrepresentation has directly led to passengers, who would have otherwise not chosen to use the service, being assaulted by drivers who have a history of aggressive or dangerous behavior.
If you ever are put in the situation where you feel in danger or are being attacked by a rideshare driver, your very first action should be removing yourself from that situation as quickly as possible. After you have removed yourself from the situation, contact authorities.
After you have contacted the authorities, seek medical attention, even if you do not believe that your injuries are severe.
Only after you have contacted the authorities and have had medical attention should you contact the vendor. It is important to report the incident to both the vendor and the authorities. This is the only way to ensure that the driver is revoked of his rideshare driver approval as soon as possible.
When giving a statement, include as much detail as possible. Request identification for all authorities and medical personnel who treat you.
You should document any and all evidence that may help with your case. This can include photos, police statements, hospital records, copies of medical receipts, communications with parties involved, communications between yourself and the vendor, etc.
You should then contact a personal injury attorney to help you build a case against the vendor. Filing an Uber lawsuit, Lyft lawsuit, or other rideshare lawsuits may be the only way to ensure that these companies affect change into their hiring practices and minimize the risk of future incidents.
Trying cases of discrimination and mistreatment of passengers is more difficult to do because often times there is no hard evidence to prove the plaintiff’s claims.
There has been a history of reports of rideshare passengers being discriminated against and mistreated. Incidents of being left stranded on the side of the road, harassed or verbally threatened in the car, and being the victim of racism and sexism.
If you experienced an incident of discrimination or mistreatment, you should contact the vendor to report the event.
If you suffered monetary loss as a result of the discrimination or mistreatment, you may be eligible to file an Uber lawsuit, Lyft lawsuit, or other rideshare lawsuits. Contact the offices of TorHoerman Law to find out whether your case qualifies.
At TorHoerman Law, our team of experienced personal injury lawyers specializes in car accident law, assault and battery law, and other forms of personal injury law. We offer free no-obligation case consultations for any potential Uber lawsuit, Lyft lawsuit, or rideshare lawsuit.
Our team works on a contingency basis, meaning that we don’t get paid a dime until after our clients are awarded compensation for their injuries or loss. Contact our firm today, and learn how we can help you.
Bond, Shannon. “Uber Received Nearly 6,000 U.S. Sexual Assault Claims In Past 2 Years.” NPR, NPR, 5 Dec. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/12/05/785037245/uber-received-nearly-6-000-u-s-sexual-assault-claims-in-past-2-years.
Cramer, Maria. “19 Women Sue Lyft as Sexual Assault Allegations Mount.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 Dec. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/12/05/business/lyft-sexual-assault-lawsuit.html.
Kerr, Dara. “Lyft Is Fostering a Sexual Assault 'Epidemic,' Victims Say.” CNET, www.cnet.com/features/lyft-is-fostering-a-sexual-assault-epidemic-victims-say/.
Last Modified: December 16th, 2019 @ 09:19 am
If you have been involved in an accident, suffered an injury, or experienced a traumatic event as a result of a rideshare service, you may be eligible to file an Uber lawsuit, Lyft lawsuit, or other rideshare lawsuits. Contact TorHoerman Law today to see whether you qualify to participate in a rideshare lawsuit. At this time, TorHoerman Law is only accepting cases for incidents that have occurred within the last calendar year.
© 2019 TorHoerman Law LLC.
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