WHAT TO DO IF YOU'VE BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED BY AN UBER OR LYFT DRIVER
Did you experience sexual assault in an Uber or Lyft?
We can help get you the legal assistance you deserve.
While ridesharing services can offer convenience and ease, they also are dependent on a stranger getting into another stranger’s car. While most rides end with no issues for the riders or drivers, some do not — and these experiences can have lifelong impacts to the victim.
In 2019, Uber published their first safety report, which revealed that they had received 3,045 reports of sexual assault over the past two years. Later that same year, Uber agreed to pay a $9 million settlement in California for failure to provide information about sexual assault complaints made over two years by customers and drivers.
Both Uber and Lyft have received a fair amount of criticism over complaints that they don’t do enough to protect riders and drivers from sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. The companies deny liability in these cases, maintaining that their drivers are not employees and that they do various things to attempt to mitigate the harm to both drivers and passengers.
Although Lyft and Uber denounce sexual abuse in any form, critics say they do not do enough to protect passengers and drivers. While Uber and Lyft have previously partnered with NGOs like RAINN and NO MORE, offer some basic in-app safety features such as an emergency button, and perform basic background checks on drivers, many believe they can and should be doing more. Increasingly, victims are filing lawsuits against ridesharing apps, which are often settled by these companies to avoid public record filings.
Steps to Take If You've Been Sexually Assaulted by an Uber or Lyft Driver
If you have been sexually assaulted while riding as a passenger or as a driver in an Uber or Lyft, there are certain steps you should take to help ensure your safety and healing. These steps will also help you protect your right to fair and just compensation for the assault should this be a viable option and path for you
Get to Safety
Individuals who experience sexual assault, abuse, or harassment in a rideshare are often put in highly dangerous and vulnerable situations during and after the experience. The most important thing you can do is get to safety, which may require calling 911 if you are in immediate danger, calling a trusted friend or family member to come to you, or calling a helpline such as RAINN to understand your experience and options.
Receive Medical Care
If you experienced physical harm such as sexual assault or physical assault, you can choose to visit a medical provider or emergency room. You can choose to have a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) performed, but you should research if the medical provider offers SAFE exams as these are required to be performed by highly trained professionals. You can receive other medical care without having a SAFE exam performed, and your medical decisions are entirely up to you. You can call a hotline to understand what options are available in your area and what the process is like.
Understand Your Options and Rights
Once you have taken care of your immediate needs, you may be wondering what your options are to protect yourself and others from the person who perpetrated the harm. You have many options and the choice is yours in what you do next. You can call a hotline, like RAINN, to understand your reporting options such as filing a police report and reporting to the platform along with your local jurisdictional laws when it comes to your rights as a victim of abuse including workplace rights and legal rights.
What is sexual assault?
The CDC defines sexual assault as “a sexual act that is committed or attempted by another person without freely given consent of the victim or against someone who is unable to consent or refuse.” Sexual assault often involves physical force, but force can also be applied through threatening or manipulative words, blackmail, or any kind of coercion. Sexual assault can include:
- Attempted rape
- Rape where the victim’s body was penetrated
- Rape where the victim was forced to penetrate someone else’s body
- Unwelcome sexual touching or contact including groping or touching
- Other nonconsensual sex acts, such as oral sex
According to CDC data, sexual violence happens to millions each year in the United States. Data reveals that in the US:
- 1 in 3 women experience unwanted sexual violence in their lifetime
- 1 in 4 men experience unwanted sexual violence in their lifetime
- 1 in 5 women have suffered attempted or completed rape
- 1 in 14 men have been forced to penetrate someone (attempted or completed)
As staggering as these numbers are, researchers believe that many cases also go unreported. They believe this may be the result of shame, embarrassment, or fear on the part of the victim. They may also have been threatened with harm or believe no one will help them.
If you are not sure where to turn,
RAINN can help.
Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk confidentially with a trained professional from RAINN.
They can put you in touch with local resources and organizations that can help in your healing journey.
If you want to speak to a lawyer about your experience, we can help.
Tips for Filing a Report with the Ridesharing Platform or Law Enforcement
Take Note of All the Details You Can Remember
Once you have taken care of your immediate physical and mental safety, it is important to document the experience, including writing down what happened, taking any photos that may document the harm, and any information you know about the perpetrator such as the license plate or description of the driver/passenger.
Understand How to File Report with Ridesharing App
Each app has their own reporting processes and policies, which is why writing down all the details prior can be helpful to ensure you share all important details. It is helpful to understand the company’s reporting process and policies, and you may want to record you filing the report with the app/platform (like recording the screen) and ensuring you attach all relevant documents like a police report. The platform may or may not get back to you, and you should ensure you are documenting any future interactions with law enforcement and with the ridesharing company.
Get Support From Friends, Family & an Advocate
It is often difficult to open up about experiencing sexual violence with friends and family. It’s important to remember that disclosing the experience doesn’t mean you have to share every detail. Receiving love and emotional support from family and friends can provide strength and encouragement for you as you heal. If you need to take time off of work or feel the need to disclose to your employer, you should speak with a trained advocate at a hotline on your workplace rights.
Want to speak with a lawyer?
Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.
How many sexual assault cases have there been against Uber?
Uber published their first safety report in 2019 which included information and statistics about motor vehicle fatalities, fatal physical assaults, and sexual assaults in the US.
According to data from 2017 and 2018:
Unwanted kissing of a non-sexual body part was reported in about 1 in every 2,000,000 completed trips
The report reveals that across all categories of sexual violence, riders made up 45% of the accused parties — showing the issues proliferate on both sides.
Uber published their second US safety report in June 2022, which provided information for rides performed between 2019 and 2020. While Uber states that the total number of sexual assault reports decreased from 5,981 in 2017-2018 to 3,824 in 2019-2020, they do not provide full transparency on how drastically the pandemic reduced total numbers of rides during this time and thus the validity this decrease in comparison to total rides performed.
How many cases of sexual assault have there been against Lyft?
Unwanted kissing of a non-sexual body part was reported 293 times, representing 0.00004% of completed trips
Non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part was reported 203 times, or in 0.00003% of completed trips
Attempted non-consensual sexual penetration was reported 114 times, or in 0.00001% of completed trips
Unwanted touching of a sexual body part was reported 1,041 times, or in 0.00014% of completed trips
Non-consensual penetration (rape) was reported 156 times, representing 0.00002% of completed trips
The Lyft Community Safety Report did not include data to show the percentage of drivers versus riders who reported sexual assault.
Tips for Protecting Yourself When Using Uber or Lyft
In recent years, there has been increased public focus on rideshare safety and how both passengers and drivers can help protect themselves. Due to their increased convenience and proliferation in markets where other types of transportation can be difficult, rideshare apps continue to increase in popularity globally.
All ridesharing apps likeUber and Lyft have safety policies in place, such as background checks, emergency functionality, and basic mandatory training for their drivers. However, as seen above, harm still happens do both drivers and passengers, which is why it’s a good idea to know the best safety tips when using these services:
- Before getting into the car, ask the driver who they are picking up (do not tell the driver your name, ask who they’re picking up instead)
- Confirm the driver’s name, the license plate, as well as the make and model of their car
- Check to ensure the photo of the driver matches the person who is actually picking you up
- Wait inside for your driver to arrive and text them prior to exiting if you feel you’re in an unsafe location
- Use your mobile app to share driver and trip data with your family or friends
- If possible, travel in groups or use the shared car option
- When you’re alone, ride in the backseat and roll down the window enough to be able to grab the outside door handle if needed
- Do not share any personal information including your age, if you’re traveling alone, or if the place they are dropping you off is your residence
- If something doesn’t feel right, do not get in the car or get out of the car during the trip if you begin to feel uncomfortable
Uber and Lyft have seen a number of lawsuits resulting from allegations of sexual misconduct by drivers or riders. Both companies have responded with attempts to increase passenger and driver safety, but experts, advocates, and survivors feel they are doing the minimum as the harms are still happening. If you have been a victim of sexual assault while using Uber or Lyft, help is available.
Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Updates as of October 2023
Since 2018, hundreds of individuals have come forward as victims of sexual assault as a passenger or driver of an Uber rideshare. In October 2023, a panel of judges ruled that about 80 of those cases can be joined together in federal court.
While the cases will ultimately go to trial in their respective states, all of the pretrial matters will be heard by Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California. This includes witness and expert depositions and document discovery, which experts believe will help show how sexual assault on Uber is a massive problem.
While all cases are set to go to trial in their respective states as of now, Judge Breyer could decide to take on what’s known as a “bellwether trial” to act as a representative trial for all the cases. As of November 2023, lawyers are being asked to apply for leadership positions within the Uber sexual assault cases. This group of expert lawyers who must submit an application will be responsible for taking all actions during the MDL proceedings that benefit all plaintiffs.
Helping Survivors is working with these leading law firms to help get victims of Uber sexual assault to the expert legal teams they deserve.
Want to speak with a lawyer?
Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.