Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

Is Uber Responsible if I Am Assaulted In A Car?

This page delves into legal perspectives, company policies, and accountability issues when riders face sexual assault during a ride. Learn about your legal rights, Uber’s role, and the broader implications for rideshare safety.

Key Takeaways

  • If a rideshare driver sexually assaults a passenger, the victim can file a rideshare sexual assault lawsuit against the company for negligent hiring practices
  • The driver and anyone else involved in the assault can also be held personally accountable in both civil and criminal court proceedings.
  • If you or someone you know have experienced sexual assault or harassment in an Uber or Lyft, you can reach out to Helping Survivors to get the assistance you deserve, including connecting you to a law firm experienced in helping survivors seek justice for rideshare abuse.

Whether you experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or assault in a rideshare, including as a rider or driver, there are several things you can do document the experience, get immediate medical help, and report to the platform and to law enforcement.

The most important thing to know is that this experience is not your fault and that you deserve respect, healing, and assistance during this time.

While the person who perpetrated the harm is ultimately responsible for their actions, the ridesharing platforms have a responsibility to its users and other stakeholders to provide a safe service.

If and when a rideshare company is negligent in its hiring practices and you become the victim of sexual assault, harassment, or abuse you may be entitled to compensation from the ridesharing app depending on the circumstances. If you are unable to prove Uber’s negligence, you may also bring a lawsuit against the perpetrator directly. Uber can be held liable for the actions of its drivers, particularly when they carelessly hire (or fail to fire) a known dangerous driver.

The Centers for Disease Control (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 can include many things, including:

  • Unwanted kissing
  • Unwanted touching
  • Attempted rape
  • Rape that includes penetration of another’s body or forcing someone to penetrate another’s body
  • Non-consensual forced acts, such as oral sex
  • Unwanted exposure to pornography
  • Verbal or behavioral sexual harassment

Sexual assault always has an element of force, though that force may not necessarily be physical. Force can also include verbal threats, manipulation, or coercion that compels someone to do something they do not want to do. In the United States, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been victims of rape at some point in their lives. If you have been a victim of sexual violence, you are not alone.

Last Date Modified
March 17, 2024
Content Reviewed By:

Kathryn Kosmides
Managing Director | Helping Survivors

Who Can be Sued if You are Sexually Assaulted in an Uber Rideshare?

If you are sexually assaulted by a rideshare driver, you have the right to sue the company. Legal action against Uber would focus on the negligent hiring practices that allowed you to get into a car with a predator. If it can be proven to a jury that weaknesses in Uber’s hiring, trust and safety, and security policies allowed a dangerous person to transport passengers, they can be held liable.

Furthermore, the driver and anyone else who facilitated or perpetrated the actual harm can also be held personally responsible for the assault. By filing a civil lawsuit, a sexual abuse survivor can hold the abuser accountable. In some cases, it may be difficult to collect compensatory damages from an individual depending on the limits of their insurance policy. Still, the legal process can bring vindication and closure to an unjust act.

In addition to a civil suit, a sexual assault incident can result in criminal prosecution. In this case, the perpetrator may be subject to jail time, fines, probation, and other sanctions against the offender.

What Claims can be Filed Against Uber if Sexually Assaulted?

In any lawsuit filed against a rideshare company like Uber, the key element is negligence. In any personal injury lawsuit, there is a legal standard that must be met to prove negligence and assign fault.

Uber may be found liable if:

  • There was a duty of care owed to a client
  • There was a breach of that duty
  • The breach of duty directly caused harm to a person
  • That person suffered actual damages as a result of the incident

Big companies like Uber and Lyft treat their rideshare drivers as independent contractors instead of actual employees. As a result, the companies cannot be sued under a legal theory called vicarious liability. When applied to cases of sexual assault, the doctrine of vicarious liability says that the company cannot be held responsible for the actions of its drivers.

Since drivers are not employees, they are independently responsible for crimes they commit, such as sexual assault. It can be difficult to bring a lawsuit against a rideshare company because they are not automatically responsible for the actions of their drivers. But difficult does not mean impossible.

There have been several lawsuits brought against Uber and Lyft alleging negligence of different kinds, including:

  • Negligent hiring practices
  • Negligent supervision
  • Negligent retention
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress

Personal injury attorneys can represent people who have been sexually assaulted by an Uber or Lyft driver and hold the ride-sharing company accountable. The attorney will claim that the company has a legal obligation to implement safety practices to recruit, train, and retain qualified and safe drivers. By proving that the company failed to meet legal requirements during the hiring process, an attorney can hold them liable for the sexual assault.

Latest Developments in the Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits as of March 2024

Since 2018, hundreds of individuals have bravely come forward as survivors of sexual assault incidents that occurred while they were either passengers or drivers using rideshare services. Fast-forward to October 2023, where a significant legal development took place – a panel of judges ruled that approximately 80 of these cases can be consolidated and addressed collectively in a federal court setting.

While the ultimate trials for these individual cases are slated to proceed in their respective states, all preliminary legal proceedings, such as witness and expert depositions and document discovery, will fall under the purview of Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California. This comprehensive pretrial phase is expected to shed substantial light on the pervasive issue of sexual assault within the Uber platform.

At present, all cases remain scheduled for separate trials in their respective states. However, there is a possibility that Judge Breyer may opt for a “bellwether trial” to serve as a representative trial for the entire cohort of cases. In November 2023, legal practitioners are actively encouraged to apply for leadership roles within the Uber sexual assault cases. These selected legal experts will play a pivotal role in the MDL (Multi-District Litigation) proceedings, taking actions that will benefit all the plaintiffs involved.

As of March 2024, over 200 lawsuits have been compiled under the Uber Sexual Assault MDL. 

Helping Survivors is in close collaboration with these esteemed law firms, diligently working to ensure that victims of Uber-related sexual assaults are connected with the seasoned legal teams they rightfully deserve

What Type of Damages Can be Collected by Victims

If it can be proven that Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare company is liable for the sexual assault, their insurance coverage would come into play. While drivers may have smaller insurance policies, rideshare companies have much deeper pockets. In a personal injury case, a sexual assault victim could collect damages for:

Current and future medical bills

Loss of income resulting from the incident

Costs associated with therapy

Pain and suffering of the victim

If you have been a victim of sexual violence at the hands of an Uber driver, it is worth your time to consult with a personal injury lawyer. There are statutes of limitations that may apply depending on the level of sexual assault you experienced. If you wait beyond the allowable period, you may lose your right to pursue a civil lawsuit.

How Does Uber Define Sexual Assault?

According to their 2019 US Safety Report, Uber says they partnered with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Urban Institute to develop a classification system to clarify categories of unwanted sexual incidents. They also state that this collaboration led to the development of a tool that corporations can use to understand and categorize reports of sexual misconduct by consumers.

To have been included as an Uber-related sexual assault in their research, one or both of the following scenarios must apply:

The alleged misconduct happened during an active Uber-facilitated trip.

The assault took place between people who had been paired by the Uber app, and it occurred within 48 hours of the trip’s completion.

For purposes of their reporting, Uber used the following five categories for sexual assault:

  • Non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part
  • Non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part
  • Non-consensual touching of a sexual body part
  • Attempted non-consensual penetration
  • Non-consensual sexual penetration

Uber has stated it will release a safety report every two years, stating this kind of transparency will help keep passengers and drivers safer. However, providing transparency into the harms happening won’t begin to solve them — survivors, advocates, and experts believe Uber can and should be doing more to protect people before, during, and after harm occurs.

How Often do Sexual Assaults in Ubers Occur?

Sexual misconduct by Uber drivers is more common than you might think. There was a daily average of 3.1 million trips completed in the United States in 2017 and 2018. And according to a safety report released by Uber in 2019, there were reports of non-consensual touching of sexual body parts in one out of every 800,000 completed trips.

That is an average of almost four incidents per day. Other allegations of sexual misconduct during this time included:

  • Non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part 1.55 times daily
  • Unwelcome kissing of a sexual body part 1 time per day
  • Unwanted attempted
  • Non-consensual sexual penetration .62 times per day

Research by the Centers for Disease Control shows that sexual violence is unfortunately common and proliferated across all areas of society and demographics. More than one out of three women and one out of four men report experiences of sexual violence during their lifetimes.

Research also indicates that these numbers are lower than the actual rate of occurrences because many cases go unreported. Victims who feel fear, shame, or embarrassment may never tell anyone about their experience. This is likely true for Uber sexual assault reports as well.

Want To Speak With A Lawyer?

Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.