Do rideshare companies do enough to protect drivers and passengers from sexual assault in Florida and beyond? According to hundreds of pending civil sexual assault lawsuits around the country against companies like Lyft and Uber, the answer is a resounding: No.
Despite the fact that the entire business model of rideshare companies centers on the idea that they provide a safe way home, more than a few users say the experience ends up being anything but safe.
If you are attacked or have been sexual assaulted as a passenger in a South Florida rideshare, our dedicated West Palm Beach sexual assault attorneys can help you identify your legal options and navigate your next steps. Part of what complicates these claims are that the drivers are not considered “employees” but rather “independent contractors.” This designation gives companies some room to deny vicarious liability for the negligent or criminal actions perpetuated by drivers for the app. However, it doesn’t mean there’s no chance they’ll have to answer for safety deficits that result in harm.
We recognize that going up against a large company like Uber or Lyft can seem daunting. But with an experienced civil trial lawyer, civil litigation can be a powerful tool for pursuing accountability as well as meaningful policy changes that will hopefully make everyone safer.
Pending Sexual Assault Cases Against Rideshare Companies
At least 17 sexual assault lawsuits involving drivers and passengers alike are pending against Lyft, according to NPR. Claimants say they were harassed, assaulted, and battered. Yet when they reported the incidents to the rideshare company, the response was lackluster. Rideshare reps reportedly apologized for what happened, gave complainants refunds, and promised to suspend the accounts of the drivers or passengers involved. Some drivers who reported being sexually assaulted by passengers said the company offered them a few hundred dollars. However, there was no follow-up afterward.
Lawyers representing the victims say longtime rideshare company practice is to withhold user information – even in the event of a reported crime – unless there is a court order specifically compelling it. Plaintiff attorneys say this significantly delays or stymies criminal investigations and requests for civil orders of protection. They insist rideshares should go the extra mile to not only share user information to authorities when a sexual assault is reported, but also install cameras or audio recorders in vehicles that use the app. Such recordings could be used as evidence in a criminal case, but beyond that, hopefully would serve as a strong deterrent. Continue reading