What Happens If You’re a Sexual Assault Victim During a Rideshare Trip?



Rideshare programs have grown increasingly popular over the last couple of years. Uber and Lyft both do a great job informing passengers who their driver is and what vehicle will pick them up. 

But how safe are you really? If something goes wrong during that trip – what happens next? The first step is always to report the incident to authorities. But sometimes, as recent cases indicate, that isn’t enough. When Uber and Lyft don’t cooperate with allegations against their drivers, it’s important for you to seek legal aid.

What Do Rideshare Companies Offer Passengers?

Uber started in 2010 with a brand message to provide a “safe ride home.” Lyft followed suit two years later. Despite both companies’ commitment to providing a safer alternative to driving under the influence, Uber and Lyft have at times struggled with allegations of sexual misconduct, assault, and rape by their drivers. CNN conducted an investigation in 2018 and found more than 103 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers had been accused of sexually assaulting their passengers within a four-year time span. 

Unfortunately, no records have been made public that investigators can review regarding sexual assault allegations – only police reports. Uber is a global company providing riders, on average, with 15 million rides a day, and Lyft provides about one million rides per day throughout the United States and Canada. With such a high volume of trips, shouldn’t the safety of those passengers take the utmost importance?

Lawsuits against Lyft for Mishandling Sexual Assault

Currently, there is one lawsuit against Lyft filed by fourteen women claiming that, after reporting that they had been sexually assaulted or raped while using the rideshare program, Lyft has not cooperated with law enforcement investigating the charges. The lawsuit considers rides that happened between January 2018 and June 2019 across the United States. Rather than assisting authorities to make ridesharing a safe option for women riding by themselves, the lawsuit alleges that Lyft chooses to “hide and conceal” the scope of its “sexual predator crisis” on the application. Lyft’s policy indicates that it only cooperates with police when they can present a subpoena or formal legal order.

The lawsuit further claims that the company doesn’t provide passengers with the added protection of incorporating technology to promote rider safety. Examples of this sort of technology that can better protect passengers include:

  • Video recordings inside the vehicle
  • Preventing drivers from turning off their app while with a passenger
  • Communicating warnings to the driver and passenger(s) when the trip has gone off track

While Uber has added an emergency button within their app to indicate that something has gone wrong during the ride – almost like a panic button – Lyft has not yet added any emergency button for passengers to use.

Safety Measures to Take When Using a Rideshare Program

While we’re still waiting to see how Lyft deals with this sexual assault lawsuit, there are safety measures that riders can practice now that will minimize the risk of using a rideshare program. First, always ask the driver to identify your name to safeguard against perpetrators pretending to be rideshare drivers. You should also pay attention to where you sit. It’s best to sit in the backseat behind the passenger seat. This gives you the most distance between yourself and the driver, and the best opportunity to make a quick exit, if need be.

Additionally, you can share your route and ride status with a trusted friend on both Uber and Lyft apps. For Uber, tap the “share trip status” button; and for Lyft, tap the “share route” button. It’s a good idea to tell your driver that your trip is being tracked as well. Many times, people will commit a crime when they think they have a decent chance of getting away with it. 

If a driver knows that their route is being documented and someone is watching your time, your chance of arriving home safely increases. If you don’t feel comfortable blatantly telling your driver that you’re sharing the trip status, then make a phone call while in the vehicle. If it’s late, try leaving a voice memo to yourself that sounds like a phone call. By following these tips, the likelihood that you’ll have an altercation with a driver is much lower than skipping these safety steps altogether.

Pursue a Rideshare Claim with an Orlando Injunctions Lawyer

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been sexually assaulted by a rideshare driver, know that you don’t have to go through it alone. At Fighter Law, our injunction attorneys are committed to protecting our clients and seeking justice. We have the experience, reputation, and the tools necessary to fight a claim against a rideshare company for failure to prevent sexual assault.

Attorney Thomas Feiter of The Fighter Law Firm is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and has decades of experience pursuing personal injury claims and injunctions for victims of sexual assault. Call 407-344-4837 or complete our contact form to arrange your free consultation.

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