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Uber & Lyft Rideshare Assaults

Updated: Jan 23

Written By Michelle Llamas

I received an email asking if I wanted to share some information on rideshare safety. Since Uber and Lyft are a trending thing these days, I thought it could be a good idea to share their information.

Hi there,

I noticed you share valuable information on your website and I thought you could be interested in the work my team is doing to shed light on rideshare safety.

This is Daniela from ConsumerNotice, an organization that is dedicated to providing consumers with reliable health and safety information.

Thousands of people experience assault during rideshare rides each year, especially women. From 2019-2020, Uber reported close to 4,000 cases of sexual assault and Lyft reported close to 2,000. People who experienced rideshare sexual assault have sued providers for lax driver screening policies, holding that major rideshare companies have fallen short in protecting riders and drivers.

As concerns regarding rideshare safety, particularly for young women, continue to rise, it's crucial to stay informed and empowered to make safer choices.

At ConsumerNotice, we prioritize safety and well-being. We understand the importance of addressing these concerns and providing the public with the necessary resources to navigate rideshare safety effectively.

I believe our resources could complement the information you share and we would be honored if you could consider sharing them on your website to help us spread awareness.

Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes,

Daniela Rodriguez | Outreach Coordinator

Thousands of people experience assault during rideshare rides each year. People who experienced rideshare sexual assault have sued providers for lax driver screening policies, holding that major rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft have fallen short in protecting riders and drivers.

Uber and Lyft Assault Statistics

According to the most recently available information from Uber, it received 3,824 reports of sexual assault in 2019 and 2020. More than half of those reporting Uber rideshare assaults to the company were passengers. Lyft’s safety report provides similar information for 2019, with 1,807 sexual assaults reported.

Both Uber and Lyft report a 99% safety rate for trips using their services. However, thousands of passengers and drivers report a rideshare assault or personal injury each year. People have filed rideshare lawsuits as a result of in-ride incidents.

Key Rideshare Statistics

  • Roughly 36% of U.S. adults use ridesharing apps.

  • Uber reported 3,824 cases of sexual assault on Uber-initiated rides and 20 fatalities because of physical assault during rides in 2019-2020.

  • Lyft reported 1,807 incidences of sexual assault, including four fatal physical assaults, during rides in 2019.

  • Lyft reported a 19% decline in assault rates during U.S. rides compared to the previous reporting period.

These facts represent the most recently available information from rideshare companies. External factors, including a decrease in ridesharing during the COVID-19 pandemic, may affect these figures.

Are Companies Liable for Rideshare Assault?

Both Uber and Lyft claim they’re not responsible for rideshare assault because drivers are independent contractors and not employees. However, they have acknowledged the problem and are taking steps to increase rider and driver safety.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides guidance on the liability of companies dealing with contractors and clients. Employers are responsible for controlling the harassing behavior of independent contractors or customers if they know about the behavior or could be reasonably expected to know about it. This undermines the claims of rideshare companies attempting to exclude themselves from liability because of their nonemployee relationship with drivers.

Some legal experts believe rideshare companies have demonstrated knowledge of harassing behavior and assaults through periodic safety reports. Additionally, they claim that while companies have made changes to hiring and screening practices as well as assault reporting procedures, they have overall fallen short of creating a safe environment for riders and drivers.

How Might Uber and Lyft Help Prevent Future Assaults?

Major rideshare companies are taking steps to reduce sexual assault and other violence during rides by using technology updates and expert guidance on safety measures. In addition to technological updates, they are turning to experts to provide guidance on implementing programs and policies and offering more support to those who have experienced sexual assault while using Uber or Lyft.

Recommended Rideshare Safety Measures

  • Improve initial driver screening processes and adherence to community guidelines

  • Provide training and oversight for drivers

  • Perform annual follow-up checks to capture new information

  • Make assault reporting easier with increased access to reporting tools

  • Implement post-reporting support services

Uber is creating technological solutions to improve safety. For example, Uber’s Follow My Ride feature allows riders to share their location with a family member or friend. The in-app Emergency Button provides a direct and immediate connection to local emergency responders.

To reduce Lyft driver assault claims, the company is focusing on policy improvements in three categories: before, during and after the ride. Lyft reports routine monitoring for criminal convictions and driver deactivation as necessary. Additionally, drivers must undergo training created by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Passenger safety features include routine route check-ins, location-sharing capabilities and one-touch emergency connection to a security professional.

How to Report Assault to Rideshare Apps

Riders and drivers can report rideshare assault through in-app emergency features, online or by calling the appropriate rideshare company’s reporting number. During a ride, in-app emergency reporting buttons are the easiest and most discreet options for reaching out. These safety features connect with a security professional (Lyft) or emergency services (Uber) to get help when needed.

Those who have experienced Lyft or Uber sexual assault should also file a report with local police. People can find additional support and resources by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or using the organization’s online chat feature.

Ways to Report Rideshare Assault

  • Contact the rideshare company online

  • Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline

  • Use available in-app reporting features

  • File a police report

Finding support and information on how to report Uber sexual assault claims on the Uber website can be difficult. The dedicated 24-7 support team and app help menu are easier to navigate. Uber provides a “Safety Toolkit” section in its app with all safety-related information in case of an emergency.

Lyft encourages individuals to report inappropriate behavior or Lyft sexual assault claims through the app or by phone. The company maintains it will never retaliate against someone filing a claim.

Filing an Assault Lawsuit Against a Rideshare Company

The first step in filing an Uber sexual assault lawsuit is to speak with a lawyer who has had success litigating similar cases. Filing a lawsuit against a rideshare company can help hold the company responsible for its failure to provide a safe environment for riders and drivers. It may also be a means of seeking compensation for personal injuries sustained during the assault.

Schedule a consultation to discuss the specifics of your rideshare assault case. After reviewing the details, if you and the attorney decide to move forward with a lawsuit, the law firm will file and manage the case. Your legal team will negotiate on your behalf and represent you in court if the case goes to trial.

Source & More Information:

Lyft sued by Florida woman who says she was sexually assaulted by driver

Story by Jose Martinez

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco-based rideshare company Lyft is being sued by a Florida woman who says she was sexually assaulted multiple times by one of its drivers.

The victim alleges that she was violently and repeatedly raped by her Lyft driver, resulting in the birth of a child.

"I took a ride thinking I was safe. You see these lights on, and you say your name, and you get in that car thinking that you're going to be OK, and I trusted that," said Tabatha Means, the alleged victim.

According to Means, the assault occurred in April 2019, when the driver urged her to sit in front and then started touching her inappropriately. After rejecting his advances, she got out of the car, only for the driver to follow her into her home and rape her.

"I'm very upset with myself for not opening my mouth sooner. Not doing everything in my power to get proper treatment, for the driver for what occurred. I was there. I know what happened," Means said.

According to Lyft however, the alleged incident did not happen during a Lyft ride, but during a subsequent encounter between the alleged victim and the driver.

"Safety is fundamental to Lyft and the behavior described has no place in our society. The alleged incident from 2019 did not take place on the Lyft platform while using the Lyft app, but rather involved a separate trip arranged between the individuals involved," Lyft said in a prepared statement.  

Lyft said its investigation determined the person accused gave a ride on the Lyft platform to the woman's original destination, and there was no Lyft ride to her home associated with the alleged incident that happened hours later that same evening. Lyft also said there was no safety report or customer service report filed with Lyft and no police report was filed.

The company added that it became aware of the alleged incident after being contacted by attorneys years later. The driver allegedly involved is no longer driving for the Lyft platform, the company said.

For San Francisco resident Aura Barva, security is always at the forefront of her mind when she uses a ride-share app.

"I share my ride information with one of my friends, so they would know where the ride is going, and that gives some peace of mind," said Barva, who has used Uber and Lyft for over a decade.

Living in San Francisco for more than 10 years, Barva relies on ride-share services at least twice a week to avoid late-night rides on BART or Muni. However, she has a growing safety concern, especially at night.

"You always have that fear that something is going to happen to you, especially at night when you go out," said Barva. "As women, we are more vulnerable than men."

The apprehension surrounding ride-share safety has also intensified after Means filed the lawsuit against Lyft.

Barva emphasized the need for ride-share companies to enhance their security protocols, including more rigorous background checks and the implementation of safety plans within the cars.

"They need to run better background checks. It's really important, and also, it wouldn't hurt anyone to have like a safety plan or something inside of the car. Not only because something can happen with the driver, but if there's an accident or someone that needs help, maybe it's connected to 911," she suggested.

Lyft says it runs rigorous, annual background checks on all drivers, which include a nationwide criminal search, a county court records search, a federal criminal court records search, and a a U.S. Department of Justice 50-state sex offender registry search. 

The company said it has also implemented a safety service supported by security firm ADT, allowing riders to connect with an ADT professional silently or by voice if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Lyft says it also offers a "Smart Trip Check-in" feature which monitors for ride irregularities and contacts riders and drivers directly to see if they need help.

However, in Tabatha Means' case, she alleges that Lyft did not provide the expected assistance.

"Lyft wasn't there like they were supposed to be. All of those safe options were not there. They were not in place, so they don't know. They were not there," she stated.

While the lawsuit is ongoing, Barva mentioned that she has to continue using these services to have a bit of comfort when she goes out, always keeping her own safety measures in place.

Uber sexual assault survivors share their stories in hopes company will change safety protocols

ByMelanie Woodrow

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- Billions of Uber rides are taken and given every day and according to Uber's own 2019-2020 U.S. Safety Report, 3,824 sexual assaults across five categories were reported on the company's app.

"These are predator drivers," said Peiffer Wolf attorney Rachel Abrams.

"I thought it would be safer to take an Uber and it was not," said Jennifer, an Uber sexual assault survivor.

"It almost felt like the driver was just waiting for someone to get in the car and like a young girl to take advantage of," said Alex, an Uber sexual assault survivor.

Jennifer and Alex are sharing their experience in the hopes that Uber will change its safety practices around screening, hiring and removing drivers from its platform.

On her way to cat sit in the Mission this summer, Jennifer says she took an Uber to avoid walking through the Tenderloin, thinking she'd be safer. Immediately she says her Uber driver began asking her inappropriate questions.

"Oh, do you like to party? Oh, are you having fun? And I'm getting off of work," recounted Jennifer.

At her destination, he offered to help with her bags.

"I was taking my backpack off and then hands were touching me," explained Jennifer.

"I just kept thinking I can't believe this is happening," she continued.

"And I said no that's very inappropriate, this is not, no I don't want this, no," said Jennifer.

Jennifer says he eventually left, but returned the next day with her cell phone that she had left in his car. A neighbor took the phone for her.

She filed a police report. SFPD tells the I-Team that the investigation remains open.

At the time, it was unclear to Jennifer whether the driver was removed from Uber's platform. Attorney Rachel Abrams says Uber doesn't tell the passenger if a driver is removed from the platform unless they are in litigation and discovery. In its 2019-2020 Safety Report, Uber says the core tenets of its approach are to remove requirements of conclusivity, corroboration, and survivor "credibility" when determining whether to ban the accused party from Uber's app.

In a response to a media request, the rideshare company tells the I-Team, Jennifer's driver was deactivated from the platform. Uber refunded Jennifer's ride and sent her information on an Uber resources hotline and the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

"I didn't imagine that that would happen to me because of a 10-minute Uber drive," said Jennifer.

Abrams says Uber doesn't properly screen drivers. "We do know that they want to do the bare minimum because they want to get drivers. Without drivers, they don't make money."

According to Uber's most recent 2019-2020 U.S. Safety Report, sexual assault is defined as any physical or attempted physical contact that is reported to be sexual in nature and without consent.

The sexual misconduct and violence taxonomy ranges from staring and asking personal questions. to non-consensual penetration. But Abrams says Uber's self-reported assault numbers only include five categories: non-consensual sexual penetration, non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, attempted non-consensual sexual penetration and non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part.

"They're not reporting things that the community would want to know about," said Abrams.

In its 2019-2020 safety report, Uber writes, that no rider or driver is deactivated from Uber for a safety report without a human review. Uber also says, "Limiting the categories of incidents to the most severe helps us maintain a higher level of classification accuracy, reliability, and consistency with our previous report."

In 2017, Alex says she was visiting San Francisco by herself when she took an Uber. Immediately she says her driver began asking her if she had a boyfriend and if she would be his girlfriend. She says he insisted he show her around the city.

"I felt like I needed to be agreeable because he seemed kind of impulsive," said Alex.

Eventually driving her to Treasure Island.

"It was out of the way. It wasn't on the way," said Alex.

As she took a picture of the view, she said he took her phone to get a selfie.

"He actually took a picture with me and I have that picture still," said Alex.

Then persisted that she sit in the front of the car.

"Then he reached over, grabbed me, tried to kiss me, touch my breasts and that's when I pushed him away and was like take me back right now, no, got really angry, making me feel like I had done something really, really wrong and I think at that point I was just in fight or flight," said Alex.

Alex did not report what happened. She also later realized her driver had 'canceled' the ride.

"Felt really shameful about the whole thing just like ugh why did this happen to me is this my fault," said Alex.

And only years later began to openly discuss it.

"It felt like such a big weight off my chest," said Alex.

Uber tells the I-Team, that Alex's driver was deactivated from the platform, though it's not clear why or when because she didn't report the driver. Uber told the I-Team there are many different reasons why a driver can lose access to the platform and for privacy reasons, couldn't go into details about this driver.

Alex says she had at least two other incidents with Uber Drivers talking sexually during the ride, which she has reported to Uber.

"I got a statement like thank you for submitting this. I think maybe one of them was refunded. and the other one they were like we take this really seriously thank you for letting us know and that was really it," said Alex.

"Even to this day if I'm riding in an Uber alone I am dreading like who is going to show up in this car," said Alex.

In an emailed statement on Nov. 1 for an ABC7 News report about related litigation, an Uber spokesperson wrote, "Sexual assault is a horrific crime, and we take every report of this nature very seriously. While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are deeply committed to the safety of all users on the Uber platform."

During a recent hearing ABC7 News attended, Uber's attorney said assaults being litigated in a multi-district litigation were "not preventable from Uber's point of view."

A point that will be central to ongoing litigation.

"It attracts predators like these rapists to their platform because they can get away with it," said Abrams.

Jennifer and Alex say they're speaking out to protect others.

"There needs to be more safety or at the very least the types of people they're hiring," said Alex.

"I don't want this kind of thing to happen to so many people and for it to just get swept under the rug," said Jennifer.

Uber says it's constantly working to identify patterns of potentially risky behavior.

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