Recent reports released by popular rideshare companies Lyft and Uber reveal an ongoing problem with sexual assault. In the majority of cases, female passengers claimed to have suffered sexual assaults, including rape.
Lyft has been the subject of so many civil lawsuits related to sexual assault that plaintiffs’ lawyers have moved to coordinate more than 20 pending cases against the company in a single San Francisco court. Lyft has opposed the move, alleging that coordinating the cases will create a “clearinghouse” for all sexual assault cases brought against the company.
Sexual Assault Claims Against Lyft
According to reports, the “number of women alleging sexual assault by Lyft drivers has been growing rapidly over the last several months.” Since August 2019, Lyft has been the subject of about 34 complaints of sexual assault. In many of the cases, the victims’ lawyers say that sexual predators are drawn to the company because the nature of the job makes it easy to prey on vulnerable passengers.
Lyft has a smaller share of the rideshare market compared to Uber, but the company still has over 2 million drivers operating in the United States and Canada. It claims to serve over 30 million riders. The claims against Lyft span 19 states.
The majority of the sexual assault claims against Lyft say the assaults occurred within the last two years, and victims claim they have been subjected to kidnappings, gang rape, battery, and other crimes. The claims allege that Lyft’s background check procedures fall short. Additionally, some of the claims state that Lyft has failed to remove drivers from its system even after drivers have been accused of sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Claims Against Uber
Uber is the largest rideshare service in North America. Like Lyft, it has been the subject of numerous reports of sexual assault. The company released a safety report in December 2019 stating that it received nearly 6,000 reports of sexual assault spanning the two-year period between 2017 and 2018.
In addition to 464 reports of rape, Uber drivers were implicated in 19 deaths caused by physical assault.
According to the report, both passengers and drivers have been victims of sexual assault. In the report, 92 percent of alleged sexual assault victims were passengers, and just 7 percent were drivers. Females account for 89 percent of sexual assaults, and men made up around 8 percent of victims of sexual assault.
Uber release the report after a CNN investigation revealed that 103 current Uber drivers had a criminal record of sexual assault that occurred within the past four years. Despite having these records, the drivers were still on the company’s list of approved drivers at the time CNN conducted its report.
In response, Uber partnered with a company that automatically transmits a passenger’s location and identifying information to a local police department any time they push the emergency button in the Uber app.
Criminal Charges Against Rideshare Drivers
In addition to the civil lawsuits filed against companies like Lyft and Uber, the drivers involved in these sexual assault cases are also often arrested and criminally charged.
It’s important to distinguish between the civil lawsuits in these cases and potential criminal prosecution. When someone commits a crime, they can be prosecuted in criminal court, with possible penalties including prison time and fines if they’re convicted.
However, they might also be sued by the victim in civil court. This is an entirely separate legal action from the criminal case. In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff is asking the court to award him or her monetary compensation for their injuries or losses.
For example, someone charged with murder may be prosecuted in the criminal justice system. The accused might also be sued in civil court for wrongful death. Both lawsuits arose from the same action — in this example, the murder — but the burden of proof is different in each case. Additionally, the penalties are different. In criminal case, the penalty is typically prison time. In the civil case, the penalty is financial compensation.
Numerous Lyft and Uber drivers have been criminally charged in connection with sexual assaults of passengers.
In a January 2020 case, an Uber driver in California was arrested for sexually assaulting an intoxicated female passenger. An investigation revealed that the driver had previously been convicted of sexual assault in 1993.
Contact a Dallas Sex Crime Defense Lawyer About Your Case
Sexual assault charges are some of the most serious allegations a person can face. If you have been accused of a sexual assault you didn’t commit, it’s important to speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Let an experienced Texas sex crimes defense lawyer help you protect your freedom and your future. Contact criminal defense attorneys at Broden & Mickelsen, LLP.