Ridesharing has quickly grown from a new way to get around cities like San Francisco to a mainstream option almost everywhere. But as with any form of transportation, rideshare passengers are injured in car accidents. And sometimes, Uber and Lyft passengers are sexually assaulted by rideshare drivers.
When rideshare passengers sue Uber and Lyft over an injury, a key issue is whether Uber and Lyft are responsible (or "vicariously liable") for the actions of rideshare drivers. Put another way, are the people who drive for Uber and Lyft employees or independent contractors? Let's look at the recent legal landscape of rideshare passenger injury cases.
Vicarious liability (also called respondeat superior) is a legal theory that makes a business responsible for the acts of its employees at work. Vicarious liability typically doesn't extend to independent contractors.
Uber and Lyft claim that rideshare drivers are independent contractors for tax and employment law reasons and to avoid fault (legal liability) when drivers' negligent or intentional acts hurt passengers.
Given how important worker classification is to both rideshare companies and drivers, extensive litigation and legislation on this issue is ongoing.
One of the most notable developments happened in 2019, when California passed AB-5, a law that would have reclassified most rideshare drivers (and other "gig workers" like Door Dash delivery drivers and Instacar shoppers) as employees. But, in 2020, California voters passed Proposition 22, which allows Uber and Lyft to continue to treat drivers as independent contractors.
If you're injured in an accident in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, you'll probably be able to get compensation for your injuries and other losses through the rideshare company's car insurance. But, in some cases, you still might want to file a car accident lawsuit.
Learn more about rideshare company liability for passenger injuries after an accident.
As Uber and Lyft have become a part of life, people are pushing the companies for more information about safety and more protection for vulnerable passengers. Hundreds of women have filed civil lawsuits for sexual assault by rideshare drivers all over the country. Let's take a closer look at rideshare company liability for sexual assault.
Uber's second safety report revealed that the company received just over 3,800 reports of alleged sexual assaults in 2019 and 2022. Just days after the report was released a law firm representing 550 clients filed a lawsuit against Uber claiming that passengers in multiple states were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers. The law firm is actively investigating 150 more potential claims. The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court.
Nearly two years after Uber released its safety report, Lyft released its own report. The report revealed that Lyft received more than 4,000 reports of sexual assaults during rides from 2017 to 2019.
The attorneys for dozens of Uber passengers who were sexually assaulted by their rideshare drivers asked the court to group more than 80 cases into a single legal action in San Francisco Superior Court, similar to the consolidation of Lyft lawsuits in January 2021 (see below.)
Dozens of women have filed lawsuits against Lyft over sexual assaults ranging from groping to rape that happened during Lyft rides. The women harmed (the plaintiffs) say that Lyft doesn't do enough to screen its drivers, and fails to prevent assaults by drivers. The lawsuits "claim the company knows it has a 'sexual predator crisis' but has declined to implement 'obvious and straightforward safety procedures'," according to the San Jose Mercury News, which reports that "lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to add hundreds more alleged victims" to this "mass tort" action. A trial is scheduled for January 2020.
Scores of Lyft passengers who were sexually assaulted by drivers filed lawsuits against Lyft saying that the company failed to screen drivers and adopt systems (like security cameras) that protect riders. The cases were consolidated for pre-trial proceedings in San Francisco Superior Court. The goal of consolidation, similar to multi-district litigation (MDL), is to promote efficiency, avoid inconsistent and confusing rulings, and encourage global settlement of cases involving similar issues. Consolidation of these lawsuits doesn't prevent future lawsuits from being filed.
Uber released the first-ever safety report for a rideshare company, disclosing that nearly 6,000 people reported being sexually assaulted during Uber rides in 2017 and 2018.
In September 2019, a woman filed a lawsuit against Lyft under more than ten legal theories— including common carrier negligence, vicarious liability, and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision—alleging that her Lyft driver kidnapped her at gunpoint, and sexually assaulted her.
The plaintiff says that in the summer of 2017, a Lyft driver sexually assaulted her. She makes several legal arguments, including general negligence, vicarious liability for sexual assault, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Two women (identified as "Jane Does") sued Uber in federal court in 2015, claiming Uber drivers sexually assaulted them. The first Jane Doe said that her driver tried to sexually assault her while he was driving and that after he stopped the vehicle, he continued the assault. The second Jane Doe said that her driver questioned her ability to pay for her ride and suggested she pay him with a sexual favor. He then drove her to a remote location, where he raped her. The cases settled in 2016, but the terms weren't released to the public. (Non-disclosure agreements are pretty common in personal injury cases.)
The rideshare legal landscape is constantly evolving. If you've been injured while getting a ride from an Uber or Lyft driver, get tips on finding the right lawyer for your rideshare passenger injury case. You can also fill out the form at the top or bottom of this page to connect with a lawyer for free.