Can You Sue Uber or Lyft for Sexual Assault?

Using a rideshare vehicle should not put you at risk of sexual assault. Unfortunately, rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft are not very discerning in their employment practices. For example, both companies only conduct background checks on their drivers for the prior seven years, and neither interviews their drivers in person before hiring them.

If a ridesharing company was negligent in hiring (or failing to fire) a dangerous driver and this contributed to a sexual assault, you could hold the company liable. Otherwise, you may have to bring a lawsuit against the perpetrator. Find out who you could hold legally responsible for Uber or Lyft sexual assault depending on your case by reading on or speaking with a Los Angeles sexual abuse lawyer.

Rideshare Companies Are Not Vicariously Liable for Their Drivers

Many personal injury cases involve the legal theory of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability stems from the Latin phrase, “respondeat superior,” which means “let the master speak.” This legal doctrine states that certain parties will absorb legal responsibility for the actions of their servants, employees or constituents. This doctrine is most often applied in cases involving negligent employees and minors.

Under this rule, employers are vicariously liable for their on-duty employees and parents are vicariously liable for children under the age of 18. Uber and Lyft are exceptions to the vicarious liability law, however. Both of these rideshare companies typically escape liability for the actions of their drivers by classifying them as independent contractors instead of employees. An independent contractor means a rideshare driver is technically his or her own boss.

Since the driver is not an employee of Uber/Lyft, he or she will be independently responsible for sexual assault. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to sue Uber or Lyft for sexual assault. Sexual assault involving other transportation services, on the other hand – such as taxis or buses – will generally allow you to hold the employer vicariously liable for the actions of its hired drivers.

Who Is Liable?

According to a safety report from Uber, the company received almost 6,000 sexual assault claims between 2017 and 2018. These claims included allegations of kissing, sexual touching, kidnapping and rape by Uber drivers. Although this is a relatively low number compared to Uber’s recorded 3.1 million rides in this time, it still reveals serious safety problems.

For the most part, the individual Uber or Lyft driver – not the rideshare company – will be liable for committing sexual assault against a rideshare passenger. The driver has a legal obligation to keep passengers reasonably safe. Knowingly committing a sexual offense against a rideshare passenger is not only a crime in California but also a civil tort that can make the driver liable for the victim’s damages.

You may be able to hold your assailant directly liable for his or her actions after rideshare sexual assault in California. A sexual assault attorney can help you hold an Uber or Lyft driver civilly liable. Your lawyer can fight for compensation for your medical bills, therapies, medications, lost wages, legal fees and other expenses related to the sexual assault from the attacker. An attorney can file this claim on your behalf either during or after a criminal case against the same defendant for committing a sex crime in California.

When Can You Sue Uber or Lyft?

There are circumstances when you can hold a ridesharing company legally responsible for driver sexual assault. Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies have a legal obligation to implement safety practices when it comes to recruiting, training and retaining qualified drivers. If Uber or Lyft failed to meet its legal requirements during the hiring process and a sexual assault occurs as a result, the ridesharing company may be liable for related damages.

If you wish to file a claim for compensation after an Uber or Lyft sexual assault, consult with an attorney in California. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence and build a claim to damages against the correct party or parties. Then, your lawyer can navigate the legal process for you in pursuit of maximum financial compensation while you focus on healing. Learn more during a free consultation at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi today.