In this, the first of a three-part series on the contents of the 2019 Uber Safety Report, we examine the horrifying number of sexual assaults that took place against Uber passengers and drivers last year.
Sexual Assaults Suffered by Uber Passengers and Drivers: What Are Your Legal Rights and Options?
Uber, Lyft and other rideshare programs have provided an alternative way for inexperienced, fatigued or intoxicated customers to make it home safely. Unfortunately, not all passengers arrived safely to their destinations. Massive reports of sexual assaults have been made against Uber drivers and passengers, and one person was even killed when she mistook a vehicle for her Uber ride. While Uber has released a safety report in the hopes of being more transparent to the public, the number of cases involving physical and sexual violence is alarming to many who regularly use the app.
While much focus regarding sexual assault is on the criminal justice system, sexual assault can result in many long-term, devastating consequences. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (“RAINN”), victims of rape and sexual assault may experience painful flashbacks, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious mental health conditions. These survivors are also more likely to suffer from self-harm, substance abuse, sleep disorders and eating disorders. Survivors may choose to pursue civil claims to seek compensation for their ongoing medical and mental health expenses, as well as other damages.
Sexual Assault Included in Uber ReportSexual Assault Excluded from Uber ReportDuring Uber tripDriver online with no trip requestsInvolves parties paired by the appIncident occurs more than 48 hours after a tripIncludes incidents occurring up to 48 hours after the trip
Sexual Assaults During Uber Transactions
While Uber’s US Safety Report uses statistics like “1 in 2,000,000 trips” involve “non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part” or “1 in 5,000,000 trips” involve “non-consensual sexual penetration,” the stark reality is that 3,045 sexual assaults were reported during Uber rides in the United States in 2018. Over the last two years, the company has received 5,981 allegations of sexual assaults that occurred during its rides. This high number of incidents has resulted in many survivors fighting to hold the company accountable for these preventable attacks.
In 2018, CNN found that 103 Uber drivers in the United States have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers from 2015-2018. At least 31 drivers were convicted of charges including rape, false imprisonment or forcible touching. Dozens of criminal and civil cases were also pending at the time of its investigation. For example, one victim filed a lawsuit in 2018 against Uber for $10 million, alleging that she was sexually assaulted by an Uber driver.
However, passengers are not the only victims of these heinous crimes. Uber’s data reveals that 42% of the people who have reported sexual assaults were drivers who were assaulted by passengers. Amid a scathing report that Uber prioritizes protecting itself from liability over passenger safety, assaulted passengers and drivers are actively looking for ways to recover compensation for the damages that they have suffered.
What You Must Prove in a Civil Sexual Assault Claim in California
Based in San Francisco, California, Uber is no stranger to lawsuits against it for the criminal acts of its drivers. In 2018, nine women filed a class action lawsuit against the company, stating that they were raped, assaulted, harassed or kidnapped by its drivers. In November 2019, a Connecticut woman sued the company after saying she was sexually assaulted by an Uber driver.
Under California law, for you to prove a sexual assault case in California, you must show the following:
- The defendant intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with a sexual body part
- The defendant caused the harmful or offensive contact to occur
- You did not consent to the touching
- You were harmed by the defendant’s conduct
As the plaintiff in the case, the sexual assault victim will bear the burden of proof. While the burden of proof in a criminal case is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” in a civil claim, it is “proof by the preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that things are more likely than not the way you say they are.
While establishing these legal elements can help a sexual assault victim hold the driver or passenger liable, more must be proven to make Uber or another ridesharing company responsible for the acts of its drivers. If the victim can show that Uber violated a duty of care in California and its negligence caused injury to another, liability may be imposed on the company. For example, the company may be held liable if it is found negligent in hiring, retaining or supervising drivers. To establish this, you must be able to show:
- The driver was unfit to safely drive passengers or posed a foreseeable threat of harm
- Uber knew or should have known about the danger
- The driver’s unfitness caused harm to the passenger
- Uber’s hiring decision was a substantial factor in the injuries being caused
Similarly, if an Uber driver is the one who is sexually assaulted, the company may be held liable if it was aware of the potential danger of sexual assault and failed to take reasonable steps to protect drivers.
Damages Available in Civil Sexual Assault Claims in California
In California, if you are able to establish a claim for civil sexual assault, you may be able to recover compensation for the damages you suffered, including:
- Medical expenses
- Psychological counseling
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress or trauma
You may also be able to pursue punitive damages, which are damages intended to punish the defendant for especially egregious conduct.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer in California for Help with Your Civil Sexual Assault Claim
If you are considering a civil sexual assault claim in California, it is important that you have a strong legal advocate on your side. Confronting a conglomerate like Uber is no easy task, and you will need the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer in California. We will investigate your claim and the driver’s background to determine if you may have a claim for negligent hiring or supervision. If you have a viable claim, we can explain all legal options for recovery and how we can help. Contact us to discuss your claim during a free consultation.