Trigger Warning: If you’ve been sexually assaulted, this blog post may contain information that is difficult or painful to read. If any of the information presented in this article causes you distress, support is available. Call (800) 656-4673 to reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Millions of individuals in the United States are registered users of the two most popular rideshare companies in the country: Uber and Lyft.
With the increased popularity of these services, however, has also come greater scrutiny—specifically, into the potential dangers of being a passenger of a rideshare car and the risks posed to Lyft and Uber drivers.
During the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) 2017 investigation, the agency found that the ride-hailing company Uber reportedly “permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment, in violation [of] Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Last year in 2019, several reports out of Uber and Lyft shared alarming information about the prevalence of sexual misconduct occurring among both passengers and drivers of their respective rideshare services.
In December of 2019, Uber released a lengthy U.S. Safety Report, which included a startling admission of 6,000 reports of sexual assault in 2017 and 2018 by Uber passengers and drivers. Lyft, too, has faced multiple lawsuits from individuals alleging sexual assault and rape by the company’s rideshare drivers.
Learning the prevalence of these incidents can be upsetting. If you’ve been sexually assaulted during an Uber or Lyft ride—as a passenger or driver—you are not alone and you may be able to pursue legal action.
Below is a step-by-step guide on what to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted on a rideshare ride, as well as an explanation of rideshare sexual assault laws and helpful legal definitions.
Step-By-Step Guide: What To Do If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted On A Rideshare (Uber/Lyft) Ride
Sexual assault does not always look the same or occur in the same way. This is true for assaults that occur in any setting, including rideshare rides.
Incidents of sexual assault involving Uber or Lyft services may occur as:
- a driver assaulting a passenger
- a passenger assaulting a driver
- a passenger assaulting another passenger
- another party assaulting a rideshare driver
Regardless of which role you identify with in these scenarios — as a driver or passenger — any experience of sexual assault can be disorienting and traumatic.
Having a guide for steps to take following an experience of sexual assault may help to ground you in the present moment and provide you with resources for seeking support.
What to do when you’ve been sexually assaulted during an Uber or Lyft ride:
1. Seek Help
If you are able, try to reach a safe location away from further threat of harm. Then, seek medical help immediately. The number one priority following an incident of assault is your safety. If you have been injured, medical attention may be necessary to properly attend to your wounds and prevent worsened injury.
You may seek medical attention by calling 9-1-1 or by calling the police, who can request emergency transportation to transport you to the nearest hospital.
Before or after seeking medical attention, contacting law enforcement will be an important step for the purpose of documenting the incident. The police can file an official report of the assault, which may be used as evidence should you decide to file a sexual assault claim or lawsuit.
2. Take Note Of Everything You Can Remember
It’s common and natural for people who have experienced sexual assault to have trouble remembering details of their assault.
First, it can be difficult for individuals to recall the details, but it can also be distressing for individuals to revisit the thoughts, feelings, and actions both leading up to and during the assault.
As soon as you are able, take notes on what you can remember:
- the time, date, and location of the assault
- personal information about the individual who assaulted you, such as their name (if you know)
- any other details regarding the nature of the assault
This information can be useful in the process of filing a sexual assault claim or lawsuit.
3. Contact An Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney
Once you have contacted the proper authorities and sought medical attention, consult with an experienced sexual assault attorney as soon as possible.
Most states have in place what is called a statute of limitations, which serves as a deadline for how long a person has to file a claim or lawsuit after experiencing personal injury—including injuries sustained from sexual assault.
Reaching out to an attorney with experience in sexual assault claims may be helpful in several ways. First, they can provide you with useful legal guidance based on the details of your case and help you gather evidence to support your claim.
An attorney can also help you report the incident to the relevant rideshare company (Uber or Lyft). This is something that many people can find intimidating to do on their own.
While it can be enormously beneficial to have therapeutic support and social support through friends, family, and other loved ones at this time, an attorney can also serve as a useful ally—in helping you find necessary care, continued treatment, and particularly if you wish to pursue legal action against the rideshare company or individual at fault.
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What Is Considered Sexual Assault?
Uber and Lyft have been put to task for numerous allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, kidnapping, and assault occurring through their rideshare services, harming both passengers and their drivers.
When it comes to naming the type of violence you have experienced, it may be helpful to understand the differences between what constitutes sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a broad term that can apply to a variety of circumstances and situations. However, the primary characteristic that applies to all situations of sexual assault is a lack of consent.
Different types of sexual assault include:
- unconsented sexual contact
- unconsented sexual intercourse (rape)
- includes unconsented anal and oral sex, and can be perpetrated by anyone, including a romantic partner or spouse
- sexual harassment
- e.g. unwanted touching, pressure to engage in sexual acts, verbal harassment or inappropriate jokes of a sexual nature, unwanted sexually explicit photos or messages
- sexual contact with minors
- sexual molestation
- possession of child pornography
- forcibly penetrating an individual using foreign objects
Defining sexual assault can be useful for understanding the type of sexual violence that has occurred and in order to identify options for legal recourse.
Providing a definition is not meant to make individuals second-guess their experiences, or to make them feel as though their experiences of sexual violence are being invalidated.
Rideshare (Uber/Left) Sexual Assault Laws In The U.S.
In The United States, rideshare sexual assault cases are categorized as an area of personal injury law.
If you’ve suffered physical injury or emotional distress following an Uber- or Lyft-related sexual assault, you are entitled to file a sexual assault claim to seek compensation from the rideshare company and the driver responsible, if applicable.
All forms of sexual assault are judged as crimes across the U.S., although the degree of punishment for sexual assault cases, and certain definitions involved in these cases, can vary by state.
Victims of sexual assault may also file a civil lawsuit against the rideshare company on account of negligence if the assaulter was a rideshare driver. Negligence in these cases typically refers to negligent hiring, screening practices, or negligent retention.
Both Uber and Lyft have faced significant backlash concerning poor screening, insufficient background checks, hiring, and training processes—and have funds set aside to compensate for their share of liability in events ranging from rideshare vehicle accidents to harassment and sexual assault.
Therefore, both the perpetrator of the assault and the rideshare company itself may be held liable for the incident and damages awarded to the victim.
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Statute Of Limitations For Rideshare Sexual Assault Claims
The statute of limitations is a legal term that refers to the amount of time a person has to begin legal action against a defendant following an incident of personal injury, property damage, or damage to one’s reputation.
Recovering from an experience of sexual assault is not a short or easy process, and many people may not wish to revisit their assault for some time. Unfortunately, when it comes to available legal options, time is of the essence if you wish to pursue legal action for your assault now or in the future.
The statute of limitations for sexual assault claims varies from state to state. The best way to learn more about your state’s sexual assault laws—including the statute of limitations for sexual assault claims—is to contact an experienced sexual assault attorney who can inform you of your rights and legal options.
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Find A Rideshare Sexual Assault Attorney
Uber and Lyft have faced thousands of harassment complaints and allegations of sexual assault related to their rideshare services in recent years, but it’s reasonable to believe that many more still go unreported.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted in an Uber- or Lyft-related incident, you have the right to pursue legal action. The attorneys of Florin|Roebig can help.
With decades of experience fighting to hold abusers accountable, our team of sexual assault attorneys have the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to effectively represent clients who have been sexually assaulted by an Uber/Lyft driver or passenger. Our attorneys are capable of representing clients out of our offices in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado.
You’re not alone. Call (800) 226-6581 to schedule a free consultation with one of our seasoned sexual assault attorneys who can guide you on your legal options.