While car accidents involving ride-sharing companies have been a huge problem in Philadelphia, there is another, perhaps even more disturbing, issue with ride-sharing in the city: the appalling number of accusations of assault, including sexual assault, that are being levied against ride-sharing drivers. To make matters worse, ride-sharing companies have responded by taking steps meant to insulate themselves from liability, rather than to better protect passengers from the conduct of ride-sharing drivers.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian in Philadelphia represent those who have been assaulted by ride-sharing drivers in the city of Philadelphia and in the surrounding areas. With their legal representation, victims can fight for the compensation they are entitled to receive.
The Extent of Ride-Sharing's Problem With Assault
The true number of assaults, especially sexual assaults, that are related to traveling with ride-sharing companies will likely never be known. These incidents are infamously underreported, even as steps are being made to help victims share their stories.
So when a 2018 report by CNN found that over a hundred Uber drivers had been credibly accused of sexual assault in the last four years, everyone knew that it was just the tip of the iceberg. After all, these were only the Uber drivers who had been arrested, actively investigated, or named in civil lawsuits for their sexual assault. Thousands more were bound to be flying under the radar with victims who had decided it best to not come forward with their experiences.
Most of these victims had gone through a similar experience. They were women who hailed a ride-sharing vehicle through their smartphone, often after a night out with friends. Many had been drinking and were now using Uber or Lyft as a way to get home safely – as the ride-sharing companies have urged people to do in their marketing schemes. Inebriated, these passengers then fell prey to ride-sharing drivers who decided to make use of their position of power over them and sexually assault them in their vehicles. Some of the drivers even brought the victims home or to their apartments and assaulted them there.
In a shocking number of cases, the ride-sharing driver that picked up the victim had a disturbingly long criminal history of sexual offenses that should have disqualified them from ever driving a ride-sharing vehicle. In others, the drivers had a clean criminal history but made repeated use of their position of power over their inebriated passengers once they had gotten a driving position with a ride-sharing company. In one case, an Uber driver was discharged, only to start up with a competing ride-sharing company, Lyft, where he continued to assault people who got in his vehicle.
When Enforcing Background Checks Cuts Against Profit
Ride-sharing companies claim to run background checks on all of their drivers, often using a third-party to do so. However, ride-sharing companies also rely on a business model that wants to maximize the number of drivers that are on the roads at every given moment – ride-sharing companies want to keep wait times for potential passengers as low as possible to keep them satisfied. When this business model is thwarted by a potential driver's criminal background or other red flags during the application process, ride-sharing companies have shown a disturbing tendency to put them on the road anyway.
Then, to make matters even worse, ride-sharing companies put the responsibility on the driver to notify the ride-sharing company of any changes to a driver's eligibility to remain on the ride-hailing program. Of course, drivers understand that reporting changes like a major traffic violation or a criminal conviction would imperil their ability to drive a ride-sharing vehicle and make money. So they rarely, if ever, report developments that would make them ineligible to drive.
In both cases, the loser is the passenger, who has no way to know that the driver of the vehicle they just hailed is dangerous.
Ride-Sharing Companies Only Scrapped Arbitration Provision Under Pressure
An example of how ride-sharing companies were far more interested in insulating themselves from liability than protecting their passengers was how they included an important arbitration agreement in the terms and conditions that passengers had to agree to in order to hail a ride on the smartphone app. The agreement forced victims of sexual assault by ride-sharing drivers into arbitration, and it even gagged victims who came away from arbitration with an award.
Uber and Lyft only changed this policy in May 2018 in the aftermath of CNN's report on ride-sharing drivers abusing their power over passengers and committing sexual assaults.
Filing a Lawsuit After an Assault in a Ride-Sharing Vehicle
While the driver of a ride-sharing vehicle can be brought to justice with a criminal conviction, that does not help the victim recover from their ordeal. They deserve compensation for what they have been put through.
While a personal injury lawsuit against the driver is likely to get nowhere – the driver will likely be judgment proof and unable to cover the costs of a verdict – ride-sharing companies can be implicated in a claim for assault and battery if they ignored signs that the driver was a danger. By showing that the ride-sharing company negligently hired someone that should not have ever been put behind the wheel or in a position of power over others, liability for the injuries that you sustained in the incident can stretch through the driver and to the deep pockets of the company that created this terrible situation.
Additionally, filing such a personal injury lawsuit goes beyond just recovering the compensation that you need and deserve: it also holds the ride-sharing company accountable for the business model that put you in danger and continues to put others in danger.
Gilman & Bedigian: Personal Injury Lawyers in Philadelphia
If you have been assaulted by a ride-sharing driver in Philadelphia, reach out to the personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian. With their help, you can invoke your rights, recover the compensation you need, and hold a powerful company accountable for its actions. Contact us online.