Ride-sharing companies in Baltimore like Uber and Lyft are not just the source of a huge number of negligent accidents like car crashes; they are also the source of a shockingly large number of assaults. Ride-sharing drivers in Baltimore and elsewhere have been known to use their position of power over their passengers to commit sexual harassment, assault, and even rape. Given the fact that ride-sharing companies market themselves as a safe alternative to driving after a night of drinking – actively attracting passengers who are under the influence and less able to protect themselves from a sexual assault – their lack of oversight over their drivers is truly disturbing.
The personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law offices of Gilman & Bedigian strive to represent those who have been victimized by ride-sharing drivers in the region.
Ride-Sharing Drivers Frequently Accused of Assault
The problem of ride-sharing drivers being accused of assault and rape is not a small one. A 2018 report by CNN found that there were more than a hundred drivers for Uber, alone, that had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years. However, these were just the Uber drivers who had been arrested, were being sought after by police, or were named in civil lawsuits for sexual assault – likely only a tiny fraction of the total number of ride-sharing drivers who had actually assaulted their passengers.
The stories from the report are disturbing, but largely the same. A woman did the right thing and hailed an Uber after a night of drinking, only to get assaulted by her Uber driver. In some cases, the Uber driver escorted the victim into their room, apartment, or home, and assaulted or raped her there.
Ride-Sharing Drivers Found With Sexual Crimes in Their Background
In many cases, the ride-sharing driver accused of sexual assault or rape had a long rap sheet of past sexual crimes, including assault and rape, that should have disqualified them from driving a ride-sharing vehicle.
In one of the cases mentioned in the CNN report, police searched the computer of the Uber driver who had been accused of sexual assault. The investigation found numerous videos of the driver raping and abusing women. The videos dated back at least five years. In another instance, a driver was working for Uber when he was discharged. He then started working for Lyft, where he ended up sexually assaulting a rider in his Lyft vehicle. A third instance involved an Uber driver in New Delhi, India, who raped one of his passengers in 2015. The driver had a criminal background that included rape and molestation but was still hired by Uber anyway.
Hiring and Background Check Policies Seem Ineffective
Ride-sharing companies have been forced to admit that the drivers hailed on their smartphone apps should be screened and vetted, and that ride-sharing companies are in the best position to do this. However, these companies also recognize that they want as many drivers on the road as possible to make sure potential passengers are not left waiting for too long before getting a lift. History has shown that ride-sharing companies have veered towards putting as many drivers on the road as possible, even if it means some of them have sketchy backgrounds.
Worse, ride-sharing policies often require drivers to self-report any changes to their driving or criminal records. Needless to say, most drivers understand that reporting a recent sexual assault to Uber or Lyft will lead to their dismissal so they stay silent. Ride-sharing companies refuse to do more, putting innocent passengers at risk of an assault.
Under Pressure, Ride-Sharing Companies Scrap Arbitration Provision for Assault Victims
In fact, ride-sharing companies used to take action to strip assault victims of their right to take their claims to court. In order to use the smartphone app to hail rides with the major ride-sharing companies, passengers had to agree to terms and conditions that required them to pursue allegations of sexual assault by ride-sharing drivers only in arbitration. These terms and conditions even forbid victims from speaking publicly about their experiences if they won a compensation award.
It was only in May 2018 that Uber and Lyft changed their policies – mere weeks after sexual assault allegations against their drivers began to attract media attention.
Personal Injury Claims Against Ride-Sharing Companies After a Sexual Assault
Much of the attention is paid to the perpetrator after a ride-sharing driver commits a sexual assault or a rape. Criminal charges are filed and a public trial begins that implicates the ride-sharing company in the scandal.
Less attention, however, is paid to the victim who has had their life turned upside down. Even if the driver is brought to justice in the criminal system, that does not mean that victims will be looked after or will receive the compensation they deserve.
That is where a personal injury lawsuit can make a huge difference. By filing a lawsuit against the driver who assaulted you – and implicating the ride-sharing company with evidence that indicates they should have known the driver was a risk to their passengers and should never have been hired – you can fight for the compensation that you deserve for what you have been put through. In cases like these, the claim against the driver would likely be for assault and battery – physical contact that was objectively offensive and that can lead to punitive damages because it was intentional. If there is evidence that the ride-sharing company knew of the driver's dangerous ways, the company can be implicated through a negligent hiring claim and brought to justice for their reckless conduct that put you in serious and very foreseeable danger.
Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian Can Help
Filing a personal injury lawsuit after being assaulted or raped by a ride-sharing driver is a difficult thing to do. Making your experiences public can be tough. But making sure that the driver and the ride-sharing company pay for their poor conduct is an important part of bringing them to justice. Call the personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian if you have been assaulted by a ride-sharing driver in Maryland, or contact them online.