Society has become increasingly dependent on rideshare companies for transportation services. When you need to get from Point A to Point B, it’s nice to know that you can request a ride with the mere click of a button. Some people even rely solely on ridesharing and forego owning a car. Sometimes a rideshare is the only option – the only way to get home at night, the only way to make it to a meeting on time. When you rely on a company with such regularity, you trust that the service provided will be safe. But, unfortunately, this has not proven to be the case for many rideshare users.
The reality is that the rate of sexual assault in rideshare situations is appallingly high. In the past two years, Uber received nearly 6,000 sexual assault claims. Police and court records from major cities across the United States show that approximately 103 Uber drivers have been arrested, are currently wanted for a criminal offense, or have been the defendant in a civil suit for sexually assaulting riders. Around 31 of these 103 drivers have thus far been convicted of various crimes, including rape.
In addition to criminal prosecutions, sexual assault survivors can bring their own claims against rideshare companies via civil lawsuits. For instance, in 2019 dozens of women joined together to sue Lyft for its failure to prevent and address sexual assault claims.
By taking legal action against rideshare companies, Dordulian Law Group is helping bring justice to sexual assault survivors, and prevent future assaults in the rideshare industry. If you are a survivor and would like to pursue justice via a civil lawsuit for financial damages, Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is here for you.
Under California Civil Code 1708.5, sexual battery (a subset of sexual assault that requires physical contact with the victim rather than just an imminent threat of contact) is grounds for legal action if the perpetrator:
In essence, sexual battery involves a form of unwanted physical contact.
California law defines sexual assault (which does not require physical contact) as the “unlawful intent by one person to inflict immediate injury on the person of another.” A civil lawsuit claiming sexual assault can be based on the notion that people have a right to live without the fear of personal harm.
In addition to taking legal action as a sexual assault survivor, it may be emotionally beneficial to seek professional support that addresses the trauma. That’s why DLG provides survivors with four-tiered representation featuring support from a team of sexual assault justice experts (SAJE).
Additionally, there are confidential sexual assault hotlines and crisis centers ready to help.
Survivors who have been sexually assaulted by a rideshare driver have the legal right to sue the company in multiple scenarios such as:
In a 2016 case, Doe v. Uber Technologies, the court specifically concluded that Uber was vicariously liable for its driver’s assault of a female passenger because the assault arose from the driver’s employment: that is, the driver was in the process of transporting the passenger plaintiff when the assault occurred.
These examples represent the most common types of legal complaints that have been filed since the onset of ridesharing. However, they do not represent an exhaustive list of the ways in which a rideshare company can be held liable for its drivers committing sexual assault. If you experienced a rideshare sexual assault and believe you may a civil claim, contact an experienced and dedicated attorney at DLG today to discuss your options for legal recourse.
Hundreds of survivors of sexual assault perpetrated by rideshare drivers have filed lawsuits against companies like Uber and Lyft.
Some examples of recent sexual assault civil suits against rideshare companies include:
There are multiple types of compensation available for survivors of sexual assault who choose to take legal action in civil court. California Civil Code Section 1708.5 states that damages include, but are not limited to, “general damages, special damages, and punitive damages.”
General damages are non-monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff. They are also called “non-pecuniary” damages, and they often cannot be assessed precisely. Rather, general damages are those that arose (or are likely to arise in the future) from harm suffered by the plaintiff. In sexual assault suits, these damages can include mental suffering and anguish, loss of companionship, physical pain and suffering, reduced capacity to earn a living due to lasting injuries, etc.
Special damages are damages for quantifiable monetary losses. In the sexual assault context, special damages include but are not limited to: past and future medical bills, as well as wages lost during the recovery period after the assault.
Additionally, a sexual assault survivor can seek punitive damages, which are damages on top of the general and special compensatory damages. Punitive damages serve the purpose of punishing the defendant for their actions and for causing unnecessary harm to the plaintiff.
In sexual assault cases, these types of damages can add up to hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars in financial compensation for survivors. For instance, DLG recently secured a multi-million dollar settlement against an undisclosed rideshare company for a young woman who was raped by her driver.
Although this issue is currently under review by the court system, California law currently states that Lyft and Uber must classify their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.
The “employee” versus “independent contractor” distinction is important because an employer can only be held liable for its employees’ perpetrations of sexual assault (not those committed by its independent contractors).
The classification of rideshare drivers as employees is due to a recent assembly bill that was passed by California legislators. Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) makes it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors as opposed to employees. Under the new California law, businesses must consider workers as employees unless they meet a three-part test. To exempt a worker from classification as an “employee,” a business must demonstrate that: 1) the hiree is free from the control and direction of the hiring business; 2) the hiree is performing work outside the normal course of the hiring business; and 3) the hiree customarily works independently in the same trade or occupation as the work they are doing for the hiring business.
Thus far, a majority of courts have found that Uber and Lyft drivers do not meet these three criteria, and should therefore be considered employees (despite Uber and Lyft’s opinion to the contrary). Evidence of this broadening definition of “employee” can be found in the multiple sexual assault lawsuits filed against Uber and Lyft in recent months. However, specifically in California, the issue is currently being debated in the courts, and the law could be amended at any time.
A person must file a civil lawsuit for a sexual assault offense before the statute of limitations “runs out.” A statute of limitations is a law that establishes the maximum time (usually in years) after an alleged offense that a party involved can bring a legal suit. The statute of limitations varies based on the type of offense (e.g. trespass, negligence, battery, sexual assault, etc.) and can differ from state-to-state.
In California, the statute of limitations for sex crimes is based on the age of the sexual assault survivor. For adults, the statute of limitations is 10 years after the last act or attempted act of sexual assault; or three years from the date the plaintiff discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) an injury that resulted from defendant’s act or attempted act of sexual assault (Assembly Bill No. 1619).
For survivors who were children (less than 18-years-old) at the time of the sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, the survivor has until age 40; or five years from the date of discovery of the abuse, to bring a civil lawsuit (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.1).
Once the statute of limitations runs out, no legal action can be taken. Therefore, survivors of sexual assault who wish to seek justice in civil court should bring their case sooner rather than later.
California Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) is a new law that provides a temporary three-year “lookback window” clause allowing any survivor of childhood sexual assault to file a civil lawsuit seeking financial damages. Regardless of how long ago the incident occurred, the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse crimes is currently removed (for a limited time) until the end of 2022. On January 1, 2023, the statute of limitations resumes.
For more information on AB 218, including the bill’s ‘treble damages’ clause where survivors of childhood sexual abuse may recover a triple financial award, please take a moment to review some of our previous blogs on the subject. To learn more about AB 218 you can also visit the DLG YouTube Channel, featuring commentary from multiple SAJE Team members.
DLG specializes in sexual assault cases, and has a history of successfully brining suits on behalf of sexual assault survivors. DLG was founded by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Samuel Dordulian. Dordulian was a sex crimes prosecutor for the district attorney’s office, and during his time there he successfully obtained life sentences against numerous sexual offenders.
As a prosecutor, Dordulian developed a passion for helping survivors of sexual assault secure the justice they deserve. That passion drove him to found DLG, where he implements a unique type of legal practice that puts the needs of sexual assault survivors first. DLG’s four-tiered representation approach includes our team of Sexual Abuse Justice Experts (SAJE).
DLG provides every survivor with the full support of our SAJE Team. This is precisely what makes DLG the most trusted, top-rated choice for sexual assault survivors in the Los Angeles-area and throughout California. With DLG’s SAJE Team, survivors are provided a special type of representation and support that cannot be found elsewhere in the legal community.
Our experience, dedication, and 99% success rate in sexual assault cases is what makes us the best choice for survivors wishing to pursue a civil lawsuit. We’ve successfully handled rideshare sexual assault cases in the past, securing multi-million dollar settlements for our clients, and we will do the same for you. Contact us today to begin your journey towards justice. Whatever your situation, we’re here for you, available 24/7 to offer free legal advice in a supportive and discreet environment.
“They were very professional and fought hard for me. Two seperate cases and two seperate wins. Would highly recommend Dordulian Law Group and would hire them again if needed in the future.”
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and workers compensation concerns.