Ride Sharing and Your Security
When you call an Uber or Lyft driver, you really don't know who is going to show up. We all assume that Uber, even though their drivers are considered independent contractors and not employees, has done a proper and thorough background check on their drivers, and that you'll be safe while you're in their vehicle.
Yet that is proving to be far from true.
A recent investigation conducted by CNN uncovered 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse over the past 4 years. The investigation used an in-depth review of police records, county court databases and federal court records in 20 major cities. The resulting report shows that at least 103 drivers have been arrested, are wanted by police or have been named in civil suits related to alleged sexual assault incidents. 31 of those drivers have been convicted of crimes including false imprisonment, forcible touching and rape, and dozens of those cases are still pending in either criminal or civil court.
Hailing an Uber ride is no different than going to a mall, sporting event or concert – you should expect to feel safe, and not to be concerned about your physical safety. Well, that is, unless you take Uber's perspective. The ride share giant has an army of lawyers who work tirelessly to point out that their drivers are NOT employees, they drive their own vehicles and the company does everything in their power to make sure their drivers are adequately screened. Clearly, they do this to distance themselves from any liability or legal repercussions when things go wrong.
Negligent Security: What Should You Expect?
If you're victimized by an Uber driver, there are certain aspects of the law that come into play. As attorneys who work with victims of negligent security, Goldberg Noone Abraham lawyers are thoroughly familiar with Florida law and how it relates to protecting the rights and civil liberties of victims. A person should have the right to expect reasonable safety precautions and standards are in place – but in the case of an Uber driver, you never really know what you're going to get.
Lawsuits are not new to Uber's legal department. There have been several class-action suits filed, along with numerous individuals who have filed a legal claim for allegations of sexual misconduct by an Uber driver. There are also more pending class action suits, one of which involves 2 women who are asking a court to order an injunction against Uber to make changes to their driver screening and other background verification procedures, in addition to paying financial compensation to the victims.
We've written before about Uber drivers and getting involved in a serious crash, and what the legal ramifications are regarding the company's liability and legal exposure. It should come as no surprise that Uber's position is very much the same as how they approach alleged sexual assault by any of their drivers – as they are classified as ‘independent contractors', the company goes to great lengths to distance themselves from any legal responsibility should one of their drivers happen to cause a serious motor vehicle accident.
Uber is no stranger to lawsuits, which have been filed against the company for a variety of legal reasons. In April of this year, a judge in Philadelphia ruled that Uber drivers were not ‘employees', and therefore not entitled to structured benefits like overtime pay, minimum wage pay and other protections that are not available to independent contractors. In many cases of lawsuits being brought against Uber by their drivers, the drivers had signed an arbitration agreement, preventing them from being allowed to sue the company. Some drivers, as in the Philadelphia case, have refused to sign the agreement, and their cases were allowed to go before a judge.
Classifying their drivers as independent contractors is much easier to understand when you consider some of the other legal tactics used by Uber in structuring their company. For example, they consider themselves not to be a transportation company, but a tech company.
“By Uber claiming they're drivers are not employees, they've succeeded, at least in some U.S. jurisdictions, in keeping any legal actions against their drivers at arm's length,” notes Fort Myers personal injury and negligent security attorney Sheba Abraham, of Goldberg Noone Abraham. “The structure of their company and how they hire their drivers, means a victim of a physical attack cannot sue the company along with the driver”.
There are people who say that since the majority of female sexual assault victims allegedly attacked by an Uber driver were inebriated or passed out drunk, they have less legal recourse than that of someone who was not under the influence. “Passing out from drinking too much alcohol is not a free pass for rapists or sexual offenders”, says Abraham. “You still have legal rights, and should have a reasonable expectation of being safe when you hail an Uber ride”.
One of the victims of an alleged sexual attack is a Miami woman who decided to call an Uber after a night of drinking with friends. (The company has long promoted their service with the tagline, ‘a safe ride home'). Passed out by the time they got to her home, the woman was carried up to her bed and sexually assaulted. The driver acknowledged that he knew the woman was drunk, and that ‘he was wrong for what he did'. Yet, he pleaded not guilty, and is awaiting trial. The victim is quoted as saying, “you're pretty much hitchhiking with strangers”.
People who have been victimized by a sexual attack need an aggressive, experienced attorney to protect their legal rights, and to ensure they are adequately compensated for having been subject to a traumatic experience, and any injuries they may have sustained. Even if you were inebriated, you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed – holding an alleged attacker accountable for their actions is called justice, and we'll be at your side every step of the way.
It never costs a thing to speak to one of our negligent security lawyers to get the answers you need, no matter what your legal situation. Call our office in Downtown Fort Myers at 239-461-5508, or just complete this easy form and we'll contact you immediately.
Goldberg Noone Abraham, has been representing Southwest Florida victims of motor vehicle crashes, slip and fall injuries and negligent security attacks since 2000.