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Adult Victims of Sexual Assault

Uber & Lyft Sexual Assault

By May 31, 2018August 5th, 2018No Comments

Rumors and horror stories of sexual assault by Uber drivers have made their way into urban legend. Sadly, those rumors are based in startling facts. A CNN investigation found at least 103 Uber drivers accused of sexual assault. While statistics for Lyft are harder to find, there is no reason why they would be different. The environment for both companies is the same. Both are often used by intoxicated people who are doing the right thing by choosing not to drive under the influence. Unfortunately, intoxicated riders then become easy prey for drivers who perpetrate sexual assault on their riders.


Within last month, both Uber and Lyft have made public announcements that they are no longer requiring forced arbitration for sexual assault claims. Arbitration is often used by large companies to prevent injured victims from pursuing a lawsuit. Arbitration in this context has several negative consequences. First, arbitrators rarely provide victims with reasonable compensation. They are paid by the company and they know which side of the bread their butter is on. Second, arbitration is private. Because arbitration is private, this means that other people cannot find out the results of the arbitration. In other words, arbitration provides for secret settlements for sexual assault perpetrators.


For Uber and Lyft, and other companies that use forced arbitration, secret settlements protect a company‘s reputation rather than protect the victims. Before Uber and Lyft get too much credit though, it should be noted that this move away from forced arbitration only applies to sexual assault victims. Anyone else is still stuck with secret proceedings rather than the civil legal system. Additionally, both companies have maintained their ban on class actions.


Class actions are a useful tool for victims because, by banding together, they can send a louder message. It is often much more economically feasible to pursue smaller claims when they can be bundled together with other claims by other people. But neither Uber nor Lyft have lifted the ban on class actions.


These restrictions are non-negotiable if you want to use Uber or Lyft. When you download their app, you agreed to their terms (whether you read that small print or not).


Secret settlements are a horrible detriment to stopping sexual abuse and assault. Recognition of this problem probably started when the Boston Globe exposed child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Before that expose, there had been a number of settlements of child sex abuse claims but no one knew much about them because they contained confidentiality provisions. Much of the sexual harassment news we are seeing now reflects behavior that has been going on for a long time but was covered up with the use of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements. Because the full extent of the perpetrators’ abusive conduct is covered up, the perpetrator is left free to abuse again.


These secret settlements and the harm they cause are starting to come to light. One California politician is starting to push for a ban on such agreements in that state. Without much fanfare, this year’s US tax code changes eliminated tax benefits for secret settlements in sexual-harassment cases. It’s not quite clear which types of cases this provision will affect. And there is some debate about how the change will be applied. But it is clear that Congress intended to discourage secret settlements.


Now that forced arbitration is no longer a barrier to suing Uber and Lyft for sexual assaults happening by their drivers, victims are able to come forth and tell their stories and have their day in Court.


Understanding your legal rights in the civil justice system is important. If you want to learn more, contact Koller Trial Law.