A couple of decades ago, most people might never have gotten in a vehicle with a random stranger they summoned off the internet. Now countless people do it every day without batting an eye. With rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft, it’s become standard practice. Thankfully, most riders are safe in these vehicles. Their rideshare driver gets them where they need to go without incident—in or out of the vehicle.

However, there have been some rideshare passengers that weren’t so lucky. They found out too late that their driver was untrustworthy. Uber itself admits to nearly 4,000 reported incidents of sexual assault involving Uber drivers over two recent years. In one year, Lyft said it received over 1,800 reports of sexual misconduct and violence involving its drivers. As sexual assault is notoriously underreported, many more Uber/Lyft sexual assault incidents have likely occurred.

Far too many Uber and Lyft passengers have suffered assault, battery, or even sexual assault from their drivers. Not only do these riders have a right to seek criminal charges against their rideshare driver, but they can also pursue a civil case against the driver and their rideshare company partner (Uber, Lyft, etc.).

While it can be traumatic to address what happened to you, never wait to consult with a compassionate rideshare injury lawyer about your legal rights and options. 

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What Is Assault and Battery?

Assault and battery are criminal offenses that result in different charges and penalties. Even though they are sometimes confused with one another, most state statutes on assault and battery have specific language differentiating them from one another. The primary difference is if physical contact occurred between the involved parties.

For example, assault and battery charges in Florida are either:

  • Simple assault
  • Battery and aggravated assault and battery

In Florida, assault is “an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in another person that such violence is imminent.”

Assault is considered a threat but doesn’t include physical contact or bodily harm. 

Under the law, battery is when a person “actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.”

Battery charges against another person include physical contact or bodily harm.

Aggravated assault is “an assault: (a) with a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or (b) with an intent to commit a felony.”

“Aggravated” means must include at least one of the above parameters. A deadly weapon does not necessarily refer to knives or guns; it can also include other items such as stones, bricks, and broken glass.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is any form of sexual contact made against another person without their consent. In Florida, it falls under sexual battery. The law defines sexual battery as any oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by or in union with another organ or another object without the victim’s consent. Sexual offenses are serious crimes that attract heavy penalties.

The crimes may include:

  • Unwanted sexual touch or fondling
  • Rape
  • Attempted rape
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts on the offender’s body
  • Any sexual act in which there is force, violence, or use of duress or deception upon the victim
  • Any sexual act perpetrated when the victim is unable to give consent (including if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Sexual intimidation, which includes but is not limited to threatening, expressly or impliedly, to commit a sexual act upon another person without their consent
  • Acts of indecent exposure

Criminal Charges

Although it can take a lot of courage, reporting an assault to the authorities is one of the best ways to exercise your legal rights as a victim. The sooner you report the incident, the better. Evidence is better when authorities collect it shortly after the crime, and there is a greater chance they can locate the assailant immediately. Your police report and evidence will allow law enforcement and the district attorney to pursue criminal charges against the person who harmed you.

Suppose they receive a conviction or even seek a plea deal.

In that case, they can face:

  • Imprisonment or jail time
  • Steep fines
  • Mandatory community service
  • Mandatory restitution payments
  • Loss of freedoms such as the right to vote or own/possess a firearm
  • Mandatory sex offender registration
  • Probation
  • Mandatory classes

While a criminal case can obtain justice for you, it doesn’t make you whole again. It won’t fix or compensate for your physical or emotional pain, expenses, or losses. Victim’s services can offer some help, but you still have an additional option for compensation. 

Civil Claims

In addition to criminal reports and charges, you have the right to hire assault lawyers to pursue a civil claim on your behalf. The purpose of a civil claim is to obtain compensation for your pain and suffering and expenses related to the assault. You can file a civil claim no matter if the offender is or isn’t facing criminal charges or is or isn’t found guilty. The results of criminal and civil cases don’t dictate what goes on with the other type of case.

Civil and criminal cases accomplish separate goals and are quite different from each other. They both rely on evidence and involve lawyers.

However, civil claims:

  • Require less proof—a preponderance of the evidence as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Can obtain monetary compensation for the victim’s damages instead of jail time or other penalties for the assailant
  • Are focused on what the victim needs, as opposed to punishing the criminal
  • Don’t rely on criminal statutes to prove if the at-fault party’s behavior was wrong
  • Often settle out of court
  • Can have different outcomes than criminal cases
  • Are pursued by the victim and their assault attorneys as opposed to law enforcement, the prosecutor, and the state

Assault victims and their families must understand that they have a right to pursue both criminal and civil claims. Furthermore, they should remember that even if one case isn’t successful, the other might be, mainly because the burden of proof is lower for civil cases.

Liability in Assault Cases

When most people think of an assault or another crime, they think of the person who committed the crime as the single liable party. While they are correct in some cases, they aren’t in all of them.

Sometimes, additional parties can be civilly liable for the damages the victim incurs. They may not have as much responsibility for the incident as the assault, but they do have some. If this applies to your case, your assault lawyers can name them as defendants in your civil claim. If your case is successful, they may be held accountable for paying a portion of your damages.

In the case of an assault committed by an Uber or Lyft driver, it’s possible that a third party can be liable. Suppose Uber or Lyft failed to complete due diligence when hiring a driver and failed to see they had a criminal history of assault, or maybe they ignored warning signs that other passengers had passed on to them. In these cases, an assault attorney can pursue compensation for your damages in civil court from the rideshare company as well as the driver. 

Can You Hold Rideshare Companies Liable for Assaults by Their Drivers?

Employers typically can be held liable for sexual assaults if committed by an employee in the course and scope of their job duties. However, holding rideshare companies liable for assaults committed by their drivers is often much more difficult because they try to classify their drivers as independent contractors, which might absolve them of employer liability.

Even still, in some situations, it might be possible to hold rideshare companies liable for assaults committed by their drivers on the grounds that the company negligently allowed the individual on the platform or kept them on the platform.

Several years ago, Uber instituted a “continuous” background check on its drivers, and Lyft followed suit. As such, you can hold Uber or Lyft liable for not conducting a reasonable background check on a prospective driver when accepting them to the platform.

Rideshare companies might also be liable for the following:

  • Failing to conduct regular background checks that might find new criminal offenses a driver committed after already being on the platform.
  • Not satisfactorily investigating or not responding appropriately to complaints of unwanted sexual behavior or other improper driver behavior.

Available Civil Damages for Assault

If you suffered physical or sexual assault by a rideshare driver, you might be entitled to several damages under the law.

Compensatory damages reimburse the victims of assault for wrongs done to them by the assailant.

Civil courts consider compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Treatments costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of household services
  • The severity of any injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Other factors

Additionally, in some jurisdictions, the judge or jury can award punitive damages. Punitive damages aim to financially punish the offender for wrongs they committed against the victim, in addition to compensatory damages they already owe. Punitive damages can only be awarded by fact finders (judge or jury) at their discretion, based on the facts of the case.

You must speak with an experienced rideshare assault attorney about pursuing a civil claim for assault and/or battery and the types of damages that may be available to you.

How Can a Rideshare Assault Attorney Help?

If you suffered harm from an Uber or Lyft driver, you deserve to have experienced legal representation. You need a lawyer who will stand up to the rideshare companies and demand compensation and justice for your physical and emotional injuries after being victimized by their driver.

When you turn to a rideshare assault attorney, they will promptly fight for your rights by:

  • Investigating your assault to obtain and preserve critical evidence supporting your case, including photographic/video evidence, eyewitness testimony, cell phone data, and law enforcement reports.
  • Assessing your legal options for holding the rideshare company responsible for an assault committed by one of its drivers.
  • Calculating the losses that you have suffered due to the assault, including both your financial costs and emotional and mental harm.
  • Filing demands for compensation on your behalf in pursuit of a fair and full settlement.
  • If necessary, take your case to court and trial to demand accountability and justice from the Uber/Lyft driver and the rideshare company for their negligence which led to your damages.

How Long Do You Have to File a Claim for an Uber/Lyft Sexual Assault?

If you suffered injuries due to a physical or sexual assault in an Uber or Lyft, the statute of limitations gives you only four years to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries. Note that the statute of limitation will vary depending on which state law applies to your assault claim.

If you wait until the statute of limitations expires on your claim to file suit, you risk losing your opportunity to obtain financial recovery and justice. A court will likely end up dismissing the matter as untimely. Therefore, you should always seek out the services of an experienced rideshare assault attorney as soon as possible to ensure you file your case on time so you can maximize your compensation.

Contact a Seasoned Rideshare Assault Attorney Today

Statute of limitations wrongful death in Florida Lawyer
Rideshare Assault Lawyer, Steven A. Bagen

If you put your trust in a rideshare service and driver only to suffer preventable harm, seek the services of an experienced rideshare assault attorney. You might receive compensation for your damages due to the physical and emotional injuries you endured. Still, you must act within the statute of limitations to pursue your financial recovery. Contact an attorney today to learn more.