Breaking Down an Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Apr 4, 2024 | Personal Injury, Rideshare Sexual Assault

Uber rides are convenient and, for most people, unsettling or dangerous. In a recent survey, over 70 percent said an Uber driver behaved questionably. Such behavior includes making inappropriate comments, leering looks, making lewd gestures, and attempting to touch the passenger. These are all forms of non-contact sexual assault. 

Additionally, thousands of women every year say their Uber drivers touched or kissed a sexual or nonsexual part of the body. Hundreds more women say a driver sexually penetrated them. These are forms of contact sexual assault.

When it comes to the thousands of sexual assaults that occur on Uber trips every year, drivers aren’t the only problem. Passengers were responsible for over 40 percent of these incidents, which could be a contact or non-contact assault.

Contact and non-contact sexual assaults both cause serious injuries which, in most cases, are permanent. Under the law, Uber is financially responsible for the economic and noneconomic losses that these assaults cause, whether the perpetrator was a driver or a passenger. A Houston personal injury lawyer can obtain additional punitive damages in these cases as well.

Building a Case

Ignoring a known risk is basically the foundation of a sexual assault, slip-and-fall, dog bite, or other premises liability claim. 

In December 2021, Uber paid $9 million to resolve sexual assault claims brought by the California Public Utility Commission. The settlement included a consent decree which ordered Uber to address specific physical and sexual violence in the ridesharing industry.

This settlement proves that Uber knew there was a problem and that Uber knew how to correct the problem. However, two years after Uber executives signed on the dotted line, very little has changed.

To build a successful case, a Houston personal injury lawyer must also prove that a specific incident caused the victim’s damages.

As for a specific incident, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) in civil court. So, the victim’s corroborated statement is usually enough. This corroboration usually includes a trip record which shows the victim was in the vehicle at a certain time. Additional corroborating evidence could include prior poor driver reviews or parallel proceedings against a passenger in a civil or criminal court.

Medical records prove clinical elements, such as diagnosis and treatment information. To solidify the connection between the incident and the damages, a Houson personal injury lawyer often partners with an independent medical professional who connects the dots for jurors. 

Additional evidence on this point often includes statements from family, co-workers, and friends. These individuals cannot testify about what happened, unless they were in the car. But they can testify about what the victim told them. They can also testify about changes in the victim’s behavior, such as aloofness and defensiveness, normally associated with sexual assault victims.

Getting in the Courthouse Door

The most well put-together case in legal history is useless unless a judge hears it. Legal issues, specifically regarding the statute of limitations, could keep the courthouse door closed.

Most states have a two-year statute of limitations in personal injury cases. So, the clock has expired if you were injured more than two years ago. The discovery rule is like a snooze bar on the SOL alarm clock.

According to this rule, which is valid in most states, the two-year countdown doesn’t begin until victims learn the full extent of their injuries and they connect those injuries to a person’s wrongful conduct.

The discovery rule is a major boon for sexual assault victims. Their brains block traumatic memories, such as sexual assault memories. Therefore, therapists must work with victims for many months, or even many years, before victims put enough of the pieces together to launch a legal case.

If you have symptoms like depression, extreme fear of commitment, problems maintaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction, a Houston personal injury lawyer can connect you with a professional who works with you to discover the root of your problem, which coil be an Uber sexual assault.

This pretrial process is a bit easier in some states. Due to the complex nature of these claims, several jurisdictions have modified or eliminated the SOL in sexual assault cases.

Resolving an Uber Sexual Assault Case

In late 2023, officials merged more than 10,000 Uber sexual assault claims into a single district court. Other victims may also file claims, if they meet the aforementioned standards. 

MDL (Multidistrict Litigation) settlements are much like class-action settlements. The court usually divides victims into class A, B, and C.

Class A victims came forward early in the process. Since they got the ball rolling and their lawyers did most of the heavy lifting, these victims usually get a larger share of the settlement funds. Usually, the court cuts off Class A when preliminary trials begin. Preliminary trials in the Uber sexual assault MDL are scheduled for late 2024.

Class B victims are bandwagon plaintiffs who jumped on board when a favorable settlement seemed imminent. Since they took less risk and their lawyers did less work, they receive less settlement money. Class C victims, who are eligible for relief but did nothing, receive whatever is left over.

Because it takes time to build a case, we cannot urge victims strongly enough to come forward now. 

Attorneys who diligently build cases usually obtain substantial compensation for victims. For a confidential consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Houston, contact Williams Hart Boundas Easterby LLP. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational purposes only. The provision of this material does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this newsletter are not a substitute for legal counsel. Do not take action in reliance on the contents of this material without seeking the advice of counsel.

The information contained in this blog may or may not reflect the most current legal developments. Accordingly, information in this blog is not promised or guaranteed to be correct or complete, and should not be relied upon as such. Readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.

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