Uber and Lyft: A Look at the Lawsuits Against the Rideshare Services

Nearly 40% of Americans have used a ridesharing service — and trends show that number will continue to grow.

The two ridesharing giants, Uber and Lyft, now make up 6% of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) across the United States, up from 1% in 2016. Uber boasts 96 million monthly active users and a 71% share of sales that in 2021 reached a total of $117 billion. Lyft comes in second with 18.6 million users and a 29% market share.

But amid the rising popularity of Uber and Lyft, the two companies have come under fire for everything from business practices to passenger safety. The arrival of ride-hailing is associated with an approximate 3% increase in motor vehicle fatalities and fatal accidents, according to a report from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. That represents approximately 987 lives lost each year.

Wrongful death case against Lyft brings $6 million in damages

In a recent case, which concluded in late 2021, the lawyers at Penney & Associates helped the parents of a wrongful death victim recover $6 million in damages against Lyft.

In December 2017, their son, Wyatt Zmrzel, 22, used his phone to schedule a Lyft ride from Sacramento to Loomis, Calif. for himself and a friend. The Lyft driver, who had only spent one day with the company when he picked up the pair, made several mistakes during the ride. After driving 20 miles off course, the driver, inexplicably, moved from the safety of the center median to begin a very slow acceleration into the southbound lanes of highway 99 where his vehicle was struck by another vehicle, traveling at freeway speed. Wyatt succumbed to his injuries one half hour later at the scene of the accident.

Advocacy groups have also brought attention to the risks that ridesharing drivers face; in April, Gig Workers Rising released a report that showed 50 drivers have been killed in violent incidents on the job over the past five years. That number excludes road fatalities.

Recent ridesharing lawsuits target wide range of issues

The ridersharing services face challenges beyond motor vehicle accidents. This year alone, a number of high-profile lawsuits and settlements have landed the ridesharing giants in the spotlight.

Uber and Lyft release safety reports

Uber made headlines this summer with the release of its second U.S. Safety Report. The company noted:

“To be clear, disclosing our safety data doesn’t mean Uber’s platform is less safe—it means we’re being more honest about the rare safety incidents that do occur. Most companies won’t talk about these tough issues, but pretending they don’t exist only leaves everyone less safe.”

The report, which covers the time period 2019 and 2020, showed Uber received 3,824 reports of the five most severe categories of sexual assault, ranging from “non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part” to “non-consensual sexual penetration,” or rape. Compared to the first report from 2017 and 2018, the rate of sexual assaults decreased by 38%. The company said it’s unclear how much of that drop can be attributed to the dramatic reduction in rides as pandemic restrictions went into effect in 2020.

Lyft, following Uber’s lead, released its first safety report in 2021. In total, Lyft collected 4,158 reports of sexual assault on the app from 2017 through 2019; this included 360 reports of rape. Lyft said its definitions were overly broad to collect as wide a data set as possible.

Allegations of sexual assaults

Two weeks after the release of Uber’s second safety report, a multi-party complaint was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleging “women passengers in multiple states were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked” by their Uber drivers. An Uber spokesperson replied, at the time, “They have not been able to provide any critical incident details for us to identify a connection to the Uber platform.

Other recent lawsuits and settlements include, for instance:

August, 2022: Final approval was granted for a $8.5-million class action settlement over Uber’s misclassification of drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. Uber hasn’t admitted any wrongdoing but agreed to a settlement that will benefit Californians who used the Uber or Uber Eats apps during certain time periods in the past years.

July, 2022: The Department of Justice filed a multi-million-dollar settlement agreement with Uber to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Uber violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement, Uber will offer several million dollars in compensation to more than 65,000 Uber users who were charged discriminatory fees due to disability.

June, 2022: A group of drivers for Uber and Lyft filed an antitrust lawsuit in California state court, alleging the companies unfairly controlled how much passengers are charged for rides. The drivers claim they were promised “the most competitive compensation” in return for being able to offer lower prices to consumers, a violation — they say — of California antitrust law and state law prohibiting unfair business practices. The lawsuit seeks class action status in San Francisco County Superior Court.

Contact Penney & Associates

Have you or a loved one been injured in a ridesharing accident and need legal help to receive the compensation that you deserve? The lawyers at Penney & Associates have decades of experience and are experts in wrongful death and personal injury law. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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