a graphic showing a Tesla working as a lyft vehicle on a california roadway

All over the country, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have become a common mode of transportation, offering convenience, accessibility, and efficiency for users. However, despite these benefits, safety concerns have emerged as a key issue for both riders and drivers. With the goal of empowering our community with knowledge and tools for safer rideshare experiences, J&Y Law Firm has compiled this comprehensive report about rideshare safety.

Through extensive research, legal expertise, and analysis of real-life incidents, our report dives into the safety measures, challenges, and legal landscapes surrounding rideshare services. We aim to provide users with practical advice, insights into understanding their rights, and guidelines for navigating through unexpected situations while using rideshare services.

Whether you’re a daily commuter, an occasional user, or a rideshare driver, this report is tailored to offer valuable information to enhance your safety and awareness. Join us as we explore key safety tips, legal protections, and the future of rideshare safety in Los Angeles and beyond. 

What actually is ridesharing?

Ridesharing is a new type of business in which any person with a cellphone can download an app and pay for a ride to almost any destination. The rides work similar to taxis, except drivers use their own personal vehicles to transport customers to their destinations. Drivers for the services make their money through a combination of an hourly rate and tips given by passengers after the ride is complete. Most drivers for ridesharing apps do a fantastic job and have little or no issues with passengers, but a very small percentage of drivers will end up either attacking or being attacked by their customers.

What risks are there from ridesharing as a customer?

an illustration of a woman who is very worried about something

Ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are usually routine experiences with minimal chatter or drama. However, using these services also comes with certain risks for customers, as is sometimes heavily publicized in the media. Here is a breakdown of the main categories of risks associated with rideshare services, followed by more specific examples:

  1. Safety Concerns: This includes the risk of accidents or collisions while riding in an Uber or Lyft. Despite background checks and safety measures implemented by rideshare companies, there’s always a risk of being matched with a driver who may not drive safely or whose vehicle may not be in the best condition. It is recommended that you always have your safety belt secured while in a rideshare vehicle and to record video if you feel unsafe.
  2. Driver Conduct: There have been several reports of inappropriate behavior or conduct by rideshare drivers, including verbal harassment, physical assault, rape, erratic driving, and forcible ejection. While these incidents are not the norm, they represent a risk to passengers.
  3. Fake Drivers: There have been a string of incidents where people pretend to be ridesharing drivers and lurk outside of places where vulnerable people may mistakenly get in their vehicle, such as outside of nightclubs or airports. These situations can lead to kidnappings, physical assaults, sexual assaults, or worse. 
  4. Privacy Issues: Rideshare apps collect a significant amount of personal information, including location data, which poses privacy risks if not properly protected. There’s also the potential for drivers to misuse personal information they overhear or see during rides.
  5. Fraud and Scams: Customers may be vulnerable to various scams, including overcharging, phishing attempts through the app, or fake ride requests designed to lure customers into unsafe situations.
  6. Regulatory Risks: Depending on the location, there may be legal or regulatory risks associated with using rideshare services, such as operating in areas where such services are not fully regulated or legal, potentially impacting insurance and liability in the event of an incident.
  7. Health Risks: Especially relevant during times of public health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a risk of disease transmission when sharing a confined space like a car with others, including the driver.
  8. Accessibility Issues: For customers with disabilities, there may be risks associated with the lack of accessibility features in some rideshare vehicles, making it challenging to use the service safely and comfortably.
  9. Dependence on Technology: Glitches, outages, or technical failures within the rideshare app can lead to situations where riders are left stranded or unable to access services when needed.
  10. Surge Pricing: Customers might face higher costs from surge pricing, where the cost of a ride can significantly increase due to high demand, leading to unexpectedly high charges.

These categories encapsulate the primary concerns and risks faced by rideshare customers, though individual experiences can vary widely based on location, the specific rideshare service used, and other factors. Rideshare companies continuously work on enhancing safety features and policies to mitigate these risks.

Fake Rideshare Drivers

June 2023

In June 2023 a St. Petersburg, FL man was arrested after police say he kidnapped and sexually attacked a woman who got into his vehicle after she mistook it for an Uber. Kenneth Levelle Streeter, 32, was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the attack, which occurred Saturday evening, June 24, 2023 in the 2800 block of Fourth Street S, according to an arrest affidavit filed by St. Petersburg police. Police said the woman called for an Uber, but mistakenly got into a blue Ford Explorer that was driven by Streeter. The woman “had been drinking,” the affidavit states, and wasn’t paying attention to where the Explorer was being driven or that her app said she wasn’t in the correct vehicle. (source)

March 2022

A South Florida man is charged with sexual battery after police said he posed as an Uber driver and raped a woman after picking her up from Miami International Airport. “She was approached at the airport by this individual who claimed to be a taxi driver, an Uber driver, who would assist her in taking her to her destination,” said Miramar Police spokeswoman Tania Rues. Fernando Avila Hernandez, 28, is accused of raping the 28-year-old woman while driving her to a hotel in Miramar on March 29, states the arrest affidavit. The affidavit states the woman flew into town from Salt Lake City the day before she had an appointment with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at their office in Miramar. The affidavit states while looking for a taxi at the airport, she was approached by Hernandez who claimed to be an Uber driver. The woman, who doesn’t speak English, asked him in Spanish, “How much he would charge to take her to Miramar?” She didn’t know how to find the address to her hotel near Miramar so she showed him her immigration documents so he would know the address. She then got into the back of his SUV and asked if he could drive her to an inexpensive hotel near the immigration office. The affidavit states while driving, Hernandez asked her to move to the front seat so she could help with directions. She told police she didn’t think anything was wrong with that because in Colombia where she is from, Uber is not officially allowed to operate, so they sit their passengers in the front, so they don’t alert authorities. During the ride, the victim said he started complimenting her, saying she is very pretty, and offered to take her to his house, states the report. She said “No” and asked to be taken to the hotel. She also told police she asked him if he rents rooms at his house. He said there is only one bed, and she would have to sleep with him. She said, “No, take me to the hotel.” The report states as they were arriving at the hotel, he asked to be paid. She was going to pay with a credit card, but he said he only takes cash and told her she could pay in another way and kept driving past the hotel, never stopping to drop her off. He then offered to pay her $500 for sex. “She was very adamant that she was not a prostitute, she deserved respect, absolutely not just to take her to her hotel,” Rues said. He said she needed money and she didn’t have enough to pay for the ride, which he claimed was $300. Finally, the affidavit states, he stopped driving near a restaurant in a plaza located at the 3400 block of Red Road and told her to get in the back because he was looking for something. She did and he drove behind the restaurant, parked his SUV, and got in the back seat. While telling her he had a wife and two kids, he started trying to kiss her while she said “No,” according to the report. She told police she tried to get out of the vehicle, but the doors were locked. She stated she feared he would harm her or get violent, and said he was a “big man.” Despite her protests, he’s accused of raping her in the backseat. “Let’s be clear, the victim did not want this to happen. She told the suspect, the arrestee, on numerous occasions, no, take me to my hotel, take me to my hotel,” Rues said. The woman also told police she feared she would get pregnant by a stranger and asked him to buy her pregnancy prevention pills. He reportedly told her he was going to give her $500 to buy the pills and pay for a hotel. He then drove her to the WoodSpring Suites hotel, dropped her off and left. That is where she called police. Investigators say surveillance video from multiple locations including the airport, the restaurant plaza and the hotel all show the suspect and victim in the SUV. Investigators also say Hernandez has previously been arrested for an unrelated investigation and is on a list of solicitors who trespass at the airport posing as an Uber or taxi driver. Greg Chin with Miami International Airport says along with signage telling passengers not to accept rides from drivers who approach them, the airport works with law enforcement to crack down on the practice. “We are doing stings on a regular basis to catch people like this, who are posing as a rideshare driver or they are soliciting a ride, but they haven’t been called through the app,” Chin says. “Those drivers are facing arrest, severe fines, and also having their cars impounded.” Hernandez is being held without bond on two counts of sexual battery and a $10,000 bond on one count of simple battery. CBS4 reached out to Uber to see if Hernandez was currently a driver with them or had been one in the past. A spokesperson said he was a driver with them, but on the day of the alleged incident, he was not logged on to the Uber app. They went on to say he had not been on the app since last year. Airport officials warn if you did not specifically use your app to request a ride do not get in the car with anyone. Xena Alfaro just arrived at MIA. She said she’s always very cautious when using rideshare services. “I’ll ask them who are you waiting for and they give the response I want, like my name, then I’m like, ‘okay!’ and I’ll usually talk on the phone with someone when I’m the car that way if something happens i have someone already on line for me,” she said. (source)

Sexual Assaults By Uber & Lyft Drivers

December 2023

A Lyft driver sexually assaulted a passenger who called him for a ride from a New York City club to a Union Township apartment complex early Saturday, officials said. Police charged 39-year-old Yiduo Ding of Queens, N.Y. with second-degree sexual assault earlier this week. According to documents filed with his arrest, Ding picked up the 26-year-old woman in his vehicle and then assaulted her at the destination after she either fell asleep or passed out from drinking alcohol. The victim called 911 at around 5:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9. from the Vermella Complex, a luxury apartment complex on Morris Avenue. According to police documents, the woman said she had scheduled a Lyft to pick her up from the club, after a night of drinking with friends. When a car arrived, she checked the name and vehicle information to make sure it was the right driver. She had been planning to meet a friend at the Vermella Complex, she told police. On the way back to New Jersey, the victim said she either fell asleep or passed out in the driver’s Tesla. When she woke up, her dress was pushed up “all the way to her neck,” her underwear were pushed aside, and the driver was touching her genitals, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed with Ding’s arrest. She yelled at the driver to get off of her, got out of the car, and ran to hide in the bushes until he left, also calling 911. The victim showed her Lyft app to responding officers, who were able to get information about Ding and the Tesla he picked her up in, records show. Police were able to confirm Ding had been in the area from surveillance footage at the Wawa on Route 22 in Union, according to the affidavit. Ding was arrested and is being held in New York City pending extradition to New Jersey, per an NJ.com report. In a statement, a Lyft spokesperson said the platform banned Ding’s account. “Safety is fundamental to Lyft,” the company said in a statement. “The behavior described is reprehensible and has no place in the Lyft community or anywhere in society. We have permanently banned the driver’s account, have reached out to the rider to offer our support, and stand ready to assist law enforcement with any investigation.” (source)

November 2023

An Uber driver has been arrested on charges that he sexually attacked a woman in his car after picking her up for a ride, St. Petersburg police reported on Thursday. Jose Antonio Canales Sanchez, 51, is facing charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment in connection with the incident, which police said occurred Wednesday morning. Police said Canales Sanchez picked up the 32-year-old woman at 6:24 a.m., then pulled over in a parking lot in the 700 block of Seventh Avenue N., according to arrest reports. He then got into the back seat and “began undressing her against her will and touching her private parts,” according to a news release issued by police. Police said the woman “was able to fight him off and escape” by scratching and punching him. Canales Sanchez was arrested later that day, police said. Bail was set at $15,000, which Canales Sanchez posted before being released from the Pinellas County Jail early Thursday morning, records show. (source)

August 2023

In August 2023 an Uber driver was arrested after being accused of sexually assaulting a tourist. Miami-Dade police say it happened Friday, August 11, 2023 at around 1 am, when Alejandro Andres Tochoytochoy, 43, picked up a woman who became intoxicated after a night out with friends. The arrest report says her friends ordered her an Uber, driven by Tochoytochoy. The victim told investigators she had been laying in the back seat when she woke up to the driver fondling her private parts. The victim said she then became afraid and exited the vehicle close to her final destination. She later positively identified Tochoytochoy as the man who sexually assaulted her. Tochoytochoy was located, interviewed and arrested on Monday. He faces charges including sexual battery on a helpless victim and his bond was set at  $50,000. Tochoytochoy was transported to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. (source)

April 2023

On the night of April 16, 2023, a woman who’d had a few drinks earlier in the evening called for an Uber driver to take her from Corona del Mar back to her campus housing in Irvine. It seemed like the safe thing to do, far better than getting behind the wheel and risking getting pulled over by police, or worse. In no time at all, the woman received a notification from her Uber app, informing her driver, Daniel Mercado, was en route to pick her up. During the ride home, she fell asleep in the backseat but was later awakened by Mercado, who had pulled the vehicle over onto a side street near the university, gotten into the backseat and begun raping her, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 28 with Orange County Superior Court. “[The] plaintiff could not move, nor escape,” attorneys for the woman alleged. “This depraved attack by the Uber driver humiliated, violated and robbed the plaintiff of her dignity and personal safety.” Although the Irvine student had opted in to a safety feature — whereby Uber contacts riders if a ride has stopped for more than 5 minutes without being “completed” to see if they are OK — Uber’s efforts to contact the rider went unreturned, as the woman was allegedly being assaulted at the time. Yet, the company never followed up on the non-response by contacting 911 or any other emergency services, the complaint maintains. The victim filed a police report herself within six hours to the Irvine Police Department. (source)

February 2023

Bexar County, TX deputies in April 2023 arrested an Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a ride in February 2023. Luis Alberto Deleon Jr., 30, was arrested on a charge of sexual assault, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. BCSO said Deleon drove a 45-year-old woman home from a bar in the Thousand Oaks area on Feb. 25. At a news conference, Sheriff Javier Salazar said Deleon ordered the woman to get into the front seat during the ride, but she refused. Deleon later stopped the car, got into the back seat, sexually assaulted the woman, and dropped her off nearby, Salazar said. The victim reported the assault to SAPD, who identified the driver as Deleon. The case was later handed to BCSO as the crime happened outside city limits. After weeks of investigating, BCSO obtained a warrant for Deleon’s arrest on Saturday. At the time, he was believed to be out of state. Salazar said the suspect’s family and friends warned him of the warrant for his arrest and search. Deleon was later arrested Tuesday in San Antonio’s downtown area without incident, according to the sheriff. Additionally, Salazar noted that Deleon had previously worked as a police officer for Leon Valley PD but was not currently employed as an officer. Leon Vally Police Chief David Gonzalez said Deleon was employed by the department from December 2019 to July 2022. Chief Gozalez said Deleon left the department due to personal reasons and would have been eligible for rehire consideration at the time. Anyone with information on other incidents involving Deleon is asked to contact BCSO at (210) 335-6070. (source)

June 2019

Authorities in Baltimore County, Maryland are investigating a claim that a 25-year-old passenger was raped by an Uber driver. The victim’s father was able to track his daughter’s phone and was eventually able to rescue her before calling 911, Shawn Vinson, director of public affairs for the county police, told reporters. The incident is being treated as a rape investigation, he said. “This started when a call came for the daughter to be transported in an Uber, when she didn’t arrive at her destination, the father started to become concerned and was able to use an app on her phone and his phone to locate where she was,” Vinson told reporters. “Right now we are actively investigating this case trying to determine what exactly happened here,” he continued. We want to continue to work with the victim and eventually interview everyone who was involved in this and to see what we have. Right now we are handling it as a rape investigation, but we’re trying to determine what exactly happened inside the car.” Uber said its assisting with the investigation and has fired the driver. “What’s been reported is appalling beyond words,” a company spokesperson said. “We removed the driver from the app as soon as this was reported to us. We will work with police on their investigation.” While Uber performs background checks on all drivers before they are able to give rides, enough safety incidents have occurred to prompt the company to add safety features. Last year, Uber added the ability to set trusted contacts within the app that allow riders to share their location and ride details, as well as the ability to direct dial emergency services. In 2018, a CNN investigation revealed 103 Uber drivers had been accused of sexual assault in the prior four years. In 2019, a convicted war criminal slipped through the cracks at Uber’s third-party background check service, and was later fired by the company. (source)

May 2019

The Newark, Delaware Police Department said it has made an arrest in the case of a 21-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted at knifepoint after being tricked by a man posing as a ride-share service. Police said after releasing photos of the suspect’s vehicle they received various tips leading to the arrest of Roberto Rodriguez, 41, of Newark. Rodriguez was charged with rape, possession of a deadly weapon, unlawful sexual contact, theft and malicious interference with emergency communications. Police said the theft and malicious interference charges are the result of Rodriguez taking the victim’s phone from her to prevent her from calling the police. Detectives said they located the suspected car parked in front of a house on Nottingham Road in Newark and subsequently determined that the owner of the car matched the description of the suspect. Police said when the suspect left the house, he was stopped by officers and found to have a knife in his possession. Rodriguez appeared before Justice of the Peace Court 11 in New Castle where he was ordered to be held on $63,000 cash bail. (source)

February 2018

At about 11:30 p.m. on February 21, 2018, Uber driver Harbir Parmar, 24, picked up a woman in Manhattan to drive her to the suburb of White Plains. What happened next is the nightmare scenario so many passengers fear when they get into a car alone at night. According to the New York Times, prosecutors say the woman fell asleep in the backseat of Parmar’s Toyota Highlander, and woke up when she realized the car had stopped, and that Parmar was in the backseat with her with his hand under her shirt, groping her breast. She grabbed for her phone, but Parmar yanked it away from her. Eventually, he got back into the front seat, and started driving again, but they were no longer on the way to White Plains. Parmar dropped her by the side of Interstate 95, near New Haven. When he drove away, she wrote down his license plate number, and then walked to a nearby convenience store to call a cab to take her back to White Plains. Later, she was charged $1,047 for a trip from Manhattan to Massachusetts — according to the complaint Parmar changed the destination of her ride while she was asleep. Parmar was arrested on Tuesday, and charged with wire fraud and kidnapping, a charge which carries with it a potential life sentence. He does not face any charges related to the alleged groping. New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission also suspended Parmar’s T.L.C. license, which he has held since 2015. (source)

November 2016

An Uber driver, who a customer accused of making unwanted sexual advances, was charged in Pennsylvania. Authorities identified the driver as Jehad Abdula Makhoul, 46, of Whitehall. He was charged via summons with one count of indecent assault, a second-degree misdemeanor, and one count of harassment, a summary offense. According to investigators, the victim called 911 shortly before 9 p.m. Nov. 22 after the driver dropped her off at her destination, the Barrel Junction Bar on Route 8 in Shaler. The woman told police she was picked up near Malvern Avenue in Ross Township. According to a criminal complaint, Makhoul stopped the vehicle on an unlit section of Thompson Run Road. He unbuckled his seat belt and grabbed her inner thigh and kissed her, the complaint said. The woman told police she protested Makhoul’s advances and he backed off. He eventually dropped her off at her destination. Police said when they questioned Makhoul about the incident he denied touching the woman. He said he turned off his fare to be nice to the customer, something he said he had done before. Months later, in January 2017, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. He was initially charged with one count of indecent assault and one count of harassment, however, later in court the charges were reduced. “The case was reduced from a misdemeanor to a summary offense of harassment,” attorney Patrick Thomassey said. Makhoul pleaded guilty and was fined $460. “My client is from Syria and I think he misinterpreted maybe some conversation. I give the victim a lot of credit, she understood that and we were able to resolve the case at this level,” Thomassey said. (source)

Please note, these examples of sexual assaults by Uber and Lyft drivers are only meant to highlight the existence of the problem and are nowhere near an exhaustive list. It is likely that the true number of sexual assaults by ridesharing drivers is far higher than this report suggests. In the year 2022 Forbes famously published a story titled “Lyft hit with 13 new sexual assault lawsuits” which further highlights the issue. 

Recent car accidents involving rideshare vehicles where passengers were injured or killed

December 2023

The Florida Highway Patrol says that an Uber driver and a passenger were killed in a Wednesday night crash on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The crash happened just after 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. The driver of a stolen Ford Mustang, Leosvany Roman, had crashed into an Hillsborough County Sheriff’s patrol unit before fleeing. A pursuit was initiated and despite attempts to stop Roman reaching the bridge, Roman crashed into the patrol car again and went the wrong way. Roman then collided with an Uber on I-275 near the rest area on the north side of the bridge. The Uber driver, identified as a 33-year-old from Bradenton, died as a result. One of the three passengers inside was also killed. A 51-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man were seriously injured. They were taken to the hospital. The crash is still under investigation. Roman is being charged with felony murder, vehicular homicide, aggravating fleeing and eluding involving death, driving with a suspended license and battery on a law enforcement officer. (source)

August 2023

Three women were killed Saturday morning after an Uber was t-boned at a South Los Angeles intersection near the Westmont community of unincorporated Los Angeles County, according to officials. Two others in the Uber were injured in the crash. The crash happened just before 5:30 a.m. at the intersection of South Vermont Avenue and West Century Boulevard, the California Highway Patrol reported. Officials said the Uber, a black Honda, was heading north on Vermont, when a white Mercedes heading west on Century ran the red light and plowed into the Honda. Authorities said there were five people in the Uber, including the driver. Three passengers in the back seat, all women, were killed in the crash. They have been identified as 23-year-old Juvelyn Arroyo, 23-year-old Veronica Amezola, and 27-year-old Kimberly Izquierdo. Amezola and Izquierdo were sisters. The suspect was identified as 31-year-old Gregory Black and officials said he is expected to face criminal charges. Another passenger, a man sitting in the front seat, was hospitalized and is in stable condition. The Uber driver, a woman, was also sent to the hospital and is in critical condition. Police told FOX 11’s Gigi Graciette that there was one man in the Mercedes, and that the car was traveling at about 85 mph at the time of the crash. “He [passed] the vehicles that were stopped at the red light, doing the right thing. He passes on the left side of them, into the turn lanes and goes around them and strikes the victims,” said LAPD Det. Ryan Moreno. “And you’re talking about going 85, 90 mph at least.” The impact of the crash was so violent, police said, that one of the women in the back seat of the Uber was ejected from the car. “It’s just frustrating,” said Sgt. Clarence Perkins. “Because just think about if you just drive the speed limit, slow down, obey the laws of the land, this wouldn’t happen. This is actually preventable.” The LAPD announced Sunday that Black had been arrested and would be facing vehicular manslaughter charges for his alleged role in the crash. LAPD detectives are still investigating what happened before the early morning crash, including the possibility that the driver of the Mercedes was fleeing another crime scene. GoFundMe pages have been set up for the three victims. (source)

Other risks for rideshare passengers

December 2023

A Texas woman accused of assaulting an Uber driver was critically injured after being struck by a vehicle, minutes after being kicked out of her ride, authorities said. Police said the 21-year-old rideshare passenger, who was allegedly intoxicated, was arguing with the Uber driver when he pulled over after she slapped him from behind and told her to exit his vehicle, according to the television station. Authorities said the woman allegedly broke the windshield and door handle of the driver’s vehicle, KSAT-TV reported. The woman allegedly cursed at the driver and walked into a lane of traffic. While the Uber driver was calling 911 to report the incident, the woman was struck by an oncoming vehicle, according to the television station. The woman was taken to an area hospital and was listed in critical condition, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Police said the driver that struck the woman was not intoxicated or impaired. According to police, the woman will be listed as a suspect on charges of assault and criminal mischief, according to the newspaper. (source)

November 2023

A passenger in an Uber is shot in the backseat while on the road in North Nashville. Stephen Rouse III, 26, died Saturday after someone shot him while they were driving on I-65 at the I-24 split, Metro Nashville police said. Rouse died at Skyline Medical Center where the driver took him. Someone shot into the Uber after the driver picked up Rouse at City Trends on Clarksville Pike, before heading to the destination in Madison, according to police. The Maxima drove off on I-65 after the shooting, while the Uber took I-24. The driver told police that the white Nissan Maxima that shot into the car was also outside City Trends with its headlights on. Based on the information, police said it was a targeted shooting. Homicide detectives are investigating. Anyone with information on the Maxima or those involved in this fatal shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463. Callers can remain anonymous and qualify for a $5,000 reward in homicide cases. (source)

July 2022

A staffer for former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo died Sunday after a Lyft driver ordered him out of the car on an active highway, Delaware State Police confirmed. Sidney Wolf, 43, of Clarksburg, Maryland, was identified by authorities as “the victim who died during a fatal pedestrian crash that occurred on July 24, 2022, in the Dewey Beach area.” In a press release, the department said the incident occurred after Wolf and five of his friends hired a Lyft driver to pick them up in Dewey Beach and take them back to a residence in Bethany Beach. “As the group was traveling southbound on Coastal Highway all in the same vehicle, a disagreement occurred between the group and the Lyft operator,” the press release said. “The Lyft operator terminated the ride and stopped in the middle of the southbound left lane and demanded all six passengers exit the vehicle.” At that time, a driver traveling southbound in the left lane approaching the stopped Lyft vehicle “changed lanes to avoid striking the rear of the Lyft vehicle [and] failed to see the pedestrian who had just exited the right rear passenger seat and was standing in the roadway. As a result, the left front of Corolla struck the pedestrian. After impact, the Corolla immediately pulled over on the southbound shoulder and came to a controlled stop.” The Lyft vehicle, meanwhile, “fled southbound on Coastal Highway immediately after the crash,” the department said. Wolf was pronounced deceased at the scene and police said the other five passengers “were not injured after exiting the Lyft vehicle.” Police said the roadway was closed for approximately four hours while the collision was investigated and that “the operator or the Lyft vehicle has not been identified and remains under investigation.” Wolf had worked as an aide to Cuomo — who resigned in August 2021 after an investigation found he had sexually harassed multiple women — while he was serving as governor of New York. In a tweet, Cuomo said he was “shocked & saddened to hear this tragic news.” “Sid was a phenomenal public servant who worked relentlessly for the betterment of all NY’ers,” Cuomo wrote. “My heart goes out to Lindsey & his two young daughters.” (source)

When can you sue a rideshare driver for putting you in danger in California?

In California, you can potentially sue a rideshare driver for putting you in danger under several circumstances, focusing on negligence, liability, and breach of duty. Here are key scenarios and principles under which such a lawsuit could be pursued:

  1. Negligence: If the rideshare driver acted negligently, causing an accident or putting you in danger, you could file a lawsuit against them. Negligence involves the driver failing to exercise reasonable care in ensuring your safety, which might include reckless driving, driving under the influence, or not following traffic laws.
  2. Personal Injury: If you sustained injuries as a result of the rideshare driver’s actions, you might have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. This could cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the incident.
  3. Breach of Duty: Rideshare drivers, as with other drivers, owe their passengers a duty of care. This means they must drive safely and maintain their vehicle in a safe condition. A breach of this duty, resulting in putting you in danger, could be grounds for a lawsuit.
  4. Vehicle Maintenance and Safety Issues: If the danger was caused by a failure in maintaining the vehicle properly, such as faulty brakes or tires, you might be able to sue the driver if it can be shown that they were aware of the issue and failed to address it.
  5. Rideshare Company Liability: Depending on the circumstances, the rideshare company (like Uber or Lyft) may also be liable for the driver’s actions under certain conditions, especially if it can be argued that the company failed to properly vet the driver or did not provide adequate safety measures.
  6. Violations of State and Local Regulations: California has specific regulations governing rideshare operations. If the driver or the rideshare company violated these regulations, leading to your being put in danger, this might strengthen your case.
  7. Criminal Activity: If the driver engaged in criminal activity that put you in danger, you could pursue a lawsuit against the driver, and potentially the rideshare company, for failing to ensure your safety.

Before pursuing a lawsuit, it’s important to gather evidence, such as ride details, communications with the driver or rideshare company, medical reports if injured, and any witness statements. Consulting with a personal injury attorney who specializes in rideshare cases can provide guidance on the viability of your case and the best course of action based on California law.

What risks are there from ridesharing as a driver?

Ridesharing as a driver comes with various risks and challenges that need to be considered. Here are some of the main risks involved:

  1. Personal Safety: Drivers may face safety risks from passengers who are aggressive, intoxicated, or otherwise pose a threat. Although rare, there have been incidents of assaults and other violent acts against drivers.
  2. Health Risks: Especially relevant in the context of global health concerns, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, drivers are at risk of being exposed to contagious diseases from passengers. In some situations irate passengers have even coughed on drivers in response to COVID mask requirements.
  3. Vehicle Wear and Tear: Regular use of a vehicle for ridesharing purposes leads to accelerated wear and tear. This includes more frequent need for maintenance, repairs, and earlier replacement of parts like tires and brakes.
  4. Insurance Issues: Personal auto insurance policies may not cover incidents that occur while driving for a rideshare service. Although many rideshare companies offer some form of insurance coverage, there may be gaps or conditions that leave drivers inadequately protected.
  5. Financial Instability: Ridesharing income can be unpredictable and fluctuate based on demand, competition, and changes in the company’s fee structure. This can make financial planning challenging.
  6. Legal and Regulatory Risks: Drivers must navigate varying local regulations and legal requirements, which can change and may impact the ability to offer rideshare services.
  7. Deactivation Risk: Rideshare platforms can deactivate drivers for a variety of reasons, including low ratings from passengers, not meeting the platform’s standards, or regulatory issues. This can suddenly cut off a source of income.
  8. Privacy Concerns: Drivers may have concerns about their privacy, as rideshare companies track and store data on drivers’ movements, trips, and sometimes even conversations in the car (if equipped with recording devices for safety).
  9. Fraud and Scams: Drivers can be targets of scams or fraudulent activities by passengers attempting to gain free rides or manipulate the rating system to the detriment of the driver.
  10. Mental Health and Stress: The job can be stressful due to long hours, the need to manage unruly passengers, driving in difficult traffic conditions, and the pressure to maintain high ratings.

To mitigate some of these risks, it’s important for drivers to be aware of their rights, understand the insurance coverage provided by their rideshare platform, stay informed about local regulations, and take precautions to ensure their own safety and well-being.

Incidents of rideshare passengers attacking drivers

March 2021

A 24-year-old woman named Arna Kimiai that was seen coughing on and verbally attacking a San Francisco Uber driver in a 2021 viral video faces charges of first degree robbery, battery on a transit employee and conspiracy to commit a crime. As of February 2024 her case is still ongoing, but she was arrested again in 2022 for stealing the identity of a neighbor in Miami, FL. In a video interview after the 2021 incident, driver Subhakar Khadka says, “she started taunting me, cursing me, questioning me about being a man. The ladies were even talking about shooting me, calling their cousins to shoot me. They were making fun of my race.” All this, he says, because he asked that she put on a mask, and pulled over to cancel their ride when she refused. At one point in the video, Kimiai is seen trying to take Khadka’s cell phone. Police also said that as three women exited the vehicle, one sprayed what was believed to be pepper spray toward the driver. Khadka later said he believed he was attacked because he is a South Asian immigrant. However, authorities have not commented on the allegation, and no hate crimes charges have been filed. Khadka came to the U.S. eight years ago and works to support his family in Nepal. Uber said in a statement that it had banned all three riders. A GoFundMe account to assist Khadka raised more than $100,000 after the incident. (source)

Recent car crashes where rideshare drivers have been injured

October 2023

State police say a New Jersey driver was killed and teen critically injured in in crash in Somers on Monday. Police say Junior Polanco Brito, 36, of North Brunswick, was working as a Lyft driver. They say he was driving northbound on Route 100 in the southbound lanes when he struck a sanitation truck which was heading southbound. Brito was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger, a 17-year-old is in critical condition at Westchester Medical Center. The investigation is continuing. (source)

Other risks for rideshare drivers

July 2023

An investigation is underway after a woman was hit and killed while changing her tire on the Katy Freeway Sunday morning, according to police. The victim’s family identified her as 57-year-old Aminah Gardner. They told Eyewitness News she was a rideshare driver for Uber and Lyft. She had just dropped off a rider before her tire went flat. Investigators with the Houston Police Department say the fatal crash happened at about 2:35 a.m. along I-10 eastbound, past Fry Road, near the Lowe’s Home Improvement store. Gardner’s family spoke only with ABC13, saying she was on FaceTime with her husband when the screen went black. He said that’s when he knew something was wrong. “My wife called me. She had a flat, and she was letting me know. She hung up, came back on FaceTime, (and) let me know she had the tire on the vehicle, about to put lugs on the vehicle when the phone went black,” Jeffree James Gardner, the victim’s husband, said. ABC13 saw groups of family members and fellow rideshare drivers gathered at the scene to comfort one another after news spread about the crash. Her family said she was a wife, mother, grandmother, and so much more to the people who knew her. Aminah Gardner’s daughter held back tears as she spoke about how her mom will be remembered. “I just want to tell the world that my mom was a beautiful soul. Beautiful, beautiful soul, and she loved being here. She loved just living life and experiencing life. The person that took her life – turn yourself in, please,” Jamaica Gardner said. “She was someone that was there for all of us. She was the cook, the baker. She has taken the place ever since our grandmother passed away, and now we’re just going to be longing for someone else to take that position in our family’s life. All of us are going to miss her deeply, and we just want justice for her in the end,” Wyetta Butler said on the impact her aunt had on their family. Houston police say the driver who hit her did not stop and left the scene. Investigators determined the vehicle that hit her is believed to be white after one of its side mirrors was left behind following the crash. Jeffree Gardner has a message for the person who killed his wife. “All I know is that somebody came through, hit my wife, and killed her. You continue to go, not realizing that you would do better by just turning yourself in because you’ve left the scene of the crime, you’ve already committed a fatality, and you’ve taken a life that belonged to somebody else. So it’s up to you whether or not you decide to turn yourself in or not. Because in the end, you will stand in judgment for it,” he said. “You took the life of someone who was extremely special. Not just because she’s my wife and my other half that God blessed and gave to me. But because you knowingly committed a crime, and then you fled the scene. It makes no sense.” “Our thoughts are with Aminah’s family after this heartbreaking crash,” an Uber spokesperson told ABC13. The family has set up a GoFundMe. (source)

Can you sue a passenger for attacking you as an Uber or Lyft driver in California?

Yes, as an Uber or Lyft driver in California, if you are attacked by a passenger, you can pursue legal action against that passenger. Victims of assault have the right to file a lawsuit for damages against their attackers. This legal action is based on the premise that the assailant has committed a tortious act (in this case, assault and possibly battery), which has caused harm to the victim.

In such a lawsuit, you could seek compensation for various damages, including but not limited to:

  • Medical expenses resulting from the attack
  • Lost wages if you’re unable to work due to injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

California law provides protections for individuals who are victims of violence, including assault and battery. It’s important to report the incident to the police immediately and seek medical attention for any injuries. Documenting the incident thoroughly will strengthen your case should you decide to pursue legal action.

Moreover, it might also be beneficial to consult with a personal injury attorney who has experience in handling assault cases. An attorney can provide guidance on the legal process, help establish the assailant’s liability, and work to secure the maximum compensation for the damages you’ve suffered.

Keep in mind that while you can sue the passenger directly, the success of your lawsuit will depend on various factors, including the ability to prove the passenger’s actions and their direct impact on you. Legal advice from a qualified attorney can help navigate these complexities.

The J&Y Legal Team

Call a California rideshare injury lawyer today

As we conclude our in-depth exploration of rideshare safety, it’s crucial to remember that while ridesharing services offer convenience and connectivity, the road and people alike are unpredictable. Whether you’re behind the wheel or just getting a ride, the potential for accidents, unfortunately, remains a reality. In the event that you find yourself injured in a rideshare accident, whether as a passenger or a driver, it’s important to know that help is available.

At J&Y Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA, our dedicated team is committed to providing the support and legal expertise needed to navigate the aftermath of such incidents. With a deep understanding of the complexities involved in rideshare accident cases, we’re here to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 310-774-0778. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we’re here to assist every step of the way. Remember, taking proactive steps towards your safety and knowing where to turn for help can make all the difference. Stay safe, and drive responsibly.