The Tricky Problem of Protecting Both Rideshare Passengers and Drivers From Unfair Allegations

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As reported on Vice, last month seven women filed sexual assault lawsuits against Lyft, and even after reporting the allegations, were still charged fees for the rides.

  • Lawsuits filed against Uber and Lyft are on the rise.
  • While rideshare companies have implemented some changes to improve safety, rider advocates say they’re not enough.
  • While passenger safety is paramount, so is protecting drivers from false accusations.

In trying to distinguish itself from competitor Uber, Lyft announced on its blog in 2015 a partnership with the White House on an anti-sexual assault campaign. In addition, the company touted its record ratings from riders. “Our strict background checks, driving record checks, vehicle inspections, and unique mentor program play an integral role in keeping 97% of all Lyft ride ratings 4 or 5 stars.”

Lyft states it’s absolutely committed to safe rides and doesn’t tolerate harassment or violence on its platform. However, Laura Simes, a partner in San Francisco law firm Levin, Simes & Abrams, begs to differ. Her firm represents the seven women mentioned who filed the complaints against Lyft, as well as several other women making claims against Uber. In the Vice article, Simes was quoted as saying, “Right now, we have over 100 cases between Lyft and Uber. We’re getting new cases every day.”

While Uber has taken measures to protect women, critics say Lyft hasn’t done enough. Filing a complaint with the company requires complicated steps, in contrast to Uber’s one click feature. In addition, if Uber riders need emergency help, they can use a “panic button” on the app’s home screen during the ride to dial 911. Although Lyft announced it would put in place a similar feature, that has yet to be implemented.

Ride sharing

A driver and passenger in ride sharing. (Photo: Getty Images)

Drivers have rights too

Advocates for ridesharing passenger safety have called for more oversight from Uber and Lyft, including surveillance, background check and biometric data collection. On the face of it, putting those safety measures into place sounds like a good solution.

But safety solutions for riders can infringe on drivers’ rights, and can even be subject to racial bias. Many rideshare drivers are minorities. Also, when someone files a complaint, there isn’t a process in place for drivers to find out the nature of the complaint or how they’re being judged for job performance. As a result, some drivers are being shut out of their accounts without explanation, only to have them turned on again without notice. During the blackout, they are cut off from earning a living.


Ridesharing is a relatively new form of transportation. It will inevitably have growing pains as the model develops. However, as processes get ironed out, it’s important not to jump to conclusions and lay blame without all evidence presented and sides heard.

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