Can You Sue for Hazing Injuries?
Despite crackdowns by schools and state legislatures, college and high school students continue to get injured and even killed during hazing rituals.
Last month, a California State University, Northridge student died after being found by a park ranger shoeless and dehydrated in a nearby national forest. His family and friends believe that he was being hazed by members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity who had taken him and other fraternity pledges on the hike, reports the Los Angeles Times.
If you or your child is injured while being hazed by members of a fraternity, band, sports team, or other school organization, can you sue for your injuries?
Suing the Individuals Responsible
One option for injuries caused by hazing is to sue the individuals responsible for causing the injuries, such as members of a fraternity. Depending on the circumstances, there may be more than one legal theory which may result in liability:
- Intentional Torts. Intentional torts include battery, assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Along with compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the injury, intentional torts may also be subject to punitive damages.
- Negligence. It may also be possible to sue for negligence. While intentional torts typically require someone to do something, negligence can occur when someone fails to do something, like failing to intervene in a hazing beating. A charter bus driver who allegedly stood guard while members of Florida A&M University's marching band beat a band member to death during a hazing ritual was sued for negligence by the family of the student who died.
Suing The Organization, School
It is also possible to sue the school or private organization responsible for overseeing the group within which the hazing took place.
The mother of a Cornell student, one who died after being allegedly forced to drink alcohol until he was unconscious as part of a hazing ritual, sued the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity for wrongful death.
In that FAMU band case, in addition to the bus driver, the parents of man killed also sued the school. But in that case, as in any case involving a government entity, special rules apply.
In most states, personal injury cases against the government must follow what are known as Tort Claims Acts. These administrative procedures typically specify that within a certain number of days following an injury or death, a "notice of claim" must be filed with the government, allowing the government the chance to respond to an injury claim. If your claim is denied, with a few months you may be free to file a lawsuit in civil court.
Failure to adhere to the guidelines of your state's tort claims act may prohibit you from being able to file a lawsuit. If you've been injured in a hazing incident involving a public or private school or university, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
- Injured? Exercise your legal rights. Get in touch with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area today.
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- 22 NIU Frat Members Charged in Hazing Death (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Teen Sentenced in High School Football Hazing (FindLaw's Blotter)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.