College is an exciting time for young adults. Not only do they have the opportunity to pursue their passions, but the memories made can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, those memories aren’t always positive. Pledges on college campuses all around the country are forced or encouraged to take unnecessary risks to join fraternities and sororities. When someone is injured, they could be deterred from seeking medical attention or left with their injuries to find help by themselves.
When hazing results in serious injuries and lasting complications, victims may have the opportunity to pursue a personal injury claim. If you think you are in a situation that could warrant a lawsuit, a fraternity hazing lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help.
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What is Fraternity Hazing?
In general, Greek-life organizations haze and humiliate new members as a means of testing their devotion, as well as helping them bond through a shared experience. Those who undergo hazing often view the event as a show of their high tolerance for psychological and physical pain. Stereotypical movie scenes may depict hazing as steaking naked through campus or stealing food from the dining hall. While that may happen, the reality of hazing is considerably more dangerous and violent.
Hazing involves compelling potential organization members to participate in abusive, dangerous, and potentially illegal behaviors. Many students, unfortunately, recognize hazing as part of the campus culture. The consequences of fraternity hazing, however, can be dangerous—or even deadly.
According to StopHazing, a leader in data-driven strategies that support safe schools, campuses, and organizations climates, released the following information from its national study Examining and Transforming Campus Hazing Cultures:
- Over half of college students involves in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.
- Hazing happens in varsity athletics and Greek-letter organizations, in addition to other organizations.
- Common hazing practices include alcohol consumption, isolation, sleep-deprivation, and sex acts.
- The majority of students who experienced hazing do not report the events to campus officials.
- In over half of hazing incidents, the offending group members post pictures on social media or other public webspace.
- One-quarter of coaches or advisors are aware of hazing behaviors.
- One-quarter of hazing incidents occur on-campus in public spaces.
- Students generally reported being unaware of hazing prevention methods that extend beyond the “hazing is not tolerated” approach.
Hazing is not a new phenomenon. One of the first hazing-related deaths was recorded in 1873, when a Kappa Alpha Society pledge at Cornell University was blindfolded, fell off a cliff, and died after he was left to find his way home in the dark.
While not all fraternities and sororities participate in hazing, there has been a rise in hazing-related deaths in recent years. As a result, hazing is now something the legal system is looking into, and victims may have grounds to take action.
Hazing Laws in the United States
There are 44 states with laws prohibiting hazing. Of those states, the following 13 have laws that label hazing as a felony when resulting in death or serious injury: Florida, Texas, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New Jersey. Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii are the six states that do not have any hazing laws.
The federal government has also taken steps to prevent hazing. In late 2019, two U.S. senators introduced a bill that required colleges and universities to post incidents and history of hazing on their websites. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, and Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, backed the End All Hazing Act. Under the bill, post-secondary education institutions are required to report incidents they were made aware of that violate standards of conduct or federal, state, or local hazing laws. The reports also need to include incidents that threatened a student’s physical safety.
The End All Hazing Act was partly inspired by the 2017 hazing-related death of Louisiana State University student Max Gruver. Per the bill, hazing includes “menial labor, disparagement, public or private humiliation, and forced exercise,” as well as the consumption of drugs or alcohol in combination with those acts.
Because of the number of hazing laws that exist, those who are found guilty or negligent of committing actions can be held accountable. In addition to that, victims have the right to pursue compensation for their losses.
Legal Options for College Hazing Victims
Hazing has the potential to result in serious legal repercussions for those involved. On the university level, hazing is usually a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. If someone is found in violation of that code, they are likely to face disciplinary action, like suspension. When hazing takes place in a state that has laws criminalizing the act, those found guilty may be looking at fines, community service, or even incarceration in the event severe injury or death occurred.
In addition to criminal cases, hazing can lead to civil liability claims for individuals and schools. Negligence, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress are possible claims. If you’ve been the victim of college hazing or know someone who has, it’s essential to understand the available legal options, as well as the rights afforded to injury victims.
Hazing lawsuits have settled or included awards for increasingly large amounts. Victims of fraternity hazing should get in touch with a personal injury attorney. When you seek legal representation from Thomas Law Offices, we can help you understand your options and whether you have a valid personal injury claim.
Contact Thomas Law Offices
At Thomas Law Offices, we believe victims of fraternity hazing have the right to take legal action to seek compensation for their suffering. We understand how sensitive a topic this can be. University students should be able to enjoy campus life and get an education without worrying about harassment, fear, or bullying.
If you or your child has been a hazing victim, a fraternity hazing lawyer from our law firm can evaluate your situation and help you determine how best to proceed. Contact us today for more information.