School Hazing: Can I Sue the Offenders?

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Image: | Steps to Take When Suing Hazing Offenders | If you’ve been a victim of hazing, you may take legal action against the offenders. According to Tallahassee Lawyers, offenders must be held accountable and depending on how dangerous the hazing was and which state it took place, they may face criminal charges.

Here are steps to take if you’re planning to sue for hazing:

Know when and where hazing is a criminal offense

Forty-four states enforce some kind of anti-hazing law. In most states, hazing can start as a misdemeanor. For 13 states, this misdemeanor can escalate to a felony if the hazing activities cause serious injuries or death. 

  • Thirteen (13) states explicitly allow for felony prosecution if the hazing victim dies or sustains serious injuries. These are Florida, Texas, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Jersey. 
  • Six (6) states don’t have laws specifically targeting hazing. These are Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Wyoming. Students who participate in initiation rituals that involve violence could face general criminal charges like assault or battery.

In Florida, hazing is either considered a first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. 

It’s considered a first-degree misdemeanor when a member of a student organization commits acts of hazing against another student that create a substantial risk of physical injury or death.

It becomes a third-degree felony if a member of a student organization commits acts of hazing that caused another student to sustain serious injuries or death.

When to sue?

Hazing is defined as an act that endangers the physical or mental health of any student for purposes of initiation or admission into any organization under an educational institution.

Victims can sue for hazing if:

  • they’re being pressured or coerced into violating state or federal laws
  • they’re being subject to any physical brutality like beating, paddling, whipping and branding 
  • they’re forced into the consumption of any food, liquor and drugs
  • they’re forced into physical activity that could affect their health and safety
  • they’re forced into any activity that could affect their mental health and dignity like sleep deprivation, extreme embarrassment and forced exclusion from social contact

Build a solid case

The person filing a lawsuit must prove the following to solidify his case:

  • The defendant was involved in the negligent act/s
  • The cause of negligence indeed hurt the victim
  • The defendant must have owed duty or care towards the victim

Hire a competent lawyer 

If you feel like you’ve been subjected to acts of hazing, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is the next step. Use this helpful guide to choose the correct lawyer for you.

  • A lawyer can assist you in seeking compensation. In the states that deem hazing illegal, they allow for the victims to file civil lawsuits to seek compensation for damages and other injuries.
  • A lawyer can help you sue the school. Since it can be challenging to collect damages from individual students or fraternity officers, victims often resort to suing the entire institution instead. Often, courts find that universities are negligent because many hazing cases happen within their premises.

Hazing can be a terrible ordeal to go through. If you find yourself in the worst-case scenario, take legal action immediately.

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