Fraternity Hazing Injury Lawyers
If your son or daughter was the victim of hazing or a non-hazing fraternity injury while attending college, call Attorney Tom to speak with an experienced injury lawyer right away. We have extensive experience holding negligent parties accountable for the harm they’ve caused others, and we’ll be prepared to help you and your family get the justice and compensation that you deserve.
In recent years, news outlets have highlighted the dangers of hazing at colleges and universities throughout the country. From alcohol poisoning to physical injury, the negative impacts of hazing are abundant. What starts as possibly a fun initiation activity ends with someone in the hospital, or worse, the morgue.
Hazing isn’t exactly new. According to Professor Hank Nuwer from Franklin College, hazing-related deaths have occurred since 1838. Every year over the last two decades, young men have died as a result of fraternity hazing, but the problem somehow continues. Recent lawsuits have begun to shed light on this epidemic. It’s no longer a silent danger lurking in the shadows. Some fraternities have even abolished the practice.
The fraternity hazing attorneys at Attorney Tom understand the devastation an event like this can cause. As the proud parent of a college student, you shouldn’t have to worry about their safety on campus or off. When they decide to join a fraternity or sorority, it should be an exciting time filled with laughter, fun, and creating long-lasting bonds. However, hazing can be a harsh reality for individuals interested in getting involved with Greek life. Some are fortunate enough to make their way through it unscathed, while others get injured or die.
What is Hazing?
Hazing is an ordeal that individuals interested in joining a fraternity must endure before becoming a member. The ritual intends to cause embarrassment and tests how badly a pledge wants to become accepted into the group.
While hazing could perhaps be funny and light-hearted in some contexts, many fraternity members take it too far and put pledges in situations that could cause physical harm. Some examples of hazing at college campus fraternities include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Forced alcohol or drug consumption
- Exposure to extreme cold or heat
- Beating or other types of physical assault
- Denial of basic human needs for extended periods
- Dangerous stunts
- Performing skits that are degrading or demeaning
- Drinking a copious amount of water without using the restroom
- Wearing absurd costumes around campus
- Getting called a cruel nickname
- Simulating or performing sexual acts
Even in situations where the required act seems minor, it could lead to irreparable physical harm or emotional distress.
For example, psychologist Dr. Susan Lipkin asked fraternity and sorority members about their hazing rituals. She found that 65% of them stated the goal was to bond, while 57% admitted it tested participants’ ability to tolerate psychological stress. Even if the purpose of the initiation is meant to lead to a positive outcome, it could still be dangerous, physically or psychologically.
Is Hazing Illegal?
You might wonder why hazing continues, despite specific laws. Through 2019, 44 states passed laws that prohibited hazing. Of those states, only 33 consider it to be a misdemeanor, while 13 classify it as a felony if serious injury or death occurs. Currently, the only states without laws against hazing at college campuses include:
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
In June 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill called Andrew’s Law that expands the legal consequences to anyone involved in coordinating hazing, even if they’re not physically present when it occurred. Additionally, the law encourages individuals to call 911 and cooperate with police by offering them immunity against prosecution.
With the groundbreaking new law, came the promise of possibly criminalizing hazing on a national level. After Governor DeSantis signed the law, a new bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The proposed bill contains the following provisions:
- Colleges must track and report any hazing activities
- Colleges must provide education to students about the warning signs and dangers of hazing
- Any type of coercion to perform rituals for initiation into a fraternity or sorority is considered a criminal offense
It seems more and more people understand the severe impact hazing has on the young men and women attempting to join a fraternity or sorority. The path we’re on is seemingly a positive one, but we still have a long way to go.
What Should I Do if My Son or Daughter was Injured or Killed from Hazing?
Your family has the right to pursue legal action if hazing caused injury or death to your child. No parent should ever go through a horrific situation like this. The fraternity’s careless or reckless behavior and blatant disregard of pledge safety are unacceptable. They should suffer the consequences of their actions.
Hiring Attorney Tom is your best option for obtaining financial compensation from those responsible either in an out-of-court settlement or in a trial. In those types of cases, evidence is generally necessary to prove the following:
- The individual fraternity member, the fraternity itself, the college, or any other entity who might have been in charge of the premises, owed the victim a duty of reasonable care
- The fraternity and those associated with it were negligent and failed to fulfill that responsibility
- The negligent or reckless behavior caused harm to the victim
Our attorneys can also assist you if your child was hurt in a non-hazing, but still fraternity-related incident, including:
- Premises liability (getting injured at a fraternity house during a party)
- Overserving a minor
- Sexual assault/Rape
- Physical Assault/Abuse
These types of harmful and sometimes fatal incidents happen all-too-frequently on college campuses across the U.S. In many cases, the students involved, the fraternity chapter, the national organization, and sometimes the school itself could be liable for the harm your child suffered.
When there’s an experienced Attorney Tom fraternity injury attorney by your side, you can feel confident knowing you and your loved one have an aggressive advocate working to justice and fair compensation for you. Don’t wait until it is too late to take action and make a change. Be sure to reach out to an attorney to discuss your rights and legal options right away.
Are Fraternity Hazing Lawsuits Successful?
In a lawsuit settled in 2018, parents received $14 million for the death of their son in a hazing incident. David Bogenberger, a student at Northern Illinois University, participated in a hazing ritual that required the consumption of vodka that was poured by Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity members. The following morning, members found Bogenberger dead. Records showed his blood-alcohol level reached 0.43%, which is more than five times the legal driving limit.
In another case, Penn State University student Timothy Piazza died after a night of heavy drinking. He participated in a forced drinking ritual at the Beta Theta Pi house with other students interested in joining the fraternity. A witness stated Piazza fell down the stairs and sustained severe injuries, including a skull fracture and spleen laceration.
Instead of receiving necessary medical attention, he spent several hours on the floor, drifting in and out of consciousness and occasionally twitching and vomiting. Two days later, he died at the hospital from his injuries. Piazza’s parents received a settlement for an undisclosed amount. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity closed, and the university pledged $2 million towards the creation of the Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform.
In another incident, the Sigma Alpha Kappa fraternity at Ferrum College hosted a party that Michael Anthony Walker attended, hoping to become initiated. During the hazing process, fraternity members deprived Walker of sleep and forced him to consume alcohol until he became sick and couldn’t walk on his own. Some of the students even pushed him around in a wheelchair and took embarrassing pictures of him. At one point, they left him alone instead of requesting medical help.
By the time emergency responders finally were called, they could not revive Walker, and he died at the hospital eight days later. His mother won a settlement of $544,000 after filing a lawsuit against the college and six of the fraternity members involved.
These are only three examples of the lawsuits won over the years for hazing victims and their families.
If you’re understandably worried about the complex nature of the legal process, you should hire an experienced Attorney Tom attorney who can handle your case from its inception to conclusion.
A non-lawyer unfamiliar with their state’s laws might be unaware of the full range of financial compensation they’re entitled to or what their rights are. That’s why retaining a knowledgeable attorney will enable you to receive the justice you and your loved one deserves.
Call Attorney Tom to Speak With a Fraternity Hazing Attorney
If your son or daughter sustained a severe injury or tragically died as the result of hazing, call Attorney Tom today at (713) 244-6363 or contact us online to being the process of seeking justice for your son or daughter. Our wide-ranging legal knowledge allows us to stand up for the rights of our clients who have been severely injured, as well as their families. In all cases, we endeavor to go above and beyond in our efforts to maximize our clients’ financial recovery.
When you hire us, we will aggressively focus our efforts on the common goal of reaching a favorable outcome in your case. You deserve compensation for the medical expenses and pain and suffering your child and your family had to endure along with other money damages.
Attorney Tom provides a free consultation, so there’s no risk or obligation to speak with us about your case. If you decide to move forward, we’ll begin working on your case right away. Throughout the process, Attorney Tom will keep you informed of everything happening and answer any questions. You can depend on us to be there for you every step of the way.