When Can You File a Lawsuit Against a College for Hazing?

Hazing is a ritual commonly used by fraternities and sororities as part of an initiation into the organization. However, hazing has been subject to much debate lately as more and more college students are subjected to dangerous and potentially life-threatening activities. While some colleges have taken weak steps to discourage hazing, it still occurs across Florida college campuses.

Sadly, fraternity and sorority hazing has led to severe injuries and deaths. When a student is injured or dies because of hazing, can you sue the college as well as the individual parties who participated in the hazing?

College Hazing Causes Catastrophic Injuries and Deaths

Hazing is often described as innocent or a tradition. However, hazing is also dangerous, embarrassing, and frightening. It often results in severe injuries, emotional distress, and anxiety. Hazing is any activity someone is forced to do to join a group that degrades, endangers, humiliates, or abuses the person.

Hazing rituals that could result in death or injuries include:

  • Physical assaults, including beatings with canes, paddles, and whips
  • Binge drinking by forcing students to drink excessive and dangerous amounts of alcohol
  • Forced sexual activities with one or more parties
  • Putting a student in isolation for long periods of time
  • Forcing a student to complete excessive exercise and calisthenics without rest or hydration
  • Forced branding a student with the Greek letters of the sorority or fraternity by using heat or tattoos

Hazing activities can rise to the level of assault. They can cause broken bones, severe burns, PTSD, sexual assault, exhaustion, alcohol poisoning, internal bleeding, nerve damage, and soft tissue injuries.

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Florida College for Hazing

If you or your child were injured or killed on a Florida college campus because of hazing, you might have a claim against the college. If you can prove the elements of a negligence claim or wrongful death, you may recover compensation for damages.

To hold the college liable for negligence, you would need to prove:

  • The college owed the student a legal duty of care
  • The college breached the duty of care by their actions or their failure to act
  • The breach of duty by the college was the direct and proximate cause of the student’s injuries
  • The student sustained damage because of the college’s breach of duty
  • The injuries and damages were a foreseeable consequence of the college’s breach of duty

Negligence is not the only cause of action that could give you the right to file a lawsuit against a college in Florida. However, it is the most common ground for personal injury lawsuits.

Sovereign Immunity and Suing a College in Florida

Many colleges are state schools. As a state facility, a college could be protected from lawsuits.

Government entities are protected from lawsuits and claims by sovereign immunity. You cannot sue the state or its agencies without permission from the state. Fortunately, however, Florida has waived sovereign immunity for many personal injury claims.

That said, the rules for suing the government differ from the rules for suing private parties. For example, before you can file a lawsuit against a government entity, you must send a notice of claim to the Florida Department of Financial Services.

The notice of claim must be filed within three years of the injury date or two years of the date of death. However, there could be exceptions to the rule, so it is always best to consult an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing a deadline.

The state has 180 days to respond to the claim. If your claim is denied or the state does not respond to the claim within 180 days, you can proceed with a lawsuit.

What Damages Could I Receive if I File a Lawsuit Against a College for Hazing?

If you prove the college was negligent, the jury could award you compensatory damages for economic damages and non-economic damages. Examples of damages include:

The state caps damages for government tort claims. You are limited to $200,000 in damages for one party. If more than one party is injured, the damages cap is limited to $300,000. You can petition the legislature for more money, but there is no guarantee the legislature will give you more money.

What Should I Do if I’m Injured in a College Hazing Incident in Florida?

If you were injured in a hazing accident, seek immediate medical treatment. Document the hazing by keeping videos, text messages, written notes, and other evidence.

It is also wise to seek legal advice. Talk with an Ocala personal injury lawyer to learn about your legal options and what you should do now to protect your rights.

Contact Our Ocala Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida

If you need legal assistance, contact the Ocala personal injury lawyers at Allen Law Firm, P.A. at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida:

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Ocala Office
112 S Pine Ave
Ocala, FL 34471
(352) 351-3258

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Downtown Gainesville
621 W University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
(866) 928-6292

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Gainesville office
2550 SW 76th St #150
Gainesville, FL 32608
(877) 255-3652