Do I have a wrongful death claim if my college student has died during a hazing ritual?

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College is supposed to be a time of growth and exploration, but hazing rituals can cut a young person's promising future short. If you've lost a family member due to a hazing-related accident, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury case that alleges a person's death was caused by the defendant's negligence. Hazing often qualifies as negligence due to the risky acts that are involved.  Wrongful death and college hazing

About Hazing

Hazing is sometimes a part of the ritual young people undergo to join a fraternity or sorority. Athletes on some sports teams may also take part in hazing.

Hazing is often dismissed as just a harmless series of pranks designed to foster a sense of community within the group. However, hazing can have serious consequences. For example:

  • Physical injuries can occur from being made to run laps, do pushups, or perform other exercises to excess.
  • Physical injuries can occur from beatings administered by other members of the group.
  • Adverse mental health consequences can occur from sleep deprivation and exposure to continued verbal abuse.
  • Frostbite or heat exhaustion can occur from being outside too long during extreme temperatures.
  • Alcohol poisoning can occur from being made to participate in dangerous drinking games.
  • Car accidents can occur related to alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, or dangerous stunts such as drag racing.

Even though hazing is formally banned on most college campuses, there are multiple instances of hazing-related injuries and fatal accidents each year.

Eligibility to File a Wrongful Death Claim

In most cases of a hazing-related death, the parents of the deceased student must be the ones to file the claim. However, other family members may be eligible to file in the following certain circumstances:

  • If the student's parents are deceased, his/her siblings must file the wrongful death claim.
  • If the student's parents are deceased and there are no siblings, the surviving grandparents must file the claim.
  • If the student was married, his/her spouse must file the wrongful death claim.
  • If the student had a child, the child's guardian must file the claim on his/her behalf.

If the parents of the deceased student abandoned him/her during childhood, they are not eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Legally, parental abandonment is treated as though the parent is deceased and thus not available to file the claim.

No matter who must file the claim, Louisiana's statute of limitations requires that the wrongful death suit be filed within one year. If you wait too long to file, you lose your right to compensation.

Liability for Hazing-Related Deaths

A wrongful death claim related to hazing may seek damages from:

  • The college or university where the hazing took place
  • The fraternity, sorority, or organization the participants were members of
  • The individuals who took part in the hazing incident

Criminal charges related to the hazing incident such as charges for alcohol offenses can be used to support your claim. However, since a wrongful death suit is a type of civil action, you can still file even if no one was criminally charged in the hazing death.

Types of Damages

A wrongful death claim can include the following damages:

  • Medical expenses before death
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering in the deceased person's final moments
  • Loss of the deceased person’s companionship and support

In hazing cases, loss of future earning potential is likely to be the largest part of the settlement. Even though a student may not have been working at the time of death, he/she was presumably training for a professional career. Compensation would be based on the average life expectancy and earning potential of someone with a similar academic major and like performance. Expert testimony is typically needed to establish the value of the deceased person's future earning potential.

Has Your Loved One Died Due To The Negligence Of Others?

If your loved one died due to someone else's negligence you need to speak with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Alexandria office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule your free consultation.

 

Richard J. Arsenault
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Recognized by several legal associations, Richard Arsenault has vast experience in complex litigation cases.