Hazing at colleges and universities can cause significant physical and emotional harm, with lasting effects on students’ academic progress, athletic performance, and career prospects. If you have been victimized by hazing at a college or university, you need an experienced hazing lawyer to fight for you. The hazing lawyers at Warner Law Offices, PLLC, have over 20 years of experience fighting for victims in West Virginia and surrounding areas. Contact us for a free consultation.
Why Hire Hazing Attorneys at Warner Law Offices?
In West Virginia and many other states, hazing cases often coincide with additional damages from sexual abuse, sexual harassment, discrimination, or even wrongful death. The attorneys at Warner Law Offices have more than 20 years of experience fighting for residents of West Virginia and the surrounding areas victimized by these types of incidents.
Warner Law Offices knows how to stand up to wealthy and powerful organizations such as universities, fraternities, and sports leagues.We have worked on cases involving large, well-funded universities, including West Virginia University, Michigan State, and Northwestern. With this kind of experience, our hazing lawyers cannot be intimidated.
If you have been a victim of hazing at your university, the daunting legal process may keep you from seeking what you deserve. But the hazing lawyers at Warner Law Offices have your back. Contact Warner Law Offices today for a free consultation on your case.
How Can an Attorney Help Me After Hazing?
If you or a loved one has been a victim of hazing at a college or university, you may be entitled to file suit and pursue a civil lawsuit for compensation for your damages. Not only can you pursue damages from the perpetrators, but you can also seek compensation from the organizations that enabled them. This may include the college or university if it failed to take the proper steps to prevent harm or address previous instances.
However, after suffering from hazing, the last thing you want is to face the daunting legal process alone. Hazing can cause shame, humiliation, and trauma. Without proper help, a difficult legal process can make things worse. Hazing victims often feel alone, and while universities should offer help, administrators all too often circle the wagons and make the process more difficult for hazing victims.
A college hazing lawyer will help you understand the relevant hazing laws in your state and find the best path forward for seeking just compensation.
Civil cases following hazing incidents often seem too intimidating for victims. Universities, national fraternity organizations, and sports leagues have the money, resources, and power to defend themselves. But an experienced hazing lawyer knows how to stand up to powerful culprits. With excellent legal counsel on your side, you can get through the difficult legal process and hold powerful institutions accountable for the pain and trauma you experienced.
If you have been a victim of hazing at a West Virginia university, you need the best hazing lawyers fighting for you. Warner Law Offices hazing lawyers have the experience, dedication, and compassion you need to seek the compensation you deserve.
What Is Hazing?
West Virginia state law defines hazing as:
…any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of another person or persons or causes another person or persons to destroy or remove public or private property for initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, any organization the members of which are primarily students or alumni of an institution of higher education.
This definition includes both physical acts, such as beating, whipping, bullying, or branding, and acts that cause mental distress. Incidents that fall under hazing include:
- Physical beatings and violence
- Forced consumption of food or drink—especially alcohol
- Forced destruction of property
- Other acts that would cause pain, extreme embarrassment, or adversely affect a person’s dignity
In practice, hazing is often used to initiate members into a team, club, or organization.
Importantly, many hazing laws and anti-hazing policies at universities prohibit hazing practices regardless of whether a victim consents. Since many hazing victims are told that the hazing process is essential for their initiation, they may ostensibly offer consent to the acts. However, these acts are still coerced and qualify as prohibited hazing under West Virginia law and most school policies.
Is Hazing Illegal?
The legality of hazing varies by state. As of 2023, 44 states have enacted some kind of anti-hazing law. However, these laws vary from state to state regarding their definitions of hazing, scope, and applications.
Under West Virginia law, hazing is a misdemeanor. If convicted, perpetrators can face a fine of at least $100 and possibly imprisonment of up to nine months. Anyone found guilty of hazing may face even harsher punishment if the acts involve other crimes, such as battery, assault, or sexual abuse.
West Virginia law also requires colleges and universities to promulgate and enforce anti-hazing policies and rules. The law empowers institutions to adopt penalties for violations of the anti-hazing rules, including the recision of permission for an organization to operate on campus.
What Are the Most Common Types of Hazing?
Some of the most common types of hazing outlined by West Virginia law and educational policies are:
- Physical harm, including sexual abuse
- Intimidation, threats, or emotional abuse
- Damage or destruction of another’s property
- Placing a person in reasonable fear for their safety
- Placing a person in reasonable fear for their property
- Disrupting or interfering with a school’s orderly operations
Many cases of hazing at universities occur within sports teams. Recruits to a particular team are sometimes subject to physical abuse or humiliation by senior team members.
However, hazing is most often associated with fraternities and sororities. Greek life hazing is responsible for many of the more notorious cases reported in the news. New pledges to a fraternity or sorority may be forced to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, engage in dangerous acts, or subject themselves to prolonged physical abuse or humiliation. Tragically, these cases sometimes result in the death of the victim.
Examples of Hazing Cases
Warner Law Offices’ hazing lawyers have been involved in hazing cases in West Virginia, Illinois, and Michigan. Here are a few recent high-profile hazing cases from across the country:
- In 2014, West Virginia University freshman Nolan Burch died of alcohol poisoning from hazing during his initiation into the school’s chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Burch’s family eventually reached a settlement with the University and the national Kappa Sigma organization.
- In a similar incident, a 21-year-old Michigan State University student died in 2021 following a hazing incident at the school’s Pi Alpha Phi fraternity.
- Northwestern University currently faces a series of hazing allegations from student-athletes and cheerleaders. Male and female athletes across multiple sports reported hazing incidents, including physical abuse, sexual assault, and racial discrimination.
Call Us For a Free Consultation
If you seek justice and compensation following a hazing incident, you need attorneys with experience fighting for victims like you. The dedicated lawyers at Warner Law Offices know the ins and outs of West Virginia law, the legal process, and the best way to get victims the compensation they deserve. Since 2000, Warner Law Offices has secured millions of dollars in compensation for victims of sexual abuse and assault.
Bobby has received many accolades throughout the years from both his peers in the legal community, as well as the media. The National Trial Lawyers association named Bobby a Top 100 Trial Lawyer and he has been selected as a Member of the Nation’s Top One Percent. Additionally, he has been named a Best Attorneys of America by Rue Ratings, which also named Warner Law Offices to its Best Law Firms of America.
We represent clients across West Virginia and surrounding areas, providing compassionate client service and relentless advocacy in and out of the courtroom.