The National Football League (NFL) has long been accused of ignoring the damaging effects of brain injuries on its players. Even though they were presented with evidence of the risks of repetitive traumatic brain injuries many years ago, they did not share the information with players, concealed some information and did not take enough steps to prevent further injuries including NFL concussion head injuries and their severe aftermath. As such, they were hit with a major lawsuit to pay for damages and medical expenses of NFL retirees.
The suit, which was filed in 2011, is officially called National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, No. 2:12-md-02323, is overseen by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The lawyers claimed that the class of NFL players would be 22,000 veterans of the NFL. Some of the lead plaintiffs include 10 members of the Hall of Fame such as former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who tragically committed suicide in an incident that was blamed on traumatic brain injuries.
The suit does not include current NFL players or anyone that entered the league after July 7, 2014. It also does not include people that tried out for the NFL but did not make a team. It also does not include any retired players that specifically opted out of the class action by October 2014. Those people may sue the NFL individually.
The case was first settled on April 22, 2015, and the Supreme Court has refused to rule further on the matter. The NFL was mandated to perform three different comprehensive actions. The total settlement at the time was expected to cost the NFL $765 million over the life of the settlement.
The first action is financial damages and and full medical coverage for brain injuries and diseases including Death with CTE before April 22, 2015, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Level 2 Neurocognitive Impairment (moderate Dementia) and Level 1.5 Neurocognitive Impairment (early Dementia). All valid claims will be paid in full throughout the 65-year the award.
Different retirees receive different amounts of money and different medical coverage depending on the diagnosis. A newer retiree with Lou Gehrig’s disease gets a $5 million payment, those with very serious dementia cases would get up to $3 million and an 80-year-old with early dementia would only get $25,000. Players that have passed away early from these injuries may be entitled to a $5 million death benefit from the NFL that is delivered to the next of kin. NFL retirees without symptoms would just get baseline screening, and follow-up care if necessary. The average payout per NFL retiree is expected to be about $180,000.
The second action is to pay for all retired players to take a Baseline Assessment Program of their brain health. It includes neuropsychological and neurological exams to determine if the players have any symptoms of serious brain diseases.
The third action is educational programs promoting safety and injury prevention, especially for youth football programs. The NFL must also educate retired players about their rights and their medical care. This is ongoing for the life of the settlement.
Based on the average of $180,000 the Eastern District of Pennsylvania judge ruled in 2016 that the $765 million amount would not be enough to cover all of the medical expenses and has raised the value to $1 billion that the NFL has to place in reserve. This total and the final settlement were closed on January 7, 2017.
Former NFL players have been plagued by a variety of medical issues. In fact, independent doctors predict over 6,000 of the 22,000 players will eventually be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. These rates are much, much higher than the general public. As a result of the constant hits, NFL players are also much more likely to have the chemical CTE in their brain which has been linked to those diseases.
The judge in the case however, wants to remind the NFL players to be sure to register for the settlement award. At this point, only a minority of players have actually registered in the case. Due to the high prominence and the amount of funds, many more players are eventually expected to register.
As this case demonstrates, brain injury, trauma and other cases where there is lasting physical damage have tremendous currency in the courts. Our legal system was designed to help persons that have been wronged or are in distress so that they receive the compensation and medical care they deserve. In cases where the injury causes death, the family may also bring legal redress to get compensation for the injury.
This award is even more likely in the cases where the defendant hid valuable information that may prevent or mitigate the injury that the plaintiff absorbed. In the NFL case, the court found that the league willfully lied to players about the effects of constant hitting and traumatic brain injuries. For that reason, the league knew they would be found guilty in a jury trial and decided to settle for an amount that they could absorb over the long life of the terms (incidentally, it will have a very small impact on the league’s financial picture).
Frekhtman and Associates is a leading law firm representing clients on personal injury suits including truck, construction and brain injury cases. The team has deep experience helping clients getting the compensation and medical damages they deserve. For more information, please contact us. A helpful associate or partner will respond with thoughtful feedback to determine if you have a good case and how best to pursue rightful compensation.