Disability insurance protection is the key to protecting the incomes of pro players, especially if an injury prevents them from playing again, says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros.
According to CBS Sports, over 220 NFL players have been injured so far this season. Combined with the recent and widely-publicized concussion settlement, this should be enough to provide a wake-up call to all professional athletes. Now is the time to invest in a private disability insurance policy.
For NFL players, injuries are a reality. The problem lies in their reliance on team-sponsored disability insurance plans or workers compensation and that their paycheck will always be there to protect them. The reality is that team-sponsored plans, if the club offers them, are subject to ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) and that nice paycheck could be gone sooner than one might think.
While ERISA was intended to help employees, it has been used as a legal loophole for years to protect insurance companies instead of policyholders. If a policyholder is wrongfully denied benefits, rights and legal remedies are severely limited under ERISA. The NFL and all players covered by the company-sponsored insurance policy are subject to ERISA.
"Players often feel that their paychecks will cover them for life. While this may be true, especially for highly-paid players like Philip Rivers or Peyton Manning, there is no way a mid-level professional could maintain their standard of living," says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros.
Depending on their age and family size, even a middle-class lifestyle would be difficult to maintain the rest of their life. Philip Rivers is 31 years old and has six kids, with number seven due any day now. There's no way the majority of NFL players could support their current lifestyle if they were severely injured and no longer able to play, says Darras.
"A private disability insurance policy is undoubtedly the best route for any pro player to buy in order to protect themselves. When looking at policies, players should make sure to get an "own occupation" policy or rider. This allows a player to be granted disability benefits if they are no longer able to perform the important duties of their occupation. In short, this means that if an NFL quarterback can no longer throw a football, he will still receive a monthly disability benefit even if he becomes an assistant coach or football television analyst," says Darras.
The truth is that most pro players won't become sports analysts or assistant coaches. There are simply not enough of those positions for them to fill. In almost every case, an NFL player's next paycheck won't be as glamorous as it is right now. This is especially true for those suffering from a disability. In some cases, the disability will prevent them from working at all. This is why an "own occupation" disability policy purchased from a private insurance company is the best and safest option for a pro athlete.
"Always get sound advice from a trusted agent or a top disability insurance lawyer familiar with the ins and outs of ERISA, and who has experience helping athletes," says Darras.