USC Wide Receiver Not the First to "Get Smart" About Disability

Top Disability Lawyer, Frank N. Darras Discusses the Importance of Disability Insurance for Players as a Strategic Means to Protect Their Incomes

On August 30, 2013, an article at ESPN.com ("Source: Marqise Lee insured for $10M"), reported that USC wide receiver Marqise Lee took out a $10 million total disability insurance policy last week. The policy would allow Lee to collect a maximum of up to $10 million tax free should he suffer a career-ending injury this season or slip significantly in the NFL draft. Lee went outside the $5 million program provided by the NCAA to get the policy.

Lee made a very wise decision considering the increase in injuries within collegiate and professional football. In a recent blog post on August 14, 2013, Ken Reed at the Huffington Post went so far as to title his post, the NCAA's Response to Concussions "Barbaric". Reed stated that the NCAA has yet to implement a comprehensive policy on concussions for member schools and the guidelines they do have in place fail to place limits on contact in practice, have no rules for detecting and screening brain injuries and include no consequences for failing to enforce a plan to deal with concussions.

The NFL has also been under fire, looking to settle a variety of lawsuits for concussions that include a myriad of players. On August 29, 2013, the AP reported that more than 4500 players who had initially joined the litigation and more than 20,000 claimants will share part of the $765M settlement. At least 10 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau were named in the suit.

"The truth is that these players depend on their physical talent for a living. A disability affects their entire future. Whether the disability knocks them out from playing at all or knocks them down in the rankings, it is their financial future that is on the line," says Frank N. Darras, nationally recognized disability lawyer who represents professional athletes on disability and long-term care insurance matters.

Lee is far from the first college football player to "get smart" about disability. Lee joins fellow teammates Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart in securing insurance for their final seasons at USC. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took out a $10 million policy and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has $5 million in insurance. According to ESPN.com, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel plans to take out a policy for the 2013 season.

"It's not surprising that these high profile players are choosing to go outside the NCAA for disability insurance. The policy available through the NCAA caps the maximum insurance at $5 million and doesn't allow players who are part of the program to pay more for loss-of-draft value insurance," says Darras.

So what is the best advice for promising college and professional athletes - when it comes to taking out a disability policy?

Darras Says:

  • Go private. Make sure your disability policy is one that you can take with you from team to team and that covers you in between clubs. There are less restrictions and it provides better protection in more scenarios.
  • Make sure your policy includes an OWN OCCUPATION clause. Without this protection, you will not be able to receive benefits if you can do any other type of work. Make sure it's your specific, high-paying (or potential) job that's insured.
  • Budget for it. The premiums on disability insurance policies for pro athletes typically cost $8,000 to $10,000 per $1 million insured. This is a lot of money, but think of the costs you'd face if you were unable to play for the rest of your life.
  • If you are a college star, follow Lee's path and get loss-of-draft-value insurance added in. This policy pays out if you slip in the drafts. Don't let an injury keep you from earning the amount you've worked to achieve.