More Details Emerge as NFL Settles Concussion Lawsuits with More than $750M
Two years ago, more than 4,500 retired players sued the National Football League (NFL) for allegedly concealing what it knew about the long-term dangers of concussions and failing to properly care for head injuries that were routinely treated as just part of the game.
Under a tentative settlement, the NFL agreed to pay more than $750M to former players. The money is available to any former player – not just those who went to court – with dementia or other concussion-related health problems, even if the on-field action wasn’t the sole cause. (NFL Settles Concussion Lawsuit with Players for $765 Million, Bleacher Report, August 29, 2013)
“It’s a good day, because we’re getting help for those who need help and a sad day, because we didn’t get this done earlier to help guys in the past. I’m relieved; I don’t know about pleased. There are probably too many details to work through that we don’t understand yet, quite frankly. But I’m relieved that both sides came together to protect the game we all love and help the players of the past and tomorrow,” said Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien to The Associated Press. (NFL set to pay more than $750M to settle lawsuits, AP, August 30, 2013)
Rypien is right. The settlement, unprecedented in sports, is the result of more than a year of discussions between the two sides and two months of court-ordered mediation. The official ruling on the settlement is expected to happen in the next two to three months. It could take about 180 days for the players to start receiving compensation.
Yet, the settlement is a huge victory for former players and even spouses of those who are deceased. Players will not have to prove that their health issues were the result of head injuries sustained during their time in the NFL. Compensation will be based only on a player’s age and the number of years in the league and will not consider the position of the player or the number of concussions sustained. See official court order.
Payouts would be capped at $5 million for Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia. The money will go towards compensating players, medical exams, medical research and attorney’s fees. (Ex-QB Mark Rypien: Settlement makes ‘a great day’, USA Today, August 29, 2013)
“This is a huge win for players who have been suffering with brain injuries for years. The NFL and the culture surrounding concussions has been sorely overlooked. Often, these players had 2 choices – play on through the concussion or refuse and never receive another contract. They had no idea the cumulative long-term effects they would suffer as a result. Honestly, I’m surprised the figure isn’t larger considering the sheer number of players involved and the years they have suffered,” says Frank N. Darras, disability insurance lawyer to the pros.
Interestingly, the terms of the settlement suggest that there will be no admission of guilt by the league even though the league has changed its rules to make the game safer in recent months. The league has also modified their medical protocols for concussions as a host of scientific evidence in recent years has linked head trauma sustained on the field to long-term cognitive damage.