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Pro-Athletes Should have Individual Disability Insurance Policies

The conversation of concussions knows no boundaries in professional sports and is not close to being over. Even as the NFL* settles concussion lawsuits with former players to the tune of $765M and the NHL** enacts helmet rules and penalties, there is little to no mention of ERISA.

ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), which was passed by the 93rd Congress in 1974, was intended to help employees. For years, ERISA has been used as a legal loophole to protect insurance companies instead of policyholders. Even if policyholders have been wrongfully denied insurance benefits, under ERISA, their rights and legal remedies have been severely limited.

While billion dollar insurance companies touted ERISA as a saving grace and said this was the end to more lawyers and lawsuits; removed punitive damages and emotional distress; removed crossing state lines to take advantage of stronger consumer laws, it appeared as if, finally, working Americans would have a fair and uniform set of laws to protect them. ERISA has proven to be painful and unjust to those who become disabled and are subject to their corporate-sponsored insurance policies.

Corporate-sponsored insurance plans fall under ERISA, and whether it is obvious or not, the NFL, NHL, NBA and other professional athletic organizations are corporations. For this reason alone, ERISA should matter to all professional athletes and should be the primary reason they invest in a total individual disability insurance policy.

Professional athletes should prepare now in the event they get injured and can no longer play. It’s important to recognize the amount of income it would take to maintain their current standard of living and pay the bills. The nature of athletics demands that players are in great physical condition as their income relies upon their ability.

“A disability to any professional athlete can spell the end of a career and financial disaster. Professional leagues should go the extra mile to educate players about options, should a career-ending injury occur,” says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros.

When reviewing and selecting an individual, privately-purchased disability insurance policy, it’s important to cover the player’s “own occupation.”

In short, an “own occupation” policy provides protection should a player not be able to perform the important duties of his occupation–whether he is an NFL star wide receiver or a goalie in the NHL. Should any sickness or injury occur, he is still guaranteed his monthly disability benefit even if he can work in another position, such as an assistant coach or as a sportscaster. Without this clause, a player would forego his monthly benefit because he can still work – even if that spells a serious cut in income.

“Most players have nice standards of living that can change in a heartbeat if their incomes drop due to sickness or injury. I cannot stress enough the importance of a rock-solid total disability policy, and an “own occupation” protection clause that ensures their family lifestyles will not be affected by serious injury or devastating sickness. It is must-have insurance for all professional athletes,” says Darras.

Always get advice from a trusted disability insurance expert and have a top disability attorney review your policy and the fine print so you can protect your income, should an injury or illness occur, says Darras.

*USAToday, August 29, 2013
**The Republican, September 30, 2013

DarrasLaw is Americas' most honored and decorated disability litigation firm in the country. Mr. Darras has seen more, evaluated more, litigated more, and resolved more individual and group long term disability and long-term care cases than any other lawyer in the United States.

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