Sporting organizations around the world and their liability insurers have to be keeping a close eye on the latest developments in a multi-million dollar settlement which will see the National Football League (NFL) pay out an uncapped amount to compensate retired football players suffering from certain severe concussion-related neurological conditions.
A federal judge approved the preliminary revised settlement yesterday after the original $765 million settlement proposed by the NFL was rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody in January over concerns that the amount would not be enough to cover the claims from more than 20,000 retired players over the 65-year life of the settlement.
Concerns have been growing over the risks of sports-related concussions in recent years since the filing of the first lawsuits by injured professional football players against the NFL in 2011.
Young people participating in a range of sports including soccer, basketball and ice hockey are also affected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 173,285 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including concussions, among children and adolescents are treated in U.S. emergency rooms annually.
The New York Times reports that despite being uncapped, the new settlement does allow the NFL to contest an unlimited number of requests for awards by retired players as a way to prevent fraudulent claims.
Retired players will receive packets explaining the terms of the settlement over the coming weeks and players will be deemed to be in favor of the deal unless they opt out, which would preserve their legal rights, the NYT says. They can also object to parts of the deal.
A fairness hearing on the settlement is scheduled for November 19 in Philadelphia.
The settlement provides for a $75 million baseline assessment program that will offer all retired NFL players baseline neuropsychological and neurological evaluations to determine the existence and extent of any cognitive defects.
The 65-year monetary award fund will award cash to retired NFL players who already have a qualifying diagnosis or receive one in the future.
The court order details potential awards for qualifying diagnoses of up to $3.5 million for neurocognitive impairment, $3.5 million for Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, $5 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and $4 million for players who die with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The awards may be reduced based on a retired player’s age at the time of diagnosis, the number of NFL seasons played, and other offsets outlined in the settlement.
Business Insurance reports that the settlement approval notes that players who receive awards from the NFL fund are not required to release claims against the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) or any other amateur football organizations for concussion claims.
A 2013 article by then National Underwriter reporter Chad Hemenway provides invaluable insight into sports-related traumatic brain injuries and how the legal fallout may change the way sports are insured.
Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on sports injuries.