Former NFL players who were part of the historic class action concussion lawsuit against the NFL have stepped forward to allege that the league is dragging its feet in providing claimants with compensation they’re entitled to receive. In a filing submitted on March 20th, a group of players covered under the settlement allege payouts for claims involving athletes diagnosed with dementia are not being paid as the NFL promised, and that the league is actively trying to manipulate the settlement process and evade payments. The NFL has publicly denied the allegations.
The NFL concussion settlement was major legal case between more than 20,000 former athletes and the National Football League over claims that the league concealed risks about the serious, long-term consequences of head injuries and repetitive concussions sustained by athletes. It was officially made final in January of 2017, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would not hear challenges in the case, and nearly a year after the league finally acknowledged a link between football-related head trauma and serious degenerative brain diseases.
Per the terms of the settlement, the NFL is required to pay former athletes up to $1 billion over 65 years. Compensation is based on the type of conditions suffered by athletes and their severity. For example, maximum financial awards for players with the following diagnosed conditions include:
- ALS / Lou Gehrig’s Disease – $5 million
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – $4 million
- Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease – $3.5 million
- Moderate Dementia – $3 million
- Early Dementia – $3 million
NFL Settlement: Year One
The players’ claims are supported by the latest settlement report, which show the NFL is falling behind on paying claims that involve dementia. Here are some of the most important facts from the report:
- Dementia claims involving Level 1 and Level 2 neurocognitive impairment make up the largest segment of claims under the settlement, comprising over 1,110 of the more than 1,700 claims made in the first year of the settlement.
- Of the 1,110+ claims citing a diagnosis of early or moderate dementia, just 6 have been paid, for a total of less than $5 million. That’s far below the NFL’s court-filed projections, which anticipated paying out more than 400 dementia-related claims worth $72 million within the first year.
- To date, 183 former players have received payment under the settlement totaling $150 million. The NFL’s projections anticipated 665 claims being paid a total of $243 million.
- At least 143 claims have been approved but not yet paid (totaling $198), though some are subject to appeal.
- Although the NFL has no say in approving or denying claims under the settlement, it can appeal. The report shows that 35 cases approved for a financial award were later appealed by the league. Most are being processed, but 10 have been upheld and 2 overturned.
The court-appointed law firm overseeing claims and administration of settlement funds, BrownGreer, said the NFL is not involved in the process, and that there are a number of reason why payments have been delayed, including hundreds of “suspicious” claims requiring additional evaluation, and difficulties in arriving at an accurate diagnosis for dementia, a condition not as clear-cut as CTE, which is diagnosable only after death and has been found in 99% of former NFL players. They also say that as many as 3/4 of dementia claims lack required medical records and documentation, apparently as a result over confusion about requirements created by the settlement administrators.
Despite these issues, players who’ve been waiting for months, in addition to the years they spent waiting for the class-action lawsuit to resolve, still hold the NFL accountable for not providing ex-athletes with the help they need. They also allege that the league is delaying payments through numerous changes of review standards, secret procedures, audits and technical readings, and appeals. Since dementia claims comprise over 90% of the settlement agreement, they say, it makes sense why the league would want to shut those claims down – it’s where all the money is.
Issues raised by ex-athletes in their recent court filing show that victims can still face uphill battles even after settlements have been finalized by a court. Although there is certainly the potential for delays caused by procedural and medical issues, defendants should be held accountable for taking all reasonable measures to provide compensation they are legally required to pay. By making their voices heard, former athletes are hopeful that the process will become more streamlined moving forward, and that they will receive the much needed compensation they deserve.
Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has been designated as “Preferred Attorneys” in the DC Metro area by the Brain Injury Association of America for our continued work in the field of brain injury litigation. Over the years, our attorneys have represented many victims and families, including athletes, whose lives have been changed by brain injuries. We know the importance of securing full and fair compensation, and the need for defendants to swiftly provide the payouts victims and their loved ones need to cope with the numerous struggles they face.
As we continue to fight for brain injury victims across DC, Virginia, and Maryland, we also closely follow brain injury news in hopes of raising awareness about these serious injuries and battles victims face, and to prompt action and changes that benefit families. If you have a questions about concussions, brain injuries, and personal injury claims, contact our firm for a free consultation.