Just before the start of the latest NFL season, football was in the news for a different reason, a $765 million dollar settlement between the NFL and 4500 former players. While there has been a lot in the news about the possible fairness of this settlement and whether or not players deserve this kind of settlement, not much has been written about the law behind this settlement and how the law behind it has already spread to college sports and possibly later even high school sports.
The main argument behind the NFL suit was that players were suffering long term health consequences due to getting a large number of concussions, more than an average person would get in their lifetime. Also being argued by the players is that the NFL was pushing players to get back to playing before they were medically ready and that the NFL was dismissing the damage being caused by the high number of concussions that the players were getting.
There is other potential fallout that can come from the concussion issue and the NFL. One issue is the worker’s compensation claim potential for former football players. While most states, including Florida, do not allow claims by professional athletes against their teams, there is potential conflict because some states do allow it. For example, California allows worker’s compensation claims by professional athletes even if the player only played one professional game in California. This could make the NFL liable for hundreds of millions more than they would have faced with the personal injury suit that they just settled. Under a worker’s compensation claim, not only would teams be liable for the lifetime medical bills related to such injuries, but they would also be responsible for lost wages due to the injury.
There are also potential suits from former-NFL players that opted-out of the class action suit against the NFL. For example, Retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer player Jimmie Giles filed suit this summer in Hillsborough Circuit Court against the NFL and the Buccaneers in one of the few suits filed against an individual team. His claim is that the risks of playing the game were not disclosed to him and that he would not have played if the Buccaneers had told him he could suffer from permanent health problems. In the suit he is claiming that he suffers from memory loss due to over a dozen concussions that he suffered while playing professional football along with continued back and knee problems. Such suits have the potential to cost teams and the NFL millions of dollars since they are not included with the $765 million dollar settlement.
Another area that could end up being the focus of a lawsuit related to professional football player’s concussions could be the makers of protective equipment. There is a potential for a large suit against protective equipment manufactures because football players depend on these products to work for preventing lifelong injuries such as the brain damage that is alleged to occur because of the number of concussions a pro football player gets in their lifetime. Not only would NFL players be able to be a party to a suit like this, but any football player, including college, high school or even pee-wee football, can potentially be a claimant.
Another area that could potentially be a hotbed of lawsuits can be non-professional players such as college or high school players. While most schools probably have made these players sign a waiver forbidding them from bringing a suit for injuries sustained while playing, this waiver may be overcome if it is found that the football program that a student player is in knew about and hid the potential danger of permanent injuries related to something like multiple concussions during a career. Currently there is a similar lawsuit to the NFL lawsuit by former NCAA players claiming that college teams hid the dangers of multiple concussions and pressured players to play when they were injured. It is believed that this will be the next big football settlement.
If you or your child is suffering from permanent health problems as a result of playing football at any level, call the Brooks Law Group today for a free consultation at 888-WE-MEAN-IT (888-936-3264). It is important to get a lawyer as soon as an injury is discovered to protect your rights and to preserve evidence.