Last month, United States District Judge Anita Brody concluded that the $675 million compensation package the NFL offered as a settlement for players who have suffered concussions may be insufficient to cover all of the costs for retired players for a 65-year term. She has delayed the settlement until the NFL’s lawyers can provide more information and analysis on how $675 million is a sufficient amount. The judge is concerned that the money may run out before some players fully show all of their symptoms.
The debate over who should bear the medical costs for injured retired football players is not new. The NFL profits from a sport that garners at least some of its popularity from the violence that it advocates. Further, people continue to question the willingness of the National Football League to collaborate in good faith with its players. According to the Huffington Post, for example, although a $675 million cap may sound like a lot of money, this is only about 10 percent of one year’s worth of revenue for the NFL.
Workers’ Compensation Challenges
While the settlement has taken over much of the discussion on medical payments for professional football players, there are other battlegrounds as well. Last fall, the NFL pushed through a new law in California barring professional players that spent most of their time playing outside of California from filing claims within the state. AB 1309 essentially amended a law in California that allowed players who did not play for an in-state team to file claims in California, as long as they played in at least one game or at one time practiced in the state.
While the NFL successfully got the law passed, it came with a cost. The attention that the media gave the lawsuit led to a significant increase in claims – from around 200 per month to nearly 600 – in order to beat the deadline before AB 1309 went into effect.
Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation
In Massachusetts, professional football players are covered under the same workers’ compensation laws as all other employees in the state. The New England team is required by law to provide benefits to all employees who are injured while working. These include medical benefits, temporary total disability, partial disability, and vocational training compensation.
The delayed settlement and the changes to workers’ compensation laws in California are not the end of the issue for NFL players or the league. Until the NFL actively tries to collaborate with players to find a solution, the players will continue looking for ways to ensure they stay as healthy as possible after the end of their athletic careers. For example, we still know very little about how the brain is injured due to trauma. Over the next 30 years, doctors will certainly discover new aspects about the diseases and injuries from which players suffer. Keep in mind it was only in 2009 that the NFL acknowledged that concussions suffered by football players can have long term health consequences.
If you would like more information on the NFL’s interaction with players with regard to workers’ compensation and medical payments, or if you have a claim that you would like to discuss with an attorney, please contact John J. Sheehan or call us at 877-762-9510 today.