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NFL Settlement Fails to Recognize True Cost of Traumatic Brain Injury

Animated brain imageThe class-action lawsuit filed by a group of NFL players who experienced some degree of traumatic brain injury (TBI) while playing in the league drew a great deal of attention to the toll that hits to the head can take on an individual’s quality of life. One particularly tragic story is that of Junior Seau, a former player who took his own life at 43 and was believed to have suffered from a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“C.T.E.”). The disease, associated with symptoms such as depression, a lack of impulse control, and anger, is believed by scientists to arise from regular hits to the head.

Numerous participants in the NFL class-action lawsuit reported that they suffered from C.T.E., and claimed that they were victims of the NFL’s negligent approach to player safety and failure to mitigate known risks of the sport. Other former players participating in the lawsuit claimed that their brain diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, were caused by their time in the NFL. However, hundreds of players withdrew from participating in the settlement after concluding that they would not be able to fully recover for their injuries and cost of care under the existing lawsuit, and would need to bring their own cases individually.

While the approved settlement of the player class action could result in payments to players of about $1 billion, claims by any players suffering from C.T.E. would not be paid under the settlement, as the federal judge ruling over the case found that C.T.E. was not an established brain disease. Researchers agree that there is not yet a test for C.T.E. in the same way that there is for Alzheimer’s or dementia, but that the disease nevertheless causes serious symptoms for sufferers and requires treatment.

As the NFL class-action illustrates, litigating cases based on T.B.I. can be challenging. The average individual would be more likely to incur a brain injury from a serious car accident than from a helmet-to-helmet hit, but such injuries are not uncommon. Courts and juries don’t always comprehend the cost of caring for and treating someone with T.B.I. Recovery is often slow, to the extent it occurs, and victims of T.B.I. don’t always recognize their new limitations in critical thinking. The victim may require an in-home caregiver and years of rehabilitative therapy.

The exclusion of those suffering from C.T.E. from the NFL settlement highlights the problem of proof in brain injury lawsuits. While brain imaging has become more advanced and widely available, such scans cannot always provide accurate representations of the amount of trauma the victim’s brain has undergone or the severity of other symptoms. That said, a skilled personal injury attorney will have the experience and knowledge of the field necessary to make a strong case before a court or for the purposes of obtaining a settlement, to help ensure the victim has the resources needed to recover as much as possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of a brain injury, seek out skilled legal counsel to help you pursue a claim against the party that caused the injury. Contact the Kingston, New York brain injury attorneys at Basch & Keegan for a free consultation on your claims, at (845) 251-4545.