Q&A With Partner Wesley Farrell on the NFL Concussion Settlement
In recent years, football has been exposed for its violent nature. In a 2017 study of deceased American football players by the Journal of the American Medical Association, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E. was diagnosed in 99 percent of former NFL players. Following the suicides of Junior Seau and Aaron Hernandez, the link between brain damage and the long-term health and well-being of NFL players has come to the forefront as the hot topic of the day. Nowhere has this issue gained more notoriety and exposure than in the series of lawsuits filed against the NFL by retired players.
Amid concerns of the long-term effects of repeated head trauma and medical diagnoses of chronic brain injury in former players in the NFL, more than 4,500 retired and former NFL football players filed a class action lawsuit against the league in 2011. The lawsuit alleged that the NFL was fully aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries, but failed to warn and protect players against those long-term risks. Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are all diseases that may develop as a result of repeated head trauma.
After over 5 years of litigation, the NFL Settlement Deal was affirmed on April 18, 2016 by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The settlement deal between the former players and the NFL originally came about in 2013, and was revised in 2014 to remove the cap on the amount the NFL may have to pay players who are diagnosed with any of the Qualifying Diagnoses over the 65-year life of the settlement. Click here to read the Recitals of the Settlement Agreement, which contain more detail about the underlying claims that were brought against the NFL Parties.
We sat down with Wesley Farrell, Partner at Farrell, Patel, Jomarron & Lopez for a Q & A session about the NFL Concussion Settlement Agreement. Here’s what Mr. Farrell had to say about his role as counsel for ex-NFL or affiliated league players diagnosed with ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, CTE, and other related head injuries:
“Far too often, players are put back on the field despite the head injury they sustain. When you factor in that helmets don’t provide the most safety, it can be a dangerous situation for any player. The amount of information now known about concussions has increased the reasons for concern over the last few years. More and more individuals have been experiencing the long-term problems associated with concussions and related head injuries, making it a serious issue in the sports world.This has been brought to life even further with the discussions involving chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).”
Q&A With Wesley Farrell, Esq:
Q: Who is included in the Settlement Class?
A: The Settlement Class includes three groups:
Retired NFL Football Players: All NFL Football players (including American Football League, World League of American Football, NFL Europe League and NFL Europa League players) who were on any Member Club or league’s roster, including preseason, regular season, or postseason before July 7, 2014, but who, on or after July 7, 2014, were no longer under contract to a Member Club (whether signed to a roster or signed to any practice squad, developmental squad, or taxi squad of a Member Club).All Settlement Class Members, whether a Retired NFL Football Player, a Representative Claimant, or a Derivative Claimant, must register to be eligible for benefits.
Representative Claimants: Authorized representatives, who are ordered by a court or other official, of deceased, legally incapacitated or incompetent Retired NFL Football Players. Both “incapacitated” and “incompetent” mean that the Player is unable to look after his own affairs.
Derivative Claimants: Someone who has a right to recover because he or she has a certain relationship with a living or deceased Retired NFL Football Player (for example, a Player’s spouse who asserts the right to recover because of her husband’s injury). These relationships may include spouses, parents, children, or other relationships depending on the state law that applies to the person.
Q: Who will receive the money and how?
A: The deadline to submit a claim package for a monetary award is February 6, 2019 for qualifying diagnoses on or before February 6, 2017. For those who were diagnoses after February 6, 2017, two years from the date of the diagnosis. Retired players will have the opportunity to participate in baseline medical exams. Players with demonstrated cognitive injury, now or in the future, will be able to obtain a monetary award. The deadline to take the BAP exam is June 6, 2019 for retired NFL Football Players born on or before June 6, 1974. For those born after June 6, 1974, the deadline is on June 7, 2027, or before age 45. As of 12/3/2018, there have been 8,536 BAP appointments scheduled and 7,723 attended.
Q: What are the benefits of the settlement?
A: The Baseline Assessment Program, which provides baseline neuropsychological and neurological examinations for eligible Retired NFL Football Players and additional medical testing, counseling, and/or treatment if they are diagnosed with moderate cognitive impairment during their baseline examinations (every qualified Retired NFL Football Player will be eligible to receive one free baseline assessment examination during the term of the Settlement Program); 2. Monetary Awards for diagnoses of Death with CTE before April 22, 2015 (the Final Approval Date), ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Level 2 Neurocognitive Impairment (moderate Dementia) and Level 1.5 Neurocognitive Impairment (early Dementia) (click here to read more about the injury descriptions in Exhibit 1 to the Settlement Agreement) and Derivative Claimant Awards for people who assert a right to recover based on their relationships with Players who receive Qualifying Diagnoses. All valid claims under the Settlement, without limitation, will be paid in full throughout the 65-year life of the Settlement Program; and 3. Education programs promoting safety and injury prevention with respect to football players, including safety-related initiatives in youth football, the education of Retired NFL Football Players regarding the NFL’s medical and disability programs and other educational programs and initiatives.
Class members who submit a claim that is not approved or are offered a settlement that they consider not to be full compensation for their injuries can file an appeal of the proposed settlement. In this case, it would be beneficial to consult with an attorney who has experience with the claim submission process and class action litigation. Our attorneys will fight to help you get the maximum award to which you are entitled. We will help you navigate the settlement process while ensuring you are receiving the medical and legal help you deserve. Reach out to us today for assistance by contacting one of our attorneys at (305)-300-3000.