FAQ’s : The Proposed NFL “Class” Settlement

Proposed Settlement Highlights
• NFL would pay $765 million plus legal costs, but admits no wrongdoing.

• Individual awards would be capped at $5 million for players suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

• Individual awards would be capped at $4 million for deaths from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

• Individual awards would be capped at $3 million for players suffering from severe cognitive decline.

• Money would go toward medical exams and concussion-related compensation for NFL retirees and their families, and $10 million toward medical research.

• Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia must approve the settlement.

The analysis below and the FAQ’s that follow are presented to help educate and inform former NFL players about the proposed settlement and why the settlement is so beneficial to Former players and their families.

Many former NFL players appear to be misinformed, or not informed at all, about the terms of the proposed NFL concussion settlement that has recently been announced. Hopefully the below information will help explain the benefit of the settlement to retired NFL players in a clear and simple way.

If I am retired NFL player what does this proposed “Class” settlement mean to me?

An easy way to look at it is that you fall into one of three categories: “Asymptomatic”, “Symptomatic”, or “Diagnosed”. If you are “Asymptomatic” that means that you have no current symptoms that indicate head trauma, such as short term memory loss, headaches, tingling in your hands or feet, or bouts depression and/or anxiety. If you are “Symptomatic” then you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms. The last category is “Diagnosed”. If you are diagnosed with ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Severe Cognitive Decline such as Dementia, you are considered Diagnosed. The only other condition that applies as a qualifying condition is “Death with CTE”.

Now understanding where you fit in, if you are “Asymptomatic” and you become “Symptomatic”, the way the proposed settlement is structured, you will be entitled to medical testing and medical benefits to treat your symptoms. If you then, at some point in the future become
diagnosed with a qualifying condition, you will be entitled to financial compensation.

If you are currently “Symptomatic” you will be able to register to be medically tested and then treated or financially compensated, if applicable. This will be a process.

The exact monetary compensation for any one player who is considered “Diagnosed” depends on several factors, including time in the league and age at the time of diagnosis. This is not the sort of “Class Action” where you fill out a form and then receive financial compensation or a health benefits card in the mail. It will be a process (assuming that the agreement receives final approval by Judge Brody). As part of the proposed settlement, there will be a Center set up to assist retired NFL players and their attorneys with the process of registering for medical testing, the process for receiving medical benefits and the process of filing a claim for financial compensation.

What happens now?

Once receiving the Agreement, the Court must preliminarily rule upon whether the terms of the Agreement appear fair to the parties involved. If the court preliminarily approves the Agreement, than almost every former NFL player (whether included in the current litigation or not) will receive formal notice in the mail advising them of the Agreement’s actual terms.

What does the “Class” mean? 

The proposed settlement is defined by a “Class.”  This means it includes the approximately 4,500 players who have already filed suit, as well as the approximately 14,000 other living NFL players. The proposed “Class” includes all living retired players; from a player that played solely on a practice squad to a long time vested player. If you are diagnosed with any neurological condition set forth in the proposed settlement, you will be entitled to a monetary award. The exact amount of any one player’s recovery (if eligible) will depend on their age and how long they played in the league. For those retired players who have symptoms of cognitive decline but are undiagnosed, the player will be able to be medically tested and if diagnosed with a qualifying diagnosis, they will receive financial compensation.

I am currently receiving disability or some other benefit from the NFL. Could my involvement in this “Class” settlement jeopardize or lower my NFL disability payments?

The answer is absolutely NO. The NFL has agreed to not have a concussion claim reduce or affect a player’s other benefits (i.e. Disability Payments, Neuro-Cognitive Benefits, and/or 88 Plan Benefits. In simple terms, there is no effect on any NFL benefit policies if a former player has already filed a claim or files a claim in the future. This is a really beneficial clause for the players because they can still collect all forms of disability, including 88 Plan Benefits, and neuro-cognitive benefits with no financial penalty to the player on any benefit. Whether it is total impairment; line of duty; or neurological/cognitive benefits, now or in the future, any concussion claim is separate and apart.

Who is contributing the monies that will be paid to the players for financial damages and medical testing?
The NFL and NFL Properties will contribute:

  • $75 million for baseline medical exams so every retired player will have access to be examined by an approved medical professional;
  • $675 million to compensate those former players who have been diagnosed with cognitive injuries. This amount is anticipated to cover damages for those players with serious injury now, or who develop serious injury in the future;
  • $10 million for research and education.
  • Attorney fees will be paid by the NFL. The attorney fee award will be determined by the Court upon the final approval of the proposed “Class” settlement. Attorney fees are not included in the $675 million for player injury compensation fund.

What is a Baseline Medical Examination?

The Baseline Assessment Program (BAP) allows every retired player to be seen by an independent licensed neuropsycholgist, and /or board certified neurologist and to receive a base level cognitive assessment in order to determine if the player has any symptoms of cognitive decline. If there is no current diagnosis of a qualifying condition, the doctor will provide a report that may be used to establish a diagnosis in the future.The Baseline Assessment Program is the core mechanism for which a player’s claim will be handled. If a player decides to get evaluated, treated, or diagnosed and does not utilize the BAP mechanism, that player could be financially penalized if he recovers any monetary award.

What is the Injury Compensation Fund?

Injury Compensation Fund.  For those players eligible to collect monies (those players that are diagnosed with a qualifying diagnosis), will get part of the $675 million Injury Compensation Fund that will be put together by the NFL.  The precise amount of compensation to any one player will be based upon a specific diagnosis, as well as factors including age and number of seasons played in the NFL.

If a retired player’s condition worsens over time, he may apply for a supplemental payment?

Yes. The player can receive supplemental payment if his condition worsens and he is diagnosed with a qualifying condition (ALS, Alheimers, Parkinsons, Death with CTE, Severe cognitive decline)

Is a player eligible to become part of this lawsuit if they are not part of the current filed concussion lawsuits?

The proposed settlement contains language that makes it a “Class Settlement”. This means it includes the approximately 4,500 players who have already filed suit, as well as the approximately 14,000 players that remain eligible to receive testing and treatment, and financial compensation, if applicable; as well as those families whose family member was an NFL Player and was diagnosed with a qualifying condition. All players become automatic “Class” members by virtue of the settlement itself (if approved).

Can a decision or denial of benefits be appealed?

Yes. If you believe that the claim Administrator unfairly denied your injury award or that the award you received was incorrect, then you or your attorney can appeal and reverse the decision by proving by clear and convincing evidence that your decision should be reevaluated.

Can a player opt out of the settlement if he doesn’t like the terms?

Yes. I suspect many players are talking about the advantages or disadvantages of opting out of the settlement. I personally advise against opting out of the proposed settlement unless you are in a very unique situation that you believe clearly is not addressed by the settlement.