Former NFL Players Hit Back as Over Eighty-Eight Percent Have Entered Settlement
The NFL and its former players agreed that August 7, 2017 was the final day for players to register for the NFL concussion settlement program in order to receive benefits for head trauma experienced during their careers that have or could result in brain injuries. Current NFL players and those who retired on or after July 7, 2014 are not a part of the registration process.
Adam Selter, a lawyer who has been retained by approximately two hundred former NFL players, stated “[t]he settlement is open for sixty-five years; however, if a player develops symptoms in twenty years, for instance, and doesn’t register, he can’t collect under the settlement unless he can show good cause to the court.”
Currently, more than 18,400 of the roughly 21,000 retired players have registered. One of the lead lawyers for the players, Christopher Seeger, said “[t]his response from former NFL players is tremendous, but we want to make sure all class members register – even those who may feel healthy today – so that they can be eligible for the benefits they fought for and deserve.”
To this point, there have been a few problems with finding the players, as records kept by the teams and league were incomplete. Former defensive back for the Miami Dolphins, Shawn Wooden, said some players have not registered because they feared their reputations would be hurt and that business clients might leave if those clients thought the former players were sick. Others are superstitious, and believe that if they register, they are bound to develop an illness.
Two claims have already been approved, and the NFL has already paid out more than $9 million in benefits. One player was paid $5 million for a qualifying diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and $4 million for a qualifying diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The names of the players were not disclosed as part of the filings.
As part of the settlement agreement, judge, Anita B. Brody, approved a notice that warned players about companies that, according to Mr. Seeger, offer to help players “navigate what are falsely portrayed as complicated registration, medical testing and claims procedures.” The majority of these predatory services are conducted by claim-service providers, who require players to agree to share 15 percent or more of anything they receive for helping them through an otherwise straightforward process. Lawyers have also hosted dinners for former players at steakhouses to get them to sign up. Some have gone so far as to promise to get players appointments with doctors who will write diagnoses that make their medical conditions look worse than they are.
Other lawyers have hired former players to recruit ex-player clients. One of those players hired is former Giants quarterback, Joe Pisarcik, who until recently ran the NFL Alumni Association. One former player, Walter Carter, went on the website for the concussion settlement after receiving pitches from lawyers and claims-service providers alike, and realized that he could file the claim on his own. Along with becoming annoyed with the lawyers that are attempting to sell him services that he does not need, Mr. Carter is offended by the retired players that have agreed to help the lawyers recruit. Although the registration process for the settlement has been a messy one, former players like Mr. Carter will lose out if they failed to register by the end of the day yesterday.