A $765 million award cap on a compensation program for retired National Football League (NFL) players suing the league for improper handling of concussions was eliminated, and funds will now be available for any retired player who develops a qualifying neuro-cognitive condition.
The NFL had hoped the $765 million fund would be enough to resolve the lawsuits, however in January a Pennsylvania federal judge rejected the deal based on concerns that the dollar amount wasn’t enough to compensate all members in the class. The plaintiffs claim that brain injuries they suffered during their careers caused them dementia, depression, memory loss, or a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
The fund is designed to provide payments to retired players who have been diagnosed with certain conditions associated with head injuries. The maximum award would depend on the severity of the disease. The fund would apply to more than 20,000 former NFL players and be available for 65 years. However, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody said last January that based on various hypothetical scenarios, the fund may not be enough to cover all claims.
Under the new agreement, retired NFL players and their families will receive benefits , and comprehensive medical exams, and follow-up benefits will be available to eligible retirees through a separate fund. Retirees who have suffered from cognitive impairment could receive benefits from an injury compensation fund.
Also under the revised settlement, if a retired NFL player is deceased or unable to pursue his claim, a family member is entitled to do so on his behalf. However, an individual’s compensation would be capped at $5 million and would be based on how many years they played and how old they were when diagnosed.
Retired athletes diagnosed with early dementia would still be eligible to receive compensation of up to $1.5 million with additional funds available if their condition worsened. Retired payers with lesser injuries are not eligible for a cash award, however they would be able to receive baseline assessments or medical benefits. Furthermore, former players would not have to prove their injuries were football-related in order to receive these benefits.
The uncapped fund will continue to stand for 65 years and the NFL can challenge any claims. However, if the league’s challenges are found to be harassing in any way, it could face court sanctions. Another change from the previous agreement is that players will not lose their right to sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The agreement also stipulates that the NFL will create a $10 million fund to further concussion prevention and to cover administrative costs involved with notifying players of the fund.
If the revised settlement is approved, retired players would most likely be notified by the league about the agreement later this year.
“Today’s agreement reaffirms the NFL’s commitment to provide help to those retired players and their families who are in need, and to do so without the delay, expense and emotional cost associated with protracted litigation,” NFL Senior Vice President Anastasia Danias said in the statement.