National Football League teams may be forced to pay out higher workers’ compensation claims as the long-term effects of concussion and head trauma are becoming more widely examined.
Although playing professional football comes with inherent risks, current and former NFL players may still file individual claims, and with new focus on the debilitating effects of head injuries these players may be eligible for larger settlements.
The NFL has taken many steps to reduce injuries to its players, including penalizing and fining dangerous hits, but more changes may be on the horizon as teams try to lessen future workers’ compensation payments. Recent discussions have spoke about eliminating the three-point stance for offensive linemen, which results in a higher force of impact with defensive linemen, and the elimination of kickoffs.
An increase in lawsuits
The NFL is facing a new wave of lawsuits as recent studies have linked football to long-term brain damage. More than 3,000 former players or family members have filed lawsuits over concussion-related damages, but these lawsuits could also change the league’s workers’ compensation process.
In the past, workers’ compensation claims have been manageable for NFL teams because they are insured and have enough capital to cover claims and deductibles. The deductibles are around $500,000 for a player who has filed a claim, but that number could rise significantly as more information about long-term head trauma is uncovered.
Unique claim procedure
Like any employee, NFL players must prove that they were injured on the job in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Claims are filed and settled at the state level, but because of the nature of their job, NFL players can sometimes file their claim in a state that offers more expansive coverage.
Recently, two former Washington Redskins players filed claims in Maryland because the state has a better record of offering more extensive benefits. Their case is unique because the Redskins practice in Virginia, but their home games are played in Landover, Maryland. Despite spending more time participating in football activities in Virginia, the court ruled that the players were eligible to file in Maryland.
Another state that offers unique workers’ compensation benefits is California. To file a claim in The Golden State, players don’t need to be a member of a California-based team, they only need to have practiced or played in the state. This has led to an influx of California-based workers’ compensation claims.
The league has worked with teams to move compensation cases back to their original state jurisdictions.
The league has also won some California-based claims because a player must prove he was injured in California, which can be difficult if the player only played in the state a handful of times in his career. Officials are also working to add language to player contracts to limit where a player can file a claim, but courts have the final decision in processing these claims.
Related source: ESPN