Former Florida NFL players demand workers’ compensation for brain injuries

Over 140 former NFL players have filed a federal lawsuit in Fort Lauderdale against the league regarding brain injuries resulting from playing football. The suit demands workers’ compensation benefits for the traumatic brain injury known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which the players call an occupational hazard of playing football.

Symptoms of CTE, a deadly disease caused by repeated concussions, include severe memory loss and confusion, and can lead to depression and dementia. The suit says the NFL “routinely failed to care for Plaintiffs’ repetitive head injuries during their careers in any medically competent or meaningful manner that complied with any known published contact sports return-to-play guidelines at the time in which the injuries occurred.” The suit also claims that the NFL knew that football could seriously damage or destroy players’ brains since 1994 but did nothing to address the issue for at least another decade.

Nearly 40 of the plaintiffs in the suit are named, many of whom have ties to South Florida. Some of the named former athletes in the suit include Tony Gaiter of the New England Patriots, as well as Sedrick Irvin of Detroit Lions, Kevin Harris of the Dallas Cowboys, Lawrence Jones of the Washington Redskins and Shevin Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The suit could affect over 19,000 retired NFL players who did not qualify for benefits from a 2015 suit in which the NFL agreed to pay over $1 billion for CTE-related medical claims. However, the plaintiffs in the new suit claim that recent scientific discoveries for CTE have shown that the NFL should be doing more to care for its players.

Previously believed to be undiagnosable until after death, brain scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that CTE can now be diagnosed in living patients. As such, the suit alleges that even the players with early-onset CTE should receive workers’ compensation for the repeated head trauma that occurs as an unavoidable result of playing football.

Tim Howard, the attorney representing the group, states that there is no reason CTE should not fall under workers’ compensation. Though the compensation will not cure the players of CTE, Howard says the suit is a way for players and the families of players who died as a result of CTE to get justice.

It is important to note that determining fault can be more complicated than it might seem. If you were injured in Fort Lauderdale and you believe someone else is fully or partially to blame, contact Chalik & Chalik to learn more about your rights.