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Legal Defense Confusion in NFL Brain Injury Cases

The legal drama continues in the high-profile NFL brain injury lawsuits. The Chicago head injury attorneys at our firm have been following the case closely, as the issues are likely relevant in many other situations where athletes at different levels were hurt due to their playing days. At this point there are at least 143 active lawsuits filed by former players and their spouses naming the National Football League as defendant–80 of those cases were recently consolidated into a “master” case.

The basic allegations are that NFL officials hid or downplayed information about the long-term effect of brain injuries to players as a result of their conduct in football games. Hundreds and hundreds of players have subsequently faced serious long-term brain injuries as a result of their playing days. Injuries range from early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia to serious permanent brain damage known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This brain damage has also been linked to a rash of suicides by former players. That harm would have been limited, the lawsuits allege, if the league was forthright about those risks early on and acted appropriately to better protect players.

The Latest Drama
Interestingly, Bloomberg News reported today on new developments in those legal cases. Apparently several of the NFL’s insurers are failing to defend the lawsuits. This has prompted the league to instigate their own legal action trying to force insurers to pay for the defense in the head injury cases.

The complaint filed by the NFL notes that their insurers, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. and TIG Insurance Co. have refused to defend the league as required. The actual lawsuit alleges a breach of contract on the part of the insurers. The NFL’s suit claims that $5 million in defense fees have already been paid out of pocket which should have been provided by the companies.

The insurance companies have yet to issue any statement regarding the suit. Undoubtedly the issue will hinge on the specifics of the insurance policy taken out by the NFL with the companies. Insurance policies are very specific (and dense) with detailed information on what types of defenses are supported and the amount of support to be provided by the company.

Implications
Our Illinois brain injury lawyers know that while this side-lawsuit is between a third-party, it may ultimately affect the actual recovery for the former NFL players who filed the initial lawsuit. That is because winning a lawsuit is only part of the battle in a legal case–collecting a judgement can itself turn-into a complex legal tussle.

In addition, settlements reached between parties without the need to go to trial also hinge closely on insurance coverage. Many defendants are unable to pay particularly large awards on their own. After all, the main reason that one has insurance is to pay-out liabilities that one cannot afford with their own resources. Therefore, when negotiating a reasonable settlement in a case, consideration of the reality of collecting a settlement from available funds is crucial. Close consideration of insurance politics is a key part of the process. This is one of many reasons why you need experienced legal professionals on your side in these situations. The attorneys will explain the reality of the situation to figure out what is a fair settlements based on the available resources and the likelihood of actually collecting an award.

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