Last week CNN discussed the latest brain injury lawsuit that was filed against the National Football League by former players. The suit involves allegations of failing to take effective proactive steps to prevent brain injuries and failing to warn players of the true risks of their conduct. Beyond that, these latest suits also claim that the NFL used a “hand-picked committee of physicians” which skewed the information available to players regarding the effects of head trauma. The suit contends that the players were never made aware of the true risks to which they were exposing themselves, and, as a result, suffered severe, lifelong consequences.
Considering that we have frequently reported on these lawsuits, it is might be helpful to discuss a distinction in the legal issues involved. These suits stemming from sports brain injuries include different legal arguments that those involving other traumatic brain injuries-such as those experienced in car accidents or falls. For example, is a car accident suit where a brain injury is developed, the arguments made by the brain injury lawyer will usually stem from the driving conduct of the one who caused the crash. Liability should attach, the attorney will suggest, because the negligence of the driver caused the accident which caused the injury. That is pretty straightforward.
These sports related brain injury lawsuit are a little more subtle-and more complex legal issues are involved. When suing the NFL, the players are not arguing that the members of league office literally caused the injury. Instead, they are arguing that certain steps were not taken that should have been taken (i.e. better warning of risks) or that certain steps were taking negligently (i.e. using doctors that would not provide proper head evaluations). Like car accident lawsuits, these are also rooted in the law of negligence, in most cases. However, the negligence that is alleged is much more subtle that that found in more straightforward accidents.
The players will contend that the failures on the NFLs part to fully inform them of the dangers led them to play different than they otherwise would have. For example, one of the defendants explained that he would have likely used his head less to make plays. Instead, he explained that he was actually coached to do the opposite. As a result, he suffered head trauma that he otherwise would not have suffered.
For its part, the NFL is almost sure to deny the allegations, and claim that they did their best to protect players. The league will explain that some physical contact is inherent in the game of football, to which the football players were well aware. In the end, therefore, it will come down to a comparison of what steps the league actually took to protect players, and what a jury would deem reasonable steps that it should have taken given the circumstances. If they deem that the steps were insufficient, then the players may recover. Our Chicago brain injury lawyers know that these same basic arguments about warnings and effective prevention are at the root of others sports related brain injury cases, like ones stemming from college, high school, and youth athletics.
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