NFL Concussion Settlement: Retaining Legal Representation

Dear Alumni: 

As I told many of you the day the proposed concussion settlement was announced, I was reserving judgment on the settlement until I had the opportunity to review the details. 

It has been a while since the settlement was announced and the main questions former players seem to be asking are: 

Am I eligible to become part of this Class Action if it is approved and if I did not file a concussion lawsuit?  

The proposed settlement contains language that makes it a “Class Settlement”. This means it includes not only the  4,500 players who have already filed suit, but approximately 20,000 players that are living and those who have passed away. It includes all former players from a player that had half a season to a long-term veteran. Given this, the next question generally is: 

Should I join the Concussion Action now and if so, how should I file my claim; through an attorney, or on my own?  

Assuming the proposed settlement is approved by the Court and that we all become part of the “Class” it is my strong advice to retain an attorney in order to protect your rights under the settlement now and in the future. It is most likely that the process for getting medically tested, or for receiving medical benefits, let alone obtaining an accurate diagnosis and receiving financial compensation will be a complicated and legal process that could go on for years. If you are not currently represented, I suggest retaining an attorney of your choice to protect your rights and benefits under the proposed settlement or to represent you if that settlement does not receive final approval. 

Since the onset of this litigation, I have continually recommended the Mitnick Law Office for representation in this concussion litigation and I continue to recommend Craig Mitnick to you. It is apparent to me that the Mitnick Firm has the best interests of the players at heart. Craig Mitnick has deep-rooted personal and professional relationships with retired players throughout the League and has for years. The Mitnick Firm represents over 1100 former players who have filed suit against the NFL. 

If you are still not represented by an attorney and want to join the “concussion action” with Mitnick Law Office representing you, just click on this link: www.playerinjury.com/questionaire/ 

I have searched for “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) on the proposed settlement, as well as for any information that could assist Retired Players with understanding the proposed settlement. The only law firm that had any information available to the players was Mitnick Law Office. The explanation of the proposed settlement by Craig Mitnick was truly informative, easy to understand, and beneficial to read. Brief and to the point. 

Here is a link to that summary (a must read) ww.playerinjury.com/faq/

My take on the settlement details so far

Although the amount of the Settlement is far below what I believe the NFL should be paying to resolve this case, it is the best deal the lawyers were able to negotiate. Unlike the proposed settlement in NFL Films class action, players that have a severe cognitive impairment will receive a direct payment. 

I had hoped that the NFL would compensate former players for “mild” and “moderate” cognitive impairment, which are the criteria they use for the Neuro-cognitive benefit that is only available for vested players that have at least one credited season after 1994. The good news is you don’t have to be vested in order to be compensated under the proposed concussion Settlement. All former players are covered. I should also note that the Neuro-cognitive benefit ends at age 55, whereas the concussion settlement covers players of all ages.  

Although, a majority of players may not currently be suffering from severe cognitive impairment, the Settlement will allow you to be compensated if you become severely impaired in the future. It is important to note that the NFL will only pay the cost of baseline examinations and medical monitoring ($75 Million) for the next ten years. After 10 years, any funds allocated for this program that have not been spent will be added to the fund for payment of monetary awards. After that period of time, it appears that former players may be responsible for the cost of medical examinations.  

Ten years ago, my friend Ray Easterling appeared to be doing just fine, but in a relatively short period of time he began to experience the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This could happen to any of us.  In September 2009, a University of Michigan study, commissioned by the N.F.L., found that retired players of various ages had been found to have dementia at 5 to 19 times the national rate. 

If the proposed concussion class action is approved by Judge Brody, some former players that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s and dementia – could still decide to opt out of the Settlement. If they opt out, they can still sue the NFL and try to recover more than the 5 million the NFL has set as a cap on individual payments. Obviously, that is a huge risk because there is no guarantee that they can win a case against the NFL.  If they don’t win, they will not be entitled to any payments under the proposed Settlement.   

I should note that, unlike the Dryer v NFL Films proposed settlement, the NFL cannot take any funds out of the Concussion Settlement to fight players that opt out and decide to sue the NFL. 

It is also important to know that if a former player is already receiving worker’s comp, NFL disability payments, the Neuro-cognitive benefit, or payments from the 88 Plan, those payments will not be affected if they receive an injury compensation award from the concussion settlement. No retired player will forfeit or become ineligible for any benefits provided by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. 

I am pleased to see that the NFL has also agreed to provide $10 million for additional research and to support joint efforts by the NFL and retired NFL players to promote education and safety initiatives in youth football.  I hope they hire former NFL players to get this message out to all of the pee wee, pop warner and high school football players in the country.  

In closing, I want you to know that even though I am very disappointed in the overall price tag of the proposed Settlement, I believe there are some good things that will come out of it – namely, direct cash payments to players that have a severe cognitive impairment. There is no question in my mind that this settlement will provide benefits much sooner than we would have achieved through extended litigation. 

There are too many former players that need this assistance now…….and I will not be one to stand in their way. 

Again, if you are not currently represented and want for more information, or have questions about the concussion action, you can go to this link www.playerinjury.com.  

Your alumni brother, 

Jeff Nixon              

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About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on November 13, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. as always Jeff great job in keeping us informed. I will second your recommendation of Craig Mitnick. I contacted Craig and got a very quick responce to my
    thoughts and questions.

  2. Mike Augustyniak

    If any former player would qualify for a settlement, would the player still be responsible for the 30 to 40 percent attorneys fees even though the NFL has stated they will pay associated legal costs???

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