NHL and Retired Players Agree on Brain Injury Lawsuit

Assuming a Minnesota federal judge approves the deal, roughly three hundred former players will each receive a share of about $19 million.

These benefits break down to roughly $22,000 per player in cash compensation and about $75,000 per player in medical benefits. “The cash amount of $22,000, that’s small,” remarked former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Reed Larson. “[But] the bottom line is this is monitoring, testing and hopefully help for players that will either have (CTE) now or could get it in the future,” he added. But not all plaintiffs were enthusiastic about the settlement. Former left winger Daniel Carcillo pointed out that, to obtain benefits, players must see National Hockey League-affiliated doctors. The league has consistently described the action as meritless. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently said that “we’ve been leaders in the field” when it comes to concussion issues and that the litigation is “sensationalized.”

Several years previously, the National Football League and its retired players settled a similar personal injury action for $1.5 billion.


The Mechanics of a Brain Injury

Each year, roughly 2.8 million Americans visit hospital emergency rooms following brain injuries. Unfortunately, only about 5 percent of these victims receive the treatment they need. Brain injuries are very difficult to diagnose. Many of these incidents lack signature symptoms, such as unconsciousness and vomiting.

The circumstances make diagnosis even harder. For example, if a victim sustains a head injury in a car crash, a doctor may dismiss the dizziness and headaches as shock from the collision. Or, if an older person sustains a head injury in a fall, a doctor may dismiss the disorientation as early-onset dementia.

Brain injuries are progressive. They get worse over time, and as additional brain cells die, they become more difficult to address. Initially, many victims experience symptoms like the aforementioned disorientation and unconsciousness. That unconsciousness can be complete or partial. Later, these victims suffer from persistent strong headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and personality changes. Eventually, the brain begins shutting down altogether.

The causes of brain injuries are as diverse as the symptoms. Some common causes include:

  • Single Blow to the Head: Falls usually cause more than serious lacerations. They often cause brain injuries as well. However, as outlined above, treating physicians often overlook these internal injuries.
  • Sudden Loud Noise: A violent car crash is a lot like an explosive blast. So, nearby pedestrians are at risk for head injuries. Scientists have learned that such noises produce shock waves which are basically like biological Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs).
  • Mild Repetitive Trauma: Professional hockey and youth football concussions are good examples of this phenomenon. The cumulative effects of small blows, as opposed to a single pounding-to-the-turf vicious tackle, can cause a chronic head injury.
  • Sudden Violent Motion: Car crash head injuries are often invisible to the naked eye. Just like a person can scramble an egg without cracking the shell, it’s possible to scramble the brain without breaking the skull.

The stakes are high. Brain injuries are a factor in about a third of the injury-related deaths in the United States.


What You Can Do About Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are permanent. Unlike skin, bone, and other cells, once brain cells die, they never regenerate. Someday soon, doctors may be able to use stem cells and other advanced treatments to reverse brain injuries. But these alternatives are still many years away.

For now, extended physical therapy is basically the only available treatment. Eventually, uninjured areas of the brain will learn to take over the lost functions.

There is a direct relationship between the length of physical therapy and the victim’s recovery. Furthermore, in brain injury situations, progress is not a straight line. It often comes in fits and starts. Unfortunately, many insurance companies stick with the discredited twenty-four month rule.

This rule stated that after two years of physical therapy, brain injury victims plateaued. Doctors now understand that recovery may take much longer than that. But the insurance company may still try to pull the plug early. So, it’s important to have an assertive attorney at every stage of the process.


Your Claim for Damages

Legally, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). In this context, negligence could be a lack of ordinary care, such as failure to fix a fall-causing loose stairway rail. Or, negligence could be violation of a safety law, such as driving drunk and causing a car crash.

Many brain injury cases, like the aforementioned NHL claim, involve hundreds or thousands of victims. If possible, it’s usually best to combine such claims into a single class-action lawsuit. These actions conserve judicial resources and also allow victim/plaintiffs to pool their resources. The facts of each claim must be substantially the same.

In any case, damages in a brain injury action usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additionally, these claims often include provisions for future medical care and other items unique to brain injury situations.

A brain injury usually means serious medical issues. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.