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Lawsuit: NFL Wrongly Withheld Disability Benefits From Ex-Player - II

Today's workers' compensation defense post will continue to take a closer look at the lawsuit filed by former National Football League (NFL) running back Eric Shelton seeking benefits withheld from the league's disability plan.

What makes this lawsuit so interesting is that it involves benefits being withheld for injuries sustained from a helmet-to-helmet collision, the very type of tackle that the NFL has recently vowed to outlaw from the playing field due to the risk of serious injury.

Please see "Lawsuit: NFL Wrongly Withheld Disability Benefits From Ex-Player" for more information.

Continued ...

The decision by the NFL disability panel to award Shelton benefits for a "degenerative" injury rather than an immediate, permanent injury was significant from a monetary standpoint. Why? For the "degenerative" injury, Shelton would receive roughly $110,000 a year. However, for an immediate, permanent injury, he would have received nearly $220,000 a year.

What was the disability panel's justification for classifying Shelton's injury/impairment as degenerative?

Shortly after his helmet-to-helmet collision at the Washington Redskins training camp, Shelton worked briefly at a Walgreens. The panel found this to be illustrative of the fact that his disability could not have occurred with 6 months or a year - one of the main conditions for awarding maximum benefits under the NFL's disability plan.

"The lawsuit requests that Mr. Shelton be placed in the highest category, which in part applies where a player is unable to work immediately following his NFL career," said Douglas Ell, the head attorney for the NFL's disability plan. "Mr. Shelton worked at a pharmacy until April 2009."

According to Shelton's complaint, his brief stretch at Walgreens clearly demonstrated that his injuries prevented him from working effectively and therefore merited a classification as being permanently disabling.

Shelton's attorney, Cy Smith has expressed outrage over what he sees as the NFL's inconsistent stance toward helmet-to-helmet collisions. Namely, how the league is working vigorously to prevent these types of hits via fines and suspensions, yet fails to provide adequate benefits to players like Shelton who have been victimized by them.

"Talk is cheap - it's easy to put out posters and public-service announcements and levy fines for hits that occur on Sundays, but when a player is seriously injured on those hits, the league says something completely different," said Smith "The plan's position that this must be degenerative is in sharp contrast to how dangerous these hits are. The mechanism of injury here is what they've said 1,000 times is the most dangerous."

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

Related Resources:

Ex-Player Is Suing Over Pay for Injury (The New York Times)

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