More than 200 former players or their families have opted out of the proposed settlement of NFL concussion claims, fewer than 1 percent of the retirees covered by the deal, according to court documents filed Monday.
Retired players who opted out of the proposed class-action settlement have the option of suing the NFL individually, but they presumably would have to show their brain injuries resulted from concussions suffered while they were playing for the league.
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The NFL has agreed to pay at least $765 million, and more if needed, to address claims the NFL hid known concussion risks for years. Current players are not included in the litigation.
A filing by the claims administrator said that a total of 220 individuals — 196 former players, 22 relatives of NFL retirees and two who went unclassified — opted out by last month's deadline. Fourteen sought to opt out but submitted their requests too late.
Settlement notices were sent to 25,040 players and 8,924 relatives of deceased players, the filing said.
"With over 99 percent participation, it is clear the retired player community resoundingly supports this settlement," lead plaintiffs' attorneys Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss said in a statement. "Over the last several months, we have heard from countless retired players who are in dire need of these benefits, as well as those who take comfort in the long-term protections the settlement provides."
The settlement is designed to last at least 65 years and cover retired players who develop Lou Gehrig's disease, dementia or other neurological problems believed to be caused by concussions suffered during their pro careers.
The average award for Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia is expected to be about $190,000, though it could go as high as $5 million for the most serious cases. The NFL's actuaries expect about 6,000 men to be diagnosed with serious enough cognitive problems to qualify for an award.
Objections have been raised by some retirees likely to miss out or have their awards reduced because, they say, they did not get a diagnosis when their symptoms first appeared, or suffered other medical conditions that affect award calculations.
Some leading brain trauma experts have also criticized the plan because it pays nothing to ex-players exhibiting mood swings, aggression and other behavioral problems they link to repetitive brain trauma.
The settlement awaits final approval. A fairness hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19 and a federal judge is taking written objections through Dec. 11.