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Lawsuit prompts insurers to add brain injury clauses

Football fans in Pennsylvania and around the country may have heard that the National Football League recently agreed to pay up to $1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit filed by former players. The money will be used to compensate former players who have developed debilitating brain conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Many legal experts feel that the maximum individual payout of $5 million allowed under the deal may actually be increased on appeal.

The settlement has insurance companies in the United Kingdom and United States concerned, according to a report compiled by Standard & Poor's Global Ratings. The insurance sector paid a heavy price several years ago when asbestos exposure was linked to a number of catastrophic illnesses, and fears of a similar flood of litigation-based claims have prompted several of the world's leading insurance providers to start adding exclusion clauses to liability policies taken out by athletes or businesses associated with contact sports.

Insurance companies have good reason to be alarmed by the increasingly compelling medical evidence linking the playing of contact sports with serious brain diseases. As with asbestos, the conditions involved are extremely serious yet can lie undiagnosed for years.

Cases involving brain injuries can be complicated as medical professionals are often unable to predict what the long-term consequences will be. The plaintiffs in these cases may be awarded less compensation than they deserve when the scope of their injuries is not fully understood. Attorneys pursuing civil remedies on their behalf may call upon neurological experts and physical therapy specialists to explain to juries the challenges facing those with severe head injuries.

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