PBS’ Frontline series received significant attention this week for the premier of “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” which premiered on October 8th at 9:00 p.m. This television program is based on the book of the same title written by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wadu. The authors are both employed by ESPN, however ESPN, who has a broadcast contract with the NFL, refused to get involved with the production of the documentary due to their multi-billion dollar financial interest in the NFL. The documentary and book shed light on the affirmative steps taken by the NFL for the past 20 years to deny any link between head trauma sustained while playing football and brain injury. The authors were able to uncover the truth of the matter, which is that the NFL paid “independent” doctors (who were obviously not independent because they were paid by the NFL) to author reports serving the interests of the NFL by either denying or downplaying the effects that head trauma can cause to the brain.
This story has garnered significant media exposure because the NFL is most popular sport in the United States. However, as any plaintiff’s personal injury or employee’s workers compensation attorney can tell you from first-hand experience, the NFL is not the biggest business or industry in our country that has shamelessly tried to deny or downplay the effects of head trauma to the brain. That distinction belongs to our country’s insurance industry which provides liability and workers compensation insurance to those who may cause brain injuries to others due to their negligent actions, or to employers who employ those who have suffered a brain injury at work. The insurance industry has been denying the link between head trauma and brain injury for even longer than the NFL, the only difference being that the insurance industry has spent tenfold in doing so and in turn saved themselves even more money by denying the link, all at the expense of those who have suffered serious brain injuries.
By the time a person who has suffered a brain injury has filed their claim with the insurance company to compensate them for their injuries, either by way of a personal injury claim against a third party who caused the harm, or a workers’ compensation claim to recover lost wages and payment for medical treatment, the insurance company has already implemented their predictable strategy to deny the claim. Frequently, the claims adjuster will point to the emergency room record (which typically does not diagnose the injured person with either a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury because the person was evaluated by an ER doctor and not a neurologist) as the basis to deny the claim. Once the injured person is then forced to file a lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company will then retain “independent” doctors to review the medical treatment records, a description of the accident and perform an evaluation to conclude that:
A) no brain injury occurred, since the head trauma was “minor” there can be no permanent brain injury, or
B) that the brain-inured person is a “malingerer” (a.k.a. “faker”) because no injury showed up on objective testing (CT scan or MRI not capable of detecting most brain injuries), or
C) even if the person did suffer a “mild” head trauma due to the accident, that there is no way that the symptoms the injured person is complaining of could possibly be permanent because the trauma was not severe enough to cause permanent impairment.
Of course, just like the doctors the NFL retained, these insurance company doctors are not “independent” in way, shape, or form. Many of these insurance company “independent” doctors, commonly referred to as “IME” doctors, do not even treat patients – their entire income is derived from performing examinations on behalf of insurance companies seeking a medical report to utilize to deny a claim, decrease claim payments, and maximize the insurance company’s profits. Quite often insurance company IME doctors do not have any special certifications in evaluating or treating brain injuries.
If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury and would like more information on how to best deal with the insurance industry, please contact one of our attorneys today. We have represented not only NFL players who have suffered brain injuries while playing in the NFL, but also a wide variety of others who have suffered brain injuries including construction workers, motor vehicle operators and passengers, healthcare workers, factory workers and many other types of people who are at high risk for this type of injury.