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Insurance companies worried about brain damage in contact sports

West Virginia residents who follow football likely know that doctors have linked playing the sport to degenerative brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy. There have been numerous reports about a 2015 lawsuit that was filed against the NFL by former players worried about the consequences of repeated head trauma. The NFL settled the suit by agreeing to pay 20,000 players up to $5 million, a figure that has worried many insurance companies.

Insurance providers are concerned because the connection of contact sports with debilitating neurological conditions bears many similarities to the link between asbestos exposure and catastrophic medical conditions like asbestosis and mesothelioma. Just as they did with asbestos, the insurance sector faces a possible flood of claims related to serious medical conditions that may have gone undiagnosed for years or even decades. However, a report by S&P Global Ratings indicates that insurers are adding exclusion clauses to some of their liability policies to insulate themselves against this growing risk.

The ways that insurance companies analyze risks change when new information becomes available, and fears of class action brain damage litigation being filed by former high school or college athletes as well as professional boxers, wrestlers and football players could lead to more restrictive policies and higher premiums for many businesses. As medical science unlocks more of the mysteries of the human brain, even employers in seemingly low risk sectors could find it difficult to obtain adequate coverage.

Insurance providers are often cautious when faced with litigation, and they may urge their clients to settle lawsuits rather than take their chances in court. This caution may be fueled by fears of similar litigation, and settlement offers made at the behest of insurance companies often include non-disclosure clauses. Experienced personal injury attorneys may be familiar with these tactics, and they could agree to keep matters private in return for a more generous settlement offer or some other consideration.

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