Former Carolina Panthers running back Eric Shelton, claiming the National Football League is hypocritically just paying lip service to taking helmet-to-helmet hits seriously, has filed suit against the league’s disability plan.
The New York Times wrote about the lawsuit Tuesday in a story headlined “Ex-Player Is Suing Over Pay For Injury.”
In his lawsuit Shelton, 27, said he was withheld benefits he was due for a neck and spine injury he got during a helmet-to-helmet collision while he was at a Washington Redskins training camp. The ex-player maintained that his neck damage was permanent.
However, he only received benefits for degenerative impairments that show up more than six to 12 months after the original injury, “rather than the maximum benefit for injuries that cause immediate, permanent, harm,” The Times reported.
The NFL has basically acknowledged the dangers of, and tried to crack down, on helmet-to-helmet hits. But Shelton told The Times that the NFL is being two-faced when it puts up posters about the helmet hits and fines players for doing them, and yet on the other hand says injuries sustained in such hits are degenerative, not permanent.
You can bet that Shelton’s lawsuit will be closely watched. Now that the NFL has owned up to the dangers of helmet-to-helmet hits, after years of denial, it may have more liabiliy in hundreds of workers’ comp cases pending in California.
The NFL disability plan argues that Shelton isn’t entitled to the top-drawer disability payment because he has worked a job, at Walgreens briefly, his permanent disability did not surface within six to 12 months, according to The Times.
By being relegated to the degenerative, not permanent injury, category, Shelton’s benefits were halved from a potential $220,000 annually, The Times reported.