Can You Sue for a Concussion Suffered During Sports?
People of all ages love to play sports in California. Whether it is on the soccer field, the football field, or the baseball diamond, sports represent a rewarding, healthy pastime that allows you to get competitive in a friendly manner and strive for your top goals. Sports can bring all kinds of joy, whether it’s scoring that game-winning touchdown or making an impossible save during a penalty kick.
But sports can also cause serious injuries. Perhaps one of the most serious injuries you can possibly suffer during sports is a concussion or a traumatic head injury. This type of injury can leave you with tremendous cognitive and physical issues, creating both debilitating concerns and mental health issues. In some cases, concussions can even be fatal. But can you really sue after a concussion on the sports field? What if you lose your child or your loved one due to one of these injuries? Can you sue on their behalf?
The First-Ever Concussion Lawsuit Against the NCAA Could Go Ahead in California
On October 20th, it was reported that a concussion-related lawsuit filed against the NCAA could go to a jury – becoming the first of its kind in US history. In the past, hundreds of people have attempted to sue the NCAA for wrongful deaths associated with sports, but only one other has reached a trial. In addition, it’s worth mentioning that this single case did not actually reach a jury, while this newer case will potentially go before a jury.
This particular lawsuit centers around the career of linebacker Matthew Gee, who became famous for his role in the USC Rose Bowl-winning team back in 1990. His widow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NCAA, claiming that her late husband suffered numerous blows to the head throughout his career. She argues that these injuries directly led to his development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This degenerative brain disease allegedly set him on a path that ended with his death in 2018.
Via her lawyers, Gee’s widow stated the following in her lawsuit, which was filed in a Los Angeles court:
“For years (the NCAA) has kept players like Matthew Gee and the public in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing college athletes,” Alana Gee’s lawsuit said. “Long after they played their last game, they are left with a series of neurological conditions that could slowly strangle their brains.”
During his senior year, Gee became the team captain and led the entire team in tackles, forced fumbles, and fumbles recovered. He left the squad after graduating in 1992, and he settled down with his wife and had a family. Over the next few decades, Gee created a successful insurance company in Southern California and lived a normal life. However, things quickly went downhill in 2013, when mental health issues suddenly began to materialize. He could no longer control his emotions, struggling with both anger and depression. Gee then turned to alcohol to cope, which soon spiraled into drug use. On New Year’s Eve in 2018, he died from an apparent combination of alcohol, cocaine, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, and obesity.
On one hand, doctors have argued that substance abuse is a common symptom of brain injuries, as victims attempt to self-medicate and deal with their unstable mental health. On the other hand, the NCAA is trying to use Matt’s substance abuse as clear evidence that his death and mental health issues had nothing to do with the brain injuries he suffered during college. Instead, they claim that Gee’s mental health problems started with a traumatic childhood. Their exact statement is as follows:
“Mr. Gee used alcohol and drugs to cope with a traumatic childhood, to fill in the loss of identity he felt after his football playing days ended, and to numb the chronic and increasing pain caused by numerous health issues.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out because both points of view seem like they could be valid. The fact that this trial may go before a jury could sway this case in either direction. The jury might relate to Gee’s short, successful, and ultimately tragic football career. Or perhaps they will see evidence of Matt’s childhood trauma and subsequent drug use as proof that these mental health issues were pre-existing.
The most important thing about this case is that it may go before a jury. Regardless of its outcome, this would send a message that courts in California take football concussion lawsuits seriously. Other victims may find it easier to pursue legal action if this milestone is reached and the case goes before a jury.
The NCAA and the NFL are already making progress toward concussion safety policies. The one other concussion lawsuit that went to trial ended with a multi-million-dollar settlement in Texas, so there is definitely progress being made. In addition, doctors now have a much greater understanding of concussions and TBIs – especially when it comes to long-term, permanent effects. If you or someone you love has suffered a concussion while playing sports in California, you should assess your legal options.
Where Can I Find a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney in California?
Mary Alexander & Associates P.C. has been serving injured plaintiffs in California for many years. We know that sports can result in serious, life-altering, or life-ending brain injuries, and we are here to help athletes and family members who have suffered tremendous harm. The question of whether you can sue for concussions incurred during sports is still very much unanswered.
But new cases could change the way our legal system views these incidents, and suing might be easier than you think. If your lawsuit is successful, you may receive compensation for medical expenses, missed wages, emotional distress, and much more. If you have lost a loved one, you could receive additional compensation for funeral expenses and other damages related to this indescribable loss. Book your consultation today to get started with an effective action plan.