In terms of personal injury law, negligence can be a tricky thing to prove. An injured party has to show that another party's action (or lack of action) led to the injury, and that the accused party breached a duty of care owed to the plaintiff.
As Americans have come to learn more about the causes and long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries, more athletes have sought to prove negligence in personal injury lawsuits. Recently two former University of Missouri football players filed suit against the NCAA, claiming that the association was aware of or should have been aware of the brain-injury risks faced by college players.
Professional football players' grievances over brain injuries have been widely reported, and this past summer the National Football League tentatively agreed to pay $765 million to about 4,500 former athletes who claimed that the league was negligent with regard to players' head injuries.
Now the two former Mizzou players, who played for the university more than two decades ago, say that football-related head injuries have led to ongoing symptoms, including depression, dizziness, headaches, impulsiveness and sleep problems.
One former player, Sharron D. Washington, says he experienced memory loss after being hit in a game in 1990. According to the lawsuit, a year later he suffered a hit that resulted in dizziness for a week.
The other plaintiff, Anthony VanZant, claims that hits during games and practices left him with traumatic brain injuries, and that after a knee injury that prevented him from playing for a year, he fell into alcohol abuse and depression.
Missouri residents who have suffered a serious head injury can probably relate with the difficulties described by these players. While the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may be all too clear, proving that another party's negligence led to the injury is another matter. Individuals and families seeking to hold a negligent party accountable would be wise to consult with an attorney with experience in establishing liability in personal injury claims.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Ex-Mizzou football players file concussion suit against NCAA," Robert Patrick, Dec. 6, 2013