At our law firm, we represent professional athletes in their claims for disability insurance. Pro athletes are of course at higher risk than most people of serious work injury because of the dangerous nature of high-level athletic performance on a regular basis. Whether disability results from one severe mishap or accident in the course of a game, match or performance; from ongoing, repetitive motion or movement; or from something unrelated to sport participation, we advocate for our athlete-clients to recover their rightful disability insurance benefits.

An example of an NBA player injury

A tragic scenario occurred recently when NBA’s Chandler Parsons, 31, was involved in an Atlanta three-vehicle accident on Jan. 15. Currently signed with the Atlanta Hawks, Parsons sustained multiple, severe injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, herniated disc and shoulder injury in the collision allegedly caused by a drunk driver, according to Sports Illustrated.

While it is unknown whether Parsons has a disability insurance policy, his is the type of impairment that a professional athlete could face as potentially ending their career.

Disability insurance claim approval can be an uphill battle

Elite athletes may elect to purchase individual long-term disability insurance policies privately or buy into group policies through their professional sports employers or associations. Unfortunately, disability insurers all too often wrongly deny these claims.

Disability insurers may balk at the high cost of athletes’ claims because the policy payouts are likely linked to costly salary levels. For example, Parsons was in the last year of his contract with the Hawks – a year in which he was to be paid $25.1 million, reports Sports Illustrated. At these dollar levels – and higher ones – insurers know the claim payouts will be expensive. But a contract is a contract.

Legal counsel can advocate for athletes’ claims and cut through the red tape

It is a good idea for an attorney to become involved, if possible, at the claim application stage. A lawyer can see that the athlete undergoes the medical assessments necessary to establish the extent of injury as well as future prognoses. Specifically, medical professionals should clearly establish the limits on physical and mental abilities so that the insurer has detailed evidence on which to base its claim analysis.

In addition, legal counsel can assist with completing insurance company forms and responding to requests for information. Counsel will know the meaning of legal jargon and policy language and be able to respond appropriately.

Should the insurer deny the claim, a lawyer can represent the athlete-claimant on review and appeal, taking care to meet deadlines and helping the client respond to requests for records, information and further medical examinations. An experienced disability insurance attorney will carefully analyze the entire policy to understand what its provisions require and how to support the claim. If necessary, the claimant can appeal the denial to court, getting the opportunity to present the claim to a neutral judicial body.