For those fighting to get the disability benefits that they believe they are entitled to it can seem like an unfair, uphill struggle that may never end, and if it does, not in their favor. It’s easy for them to want to give up, as they see themselves as the ‘little guy’ who doesn’t stand a chance.
In June, a New York Times piece about the trials and tribulations of former NFL player Haruki Nakamura went some way to proving that the frustrations that beset those attempting to claim disability benefits is not, however, just something that the “Average Joe’ encounters.
For those unfamiliar with him or his case Haruki Nakamura played in the NFL as a safety for the Baltimore Orioles and the Carolina Panthers from 2008 to 2012. He was a major college prospect and was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the draft. In 2012 his promising career was cut short however, when, after suffering a particularly severe concussion, Nakamura was advised to retire.
Haruki is now in the process of suing to get disability benefits due to the fact that his work-related injury ended his career. He is one of many NFL players doing so, but many of their cases have yet to be heard.
According to Rose Burberry-Martin, marketing director at Chisholm, Chisholm, and Kilpatrick “It was remarkable even to me in reading the complaint and the article that Mr. Nakamura was confronted the same issues as our clients. It just goes to show that even if you’re well off and famous – you can still get the wrong end of an insurance company’s cruelty.”
Which were the points that he was referring to? Here are just a few:
The Insurers Put Up Ridiculous Barriers – According to Mr. Nakamura’s attorneys the insurer considering his claim, Lloyds of London, made it virtually impossible for him to comply with many of their requests. They made repeated requests for the same documents, claimed to ‘lose documents’ and in some cases altering certain documents to better suit their case.
This is a common frustration that the “Average Joe” claimant often goes through as well. And if a person who made a million a year as a player and who has access to at least one personal assistant could not keep up with the insurers tactics it is easy to see why so many others, who made a lot less money and have no PA, struggle to do so as well.
Dealing with an Injury That is Hard to Prove – Concussions in sports – especially in the NFL – are one of the mostly hotly debated issues facing sports today. A huge number of respected medical professionals back the claim that the hits players take, and the resulting concussions, can impair their health and their lives forever and yet both the insurers and the NFL themselves are still hotly disputing these claims.
In Nakamura’s case his attorneys claimed that Lloyds repeatedly ignored opinions from some of these respected professionals regarding his case, and relied on the opinions of a hired medical expert of their own whose credentials in the field were paltry compared to those giving opinions on Nakamura’s behalf.
The expert for the insurance company even went as far to opine that the former safety could quite possibly have returned to the field, if he were just ‘more careful’ in avoiding injury, even though from Panthers’ team doctors on up he was told he had a career ending injury. The expert offered no opinion on how an NFL safety was supposed to avoid hits, just that he should.
Once again, this is common in in most cases. Expert opinions are of varying quality and often an insurer’s expert makes ridiculous claims about what a claimant should be able to do, even though basic common sense, let alone medical opinion, would tell any reasonable person otherwise.
Nakamura’s case is still ongoing and the lesson to be taken from it is that insurers are not prejudiced, they are equal opportunity abusers, as willing to refuse the claims of a former NFL star as they are to refuse those of a former truck driver, or other ‘Average Joe’. This underlines the importance of working with an attorney, as if they will even have sometimes uphill battle, what chance does anyone really stand if they are acting alone?