NHL case heads to mediation: Key lesson for brain injury victims

One key lesson from former NHL players building a brain injury claim.

The National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner recently announced the brain injury case against the league filed by a number of former players has headed to mediation. The lawsuit involves over 100 former professional hockey players that have accused the league of a failure to properly warn players of the risks associated with the game. These allegations include promotion of a violent culture and a failure to inform the players of the risk as well as a failure to better prevent the trauma in the first place.

The players allege the NHL was responsible for "putting them at a substantially higher risk for developing memory loss, depression, cognitive difficulties and even brain related diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's disease." Ultimately, the players were seeking a jury trial to hold the NHL accountable for financial damages and future medical monitoring for neurological disorders.

According to the recent announcement noted above, it does not appear likely the players will move forward with a jury trial as intended.

Why the shift to mediation as opposed to litigation? Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This form of ADR involves a neutral third party that assists the disputing parties in developing a resolution to their legal issue without using traditional litigation methods.

In this case, the move was the result of a request by a United States District Judge. Critics argue this shift does not favor the victims. Instead, there is concern the use of mediation will prove beneficial to the NHL organization.

What can other brain injury victims learn from this development? This is not the first legal obstacle for victims of brain injuries from the NHL. In July the group attempted to move forward with a bid for class-action status. If successful, the bid would have resulted in two groups. The first composed of living former NHL players and the second of retired players that have received a brain disease diagnosis. This would have allowed over 5,000 players to seek justice for their injuries. The bid was denied.

These developments provide one key lessons for victims of brain injuries: additional legal issues during a claim are not uncommon. The former players needed to navigate obstacle after obstacle while building their claim. As such, it is wise to prepare for potential issues while pursuing these types of claims.

Brain injury victims can take steps to mitigate the risks that come with building a claim. An attorney experienced in brain injury and head trauma claims can help.