Concussion Lawsuits against Higher Education Institutions Consolidated into Class-Action

In recent years there has been significant attention placed on the long-term effects of frequent and severe concussions on athletes, especially those playing football at all levels. In the higher education insurance world, we have been keenly aware that the concussion claims against colleges and universities seen to date were likely just the tip of the iceberg.

A recent article by The Oklahoman is starting to reveal the true depth of that iceberg. The article indicated that “Approximately 100 class-action lawsuits against university athletic programs, claiming insufficient concussion protocol going back decades, have been consolidated.” The federal court in Chicago ordered both sides to select two cases to be representative of the entire class-action focused on personal injury claims.

In light of these recent lawsuits and studies of the effects of concussion on student athletes, higher education institutions should carefully consider all existing and future insurance coverages. Reliance on current or prior insurance policies is not a guarantee. Although prior policies may not have specifically addressed concussion-related losses, there may be inherent restrictions if:

  • Your coverage is or was written on a claims-made form.
  • The limits are not adequate.
  • There were other exclusions or terms which preclude coverage.

Going forward, insurance carriers are paying more attention to what coverage they will or will not provide. We are seeing more restriction or absolute exclusion of coverage on the primary General Liability and/or Excess Layer. So make sure you review your policy, discuss it with agent, and confirm your understanding of how insurance coverage may respond in the event claim regarding your institution's athletic programs.

To learn more about the pending case, please read the full article from The Oklahoman.

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