Inside the Panthers

Former Panthers S Haruki Nakamura suing insurance company after career-ending concussion

Carolina Panthers (43) safety Haruki Nakamura suffered a concussion in the Aug. 29, 2013 exhibition against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He hasn’t played football since. Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers (43) safety Haruki Nakamura suffered a concussion in the Aug. 29, 2013 exhibition against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He hasn’t played football since. Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

According to a lawsuit filed in Mecklenburg County on Monday, the NFL has told former Carolina Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura that not only can he no longer play football due to concussion symptoms, but that he is unable to return to any kind of employment for money.

But Nakamura still has not collected on a $1 million insurance policy he took out with an insurer before the 2012 season with the Panthers, and now he’s taking them to court.

Nakamura, 30, filed the suit this week against Lloyd’s of London seeking $3 million in damages, interest and lawyer fees. Neither the NFL nor the Panthers are named as defendants.

The suit, reported by the New York Times, alleges the NFL’s retirement board ruled Nakamura “totally and permanently” disabled by a concussion suffered in Carolina’s 2013 exhibition against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Nakamura was diagnosed with a concussion at Carolinas Medical Center, placed on injured reserve and then released before the start of the season. He reached an injury settlement with the Panthers and has not played since.

Nakamura, who now lives in Mooresville, had the insurance in place at least a year before the concussion.

According to the lawsuit, the underwriters for Lloyd’s of London denied his claim based on three factors: if he had post-concussive syndrome, if the condition was solely attributed to the hit against the Steelers and if he could return to the league.

“It is my medical opinion with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Nakamura is able to participate in his occupation of professional football player,” Dr. Manish Fodzar wrote, according to the lawsuit. “Whether to return to previous career is a deliberate decision he would have to take based on several considerations including probably long-term effects of repetitive concussions, both past and future.”

Nakamura played in the NFL for five seasons, with his first four coming with the Baltimore Ravens.

He signed a three-year contract with the Panthers before the 2012 season worth $4.8 million. Though he had two interceptions in 13 games played in 2012, he’s most remembered for giving up a 59-yard completion late in a game against the Falcons that ultimately led to Atlanta’s game-winning field goal.

Because the NFL’s retirement board found him unable to play again, he’s eligible to receive $10,000 a month in disability benefits.

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