California Governor Signs Controversial New Workers Comp Legislation Into Law
The bill, officially named AB 1309, places limits on the ability of former professional athletes to file workers comp claims in California. The state is one of the few in the nation that recognizes cumulative trauma in workers comp claims, and previously had relatively lax legislation for out-of-state workers, which including professional athletes.
AB 1309 was proposed by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea in February as a way to help prevent exploitation and reduce problems in the California workers comp system. Perea and other supporters of the bill believe that the huge number of workers comp claims from out of state pro athletes overburdens the workers comp court system in California, preventing residential workers’ claims from being resolved in a timely fashion. Professional athletes often receive large awards as well, which hurts employers in the state. And, proponents argue, athletes already receive insurance and medical benefits from the league, plus workers comp benefits in their home states.
The bill was heavily promoted by major sports leagues, including Major League Baseball and the National Football League.
“This new law sets reasonable standards to close an expensive loophole unique to California and to professional sports,” Dennis Kuhl, chairman of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball team, said in a statement.
Opponents of the bill included retired professional athletes and their unions, who argue that major sports’ leagues insurance does not cover enough cumulative trauma, including head injuries and mobility-limiting problems like arthritis. In order to receive any medical care after insurance and in-state workers comp dries up, the athletes argue, they must turn to California.
“It’s a sellout to the billionaire owners” of professional teams, said Melissa Brown, a workers’ compensation attorney in Sacramento. “Players are suffering these terrible injuries, especially the older ones. They are going to be without a remedy.”
The new legislation comes after reports of a $765 million settlement between the NFL and 4,500 former players who sued the league for improperly handling concussions and traumatic brain injury.
The bill is retroactive to September 15th, when it passed California’s Senate, so any out-of-state workers comp claims from professional athletes since that date are invalid.
Modesto Diaz, a Santa Ana workers’ compensation attorney specializing in athletes, said that the bill took advantage of “an unsuspecting Legislature and an uninformed general public.” The irony of the legislation, in his mind, is that workers comp claims did not affect California residents’ taxes, but now professional athletes will have to turn to Social Security and Medicaid for assistance, which will affect tax payers.
“Taxpayers are going to wind up footing the bill for the treatment these people are going to need down the road,” Diaz said.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.