Proposed California Bill Would Bar Retired Athletes from Seeking Worker’s Comp in the State

California Proposes a Bill Preventing Disabled Athletes from Receiving Worker’s Comp from Out of State

Retired professional athletes, who suffered debilitating injuries through their careers, have been using a lax California worker’s comp law to receive additional disability benefits.

According to the current worker’s comp law, anyone who lived and worked in California is eligible for worker’s comp benefits in California state court, regardless of their current residence. Retired athletes, who may have only played one or two games in California, are using this law to receive additional financial support not offered through disability or worker’s comp insurance from their leagues.

Both sports leagues and insurers are working to stop this practice, and now a bill, unveiled on Monday, February 25th, would ban retired athletes from receiving worker’s comp benefits in California if they played “relatively few games” in the state, according to the LA Times.

Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Henry Perea sponsored the bill, and the legislation is backed by owners of football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer teams. The bill would bar athletes from filing claims for cumulative trauma, although years of stress related to constant physical work and abuse often affect players for the rest of their lives. About 4,500 out-of-state players have used the current worker’s comp legislation since the 1980’s, receiving around $747 million in awards.

The new bill proposes that workers must live and work in California for at least 90 days before being eligible for worker’s comp benefits. It will also only affect players from the big five sports mentioned, and would not apply to members of other professions such as truck drivers, horse racing jockeys, and salesmen.

Proponents of the new bill argue that a glut of retired out-of-state athletes has clogged the worker’s comp courts, making it harder for California residents to receive timely decisions on their benefits. They also say that the large payouts to retired athletes contributes to higher insurance costs for in-state employers.

Retired Athletes Argue that Worker’s Comp in California Keeps Them Afloat

Although retired athletes appear to be abusing the law, and residents of California, many argue that it is the only way they can receive enough financial compensation to treat life-long injuries they received while playing professional sports.

According to many athletes, league disability benefits do not adequately cover ongoing injuries and pain.

“California is a last resort for a lot of these guys because they’ve already been cut off in the other states,” said Mel Owens, a former Los Angeles Rams linebacker who is now a compensation lawyer.

Players also argue that league owners are simply looking for ways to boost profits in an already hugely profitable industry. If they limit or eliminate financial assistance to severely-injured ex-athletes, they reduce their overhead, even if it is at the expense of former players.

Worker’s comp comes from league insurance, regardless of which court awards the worker’s comp claim. California tax payers are not responsible for payouts to out-of-state athletes.

“The actual answer to this problem is not a state-by-state decision,” suggested Frank Neuhauser, executive director of the Center for the Study of Social Insurance at UC Berkeley. “The leagues should negotiate with the players associations to resolve how to handle these cases in the future…. The players need coverage for these diseases that they got playing for teams that made billions of dollars.”

The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation

The work-injury 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.