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Professional athletes and the lure of California's work comp laws - II

In our previous post, we discussed how California's favorable workers' compensation laws caused many professional athletes to file work comp claims there and how this state of affairs prompted the professional sports leagues to start pressing state lawmakers to take steps to change the work comp laws as they related to professional athletes.

Here, the efforts collective efforts of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League culminated in the passage of Assembly Bill 1309, which was signed into law on Oct. 8.

Under the provisions of AB 1309, professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer players who spent the majority of their careers playing for franchises outside California are now essentially prohibited from filing work comp claims there.

While the major sports leagues lauded the measure as a great victory, many legal experts are now saying that it won't come without a steep short-term cost.

Prior to AB 1309's passage in late August, a provision was added that made it retroactive to September 15, such that any work comp claims filed after that date by out-of-state professional athletes would be considered invalid.

Experts indicate that this deadline coupled with the high profile nature of the measure prompted well over 1,000 work comp claims to be filed by professional athletes in a short timeframe, a reality that could cost the sports leagues millions of dollars.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 1,044 work comp claims were filed during the first two weeks of September 2013 (569 against NFL teams, 283 against MLB teams, 113 against NHL teams and 79 against NBA teams).
  • 1,980 work comp claims were filed from the time the bill was introduced in February to the September deadline; By comparison, there were 1,170 filed in all of 2012.
  • 70 percent of the 1044 work comp claims filed during the first two weeks of September 2013 were for head/brain injuries caused by repetitive trauma.

"There's no question that a lot of guys would never have filed if not for all the hoopla over the bill," said one work comp attorney. "From my perspective, it's good news, because a lot of these guys have serious medical problems and need help."

Some of the notable names who filed claims before the September deadline included Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Randy Johnson, and Clyde Drexler.

While these claims could cost the leagues millions, experts have also pointed out that the number of work comp claims filed by professional athletes has dropped dramatically since the September deadline. Indeed, only 49 work comp claims were filed by professional athletes in the six weeks after the deadline.

It remains to be seen, however, whether advocacy groups and/or work comp attorneys decide to mount a constitutional challenge to AB 1309.

Those who suffer debilitating injuries on the job here in Chicago should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney about their rights and their options concerning workers' compensation.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "NFL workers' comp victory comes at a price," Armand Emamdjomeh and Ken Bensinger, Feb. 1, 2014  

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