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

California has made headlines in the area of both workers' compensation law and professional sports over the last year thanks to its passage of Assembly Bill 1309, a measure designed to prohibit the majority of athletes from filing work comp claims in that state.

Prior to the passage of AB 1309, California was viewed as a state whose work comp laws were exceptionally favorable to professional athletes. That's because it not only recognized claims for cumulative injuries/trauma, but also allowed athletes who never played for a California-based franchise to file a claim there provided they participated in at least one game or one practice in the state.

Furthermore, the state's one-year statute of limitation for filing a claim was waived when workers (i.e., athletes) weren't properly notified of their ability to pursue workers' comp.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this state of legal affairs led many former athletes -- particularly those suffering from latent medical conditions who were out of work comp options elsewhere -- to file claims in the Golden State.

However, knowledge of California's favorable work comp laws seemed to peak between January 2006 and April 2013, as roughly 4,400 cumulative trauma claims -- seven times more than the amount filed over the previous 15 years -- were filed by professional athletes.

In fact, 66 percent of these work comp claims were filed by athletes naming non-California franchises as the employer responsible for paying their work comp costs.

This spike in work comp claims prompted the professional sports leagues -- National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League -- to start pressing California lawmakers to take steps to change the work comp laws as they related to professional athletes. This, in turn, culminated in the passage of AB 1309.

To be continued ...

Those who suffer debilitating work injuries 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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