Readers will recall that the state of California passed new rules last September that tightened up the requirements for professional athletes to qualify for workers' compensation. The legislation effectively prevents athletes who spent a small portion of their career in California from obtaining compensation for their injuries.
The controversial law was a good thing for the NFL and other leagues, which helped get it passed. They believed the law could prevent them from having to cover workers' compensation claims from athletes who were abusing the generosity of the system. Unfortunately for the NFL and other professional sports leagues, there was a significant cost to getting that legislation passed. Prior to the effective date of September 15, 2013, a boatload of last-minute claims were filed, due in part to the fact that debates over the legislation were so public.
The spike in workers' comp claims was not unexpected, but the sheer number of claims was. The count of claims in the first two weeks of September, alone, was roughly 10 times greater than the average number of monthly filings since 2011. Many of the claims against the NFL involved brain or head injury, which isn't surprising.
The benefit system, of course, is a critical protection for those who get injured in the course of their work. Because receipt of injury assistance in California removes an injured workers' right to sue his or her employer, it is important that those covered by workers' compensation know their rights and how to work effectively with their employer and insurance to obtain adequate coverage.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "NFL workers' comp victory comes at a price," Armand Emamdjomeh, Ken Bensinger, February 1, 2014.