SBD/September 26, 2013/Sports In Society

Study Shows California Workers' Comp Claims Made By Athletes In Numerous Sports

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar filed a workers' comp claim in California in '09
Over the "past two decades, more than 2,500 claims have been filed by former baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer players against their former teams in California’s workers’ compensation system," according to Bensinger, Emamdjomeh & Moore of the L.A. TIMES. In the "past six years, more than 940 of them ... have made filings alleging serious brain and head injuries." The claims were isolated as part of an L.A. Times "analysis of more than 3 million filings made" to the California Division of Workers’ Compensation. Although the "total number of claims from all other sports combined is significantly smaller than those made by football players, which number nearly 5,000, the data are a clear indication of the lasting toll professional sports leave on all athletes." They also help explain why MLB, the NHL, the NBA, the WNBA and MLS "joined the NFL in a push to pass legislation in California that would seriously restrict such claims in the future." If Gov. Jerry Brown signs it into law, it would "preclude all athletes who played for non-California teams, as well as many California athletes, from making claims for the most serious types of injuries, incurred over time and known as cumulative trauma." The leagues, as well as their insurers, said that the claims "should not be filed in California." However, the players unions in each sport "retort that such claims are generally not permitted in other states due to narrow definitions of cumulative trauma or expired statutes of limitations." Organized labor "worries that the measure potentially opens the door for future legislation that could deprive workers in other industries of their ability to file here." Because teams and their insurers "pay the entirety of costs of successful claims without a dime of taxpayer money, unions argue that the bill would amount to a huge handout to billionaire owners of professional teams" (L.A. TIMES, 9/25).
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