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CA Legislature passes worker's compensation reform bill

The California legislature recently began efforts to pass a bill limiting the ability of athletes to claim worker's compensation benefits from the state of California. The bill is being pushed by professional sports leagues, including those from hockey, soccer, basketball, and baseball, who are trying to close a loophole in California's worker's compensation law. Currently, the law allows athletes to claim benefits even if they have never played for a California-based team. The law permitted players to collect benefits without linking their claims to a specific injury, and allowed them to collect benefits years after they retired, due to the liberal interpretations of the statute of limitations by California judges. The bill passed the Assembly Insurance Committee, and will go to the assembly for further debate.

As a result of California's policies on worker's compensation, the state has become a haven for players filing claims, and claims filed by non-California athletes have grown since the mid-2000's, clogging up dockets and causing insurance companies to raise their rates on employers. A study commissioned by the sports leagues found that the increase in claims could force the worker's compensation premiums for all California workers by 1.3 percent. The bill to close the loophole does have some detractors, who argue that singling out a specific group of workers to limit their benefits would lead to other groups who work out of state, such as truck drivers and salespeople, being singled out, as well.

Athletes face a great potential for workplace injuries, due to the competitive and physical nature of their occupation. Injuries such as sprained ankles, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries can cause a tremendous financial burden due to medical bills and lost wages. For this reason, worker's compensation benefits paid by the sports team are a necessity for athletes.

Any worker injured on the job is entitled to claim worker's compensation benefits. The benefits may cover lost wages, medical expenses, any temporary or permanent disability incurred, and any other necessary expenses. A workplace accident or injury need not cost a worker's family valuable and precious money.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Pro Sports Leagues win legislative round on worker's comp," Marc Lifsher, April 24, 2013

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