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California legislators vote to limit athletes' workers' comp

California and eight other states allow workers to file workers' compensation claims for cumulative trauma injuries. Athletes can also file these claims, but a bill almost unanimously approved by the state Assembly would greatly limit the number of athletes who could file claims for cumulative injuries.

In particular, the bill, which is opposed by the Labor Federation and the California Labor Coalition, would disallow professional athletes from filing cumulative injury claims if the athletes' careers were spent predominantly in other states.

The bill, if passed by the state Senate, would affect players of baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey.

The one Assemblyman who voted against the bill -- Assemblyman Roger Hernandez -- argued that athletes working (or playing, rather) in California should have the same rights as other workers to file for benefits in the state's compensation system.

"If these athletes were speeding down our roads, breaking our laws here," said Hernandez, "they would be subject to California law."

Assembly members who support the bill argued that letting out-of-state players receive workers' compensation places too great of a burden on the system and drives up insurance costs.

Labor groups say the bill, AB1309, only benefits team owners who want to avoid responsibility for their employees' health and safety.

In particular, the legislation would give an athlete a one-year window to file a claim after a doctor's diagnosis or after the player's last game. The player would also not be allowed to file a California workers' compensation claim if the athlete spent more than 20 percent of his or her career with an out-of-state team from which the athlete is retiring.

The bill will now be considered by the state Senate.

As workers' compensation laws change in California, injured workers in every industry would do well to meet with a workers' comp attorney. Since employers are widely known to use their available resources to limit payouts and deny claims, knowing your legal options is the surest way of receiving the full amount of due compensation.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Bill Limits California Workers' Compensation for Pro Athletes," Laura Olson, May 20, 2013

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