The following is a summary of workers compensation benefits available to you in California. The benefits available to you include an award for permanent disability, medical care for life for work-related problems, re-training (Vocational Rehabilitation), and a possible life pension.
Because the law of California is unique, our office is able to process claims for former players even if they retired many years ago, and even if they spent their entire careers playing for teams outside the State of California.
SUMMARY OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS & PROCEDURE
What follows is a brief survey of the laws that exist in the State of California that were enacted to protect both athletes and other injured workers.
The California workers’ compensation system was designed to provide cash and health-care benefits to injured workers. Professional athletes are covered. Professional sports teams provide benefits to their athlete “employees” by purchasing workers’ compensation insurance. Once your claim is filed, it is processed against the insurance company, not the team, except in those rare instances where the team is permissibly self-insured.
Compensation is awarded for specific injuries and for cumulative injuries (those that occur from wear and tear over the player’s entire career, also called cumulative trauma). The benefits vary and depend on the degree of disability to the athlete and the time period when he played. The amount of recovery may also be impacted by a recent change in the California workers’ compensation law, effective January 1, 2005. In California, it would not be unusual for a player who retired during the period of 1994 to the present time to receive a tax-free award within the range of $80,000.00 to $250,000.00. A player who played during earlier periods would likely receive less. These are just common ranges and an individual case could result in recoveries smaller or larger than the cited examples. Moreover, this is not meant as a representation of the value of your individual claim.
An athlete that is rated 70% or more disabled may qualify for a pension the rest of his life. The pensions are mostly modest and generally fall within the range of $4,000.00 to $7,500.00 a year. Most professional athletes who file claims have disability ratings within the range of 50% to 90%.
As an athlete you are entitled to a re-training expense of up to $16,000.00. These funds may be used to complete a college education or go to trade school. Part of this money is used to pay the player $246.00 a week while he attends college or trade school.
Every injured athlete is eligible to apply. It is generally true athletes that leave their chosen sport are in worse condition than when they began. Most athletes experience some level of joint pain and restrictions in work capacity.
If the team or teams have not informed the athlete of his rights to workers’ compensation benefits and the athlete was not otherwise aware of his rights, it is likely that he can still file a claim in California. This exception is not available in most other states.
That is very likely under the current law. An athlete who is regularly employed in California may file a claim in California. The courts have held that “regular employment” includes an athlete playing for an out-of-state team coming into California to play games.
Yes, it is to one degree or another. However, the benefits available to you vary from state to state.
Nothing. Workers’ Compensation claims are processed by attorneys who work under a contingency agreement, which means there is no charge unless there is a recovery. Our office will also arrange for a disability evaluation, complete with x-rays and MRI’s at no cost to you. In California, the current allowed fee is 15% to 18% of the recovery. For complex cases, such as athlete injury cases which involve multiple injuries and often multiple employers, the Santa Ana Board has allowed attorney fees up to 18%. We generally apply for an 18% fee. This Summary was not meant to be exhaustive of the governing laws; rather, it was prepared as an introduction to the field. Moreover, while an athlete may have a valid claim this summary should not be taken as a guarantee that all claims will be successful or, if successful, that the amount recovered will fall within the range indicated earlier.