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Unlike most laborers, professional athletes accept a certain level of risk as part of their daily jobs. Especially for high contact sports such as football, the chance of serious injury is a constant threat to their career. However, back in early 2014, the National Football League nudged the California State Legislature to pass a law banning professional athletes from filing workers compensation claims in the state. The backlash of this legislation was immediate. Over 1,000 NFL players filed claims to try and receive some kind of benefit before the deadline for coverage ended in September 2015.
While you may think that professional athletes know all about the risks of a career ending injury and make enough money to cover the costs even if it does happen, this could not be further from the truth. Not all professional athletes make six-figure incomes – or even close to it. Many of them go to work on a regular basis for a paycheck just like the rest of us. Furthermore, the individuals affected by the ruling are not limited to professional ball players. Many athletes, including gymnasts, dancers, and Cirque du Soleil performers, may also find they cannot claim benefits. If they suffer an injury, they have to settle for lost wages and come up with the associated medical expenses on their own.
Many laborers know about occupational risks ahead of time, and they still receive compensation if injured on the job. Oil rig workers and construction workers, for instance, know the risks that come with working in dangerous environments, but their ability to claim workers’ compensation benefits makes that risk easier to manage.
Even though most states require every employer to provide workers’ compensation benefits for employees, when it comes to sports, which can be more dangerous than the average job, employers are not required to pay a dime. They are no longer responsible for providing benefits to players who might suffer a catastrophic injury playing on the field, even though actors and other entertainment employees can still file for workers’ compensation. There is no good reason for professional athletes to be banned from doing the same.
The average career span of NFL players is 3.5 years, meaning that most professional athletes often only have a limited career timeframe. Yet they are supposed to make that salary last years and cover the costs for potential injuries. Not having the ability to collect benefits from workers’ compensation means those injured face greater difficulty when coming out of the league and are forced to try and find alternative occupations under sometimes dire circumstances.
You will find many differing perspectives on our state’s laws, but a truly fair answer to the question lies in an alternative to the workers’ compensation ban in California. These athletes face an incredible risk as they strive to perform at the top of their game and earn the respect and financial support of their fans. They deserve some type of benefit to help mitigate that risk and allow them to continue to perform at a highly competitive level. Even a workers’ compensation law that increased restrictions on the types of claims filed would be a better solution than a universal ban.
Until the laws change to support professional athletes, there are alternative legal remedies that may improve a professional’s ability to manage a job-related injury. Those caused by negligence, for instance, may be eligible for a personal injury claim. Our team at DiMarco Araujo Montevideo can help you find the answers you need to start recovering from a life-altering injury. For more information about legal remedies for athletes or anyone who has been injured, reach out to our team to get started today.