Are You Ready for Some Football? . . . What About Workers’ Comp Claims from Football Players?

08/05/2011

Thank the heavens, the lawyers, the love of football, or of money – whatever the case may be – it just doesn’t matter, because football is back baby! After months of difficult, and often infuriating, contract negotiations football is set to return, on schedule – well, almost. And no worries, both the owners and the players will continue to get paid the big bucks. You can read more about the negotiations leading up to the new collective bargaining agreement by Clicking Here.

 

So, other than the fact that I am a huge football fan, why am I writing about the NFL in a workers’ compensation blog? Well, it should come as no surprise that playing football in the NFL is tantamount to “heavy labor.” Players can suffer serious injuries while working within the course and scope of their employment. But what you may not know is, although the ‘headline issues’ during the lock-out included salaries for draft picks, division of league revenues, practice and game schedules, another issue during negotiations of the collective bargaining agreement was workers’ compensation. Basically, the league wanted to require players to file claims within their “home” state – the state in which their team, i.e, their employer, is based. Seems reasonable, right?
Workers’ compensation is largely a creature of state law. Each state has its own statutes and regulations regarding the amount and duration of benefits an injured worker is entitled to receive. And each state has its own statutes and regulations regarding the requirements an injury or injured worker must meet in order to receive benefits in a particular state – a.k.a. ‘jurisdiction.’ The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an individual can file for workers compensation benefits in any state that has jurisdiction. Thus, it is important to know the jurisdictional requirements of the states in which you operate so as to avoid unlawful “jurisdiction shopping,” which is when injured workers “shop” for the state with the most generous benefits. And this is exactly what the NFL players have been doing, and what the league was trying to curtail.
The loophole, which the league tried, unsuccessfully, to close during this past lock out, allows players to file workers’ compensation claims in states where their teams are not based, so long as the particular state’s jurisdictional requirements are satisfied. The resulting problem is that many retired NFL players file claims in California, which has among the most generous benefits provisions in the country, because they only need to have played one game in the state to qualify for benefits. Some of these players have received awards or settlements worth more than $100,000.00; whereas, it is likely that they would not have received such generous compensation in their home states. And this is continuing to cost the teams in inflated insurance premiums, and the insurance companies in inflated benefits.
The moral of this story? For employers, contact us or your broker to ensure that you have proper workers’ compensation insurance coverage in every state in which your employees could legally file a claim. And for carriers and adjusters, contact us anytime you have a “foreign” injury to ensure that claims are filed in appropriate jurisdictions.
To read more about the impact of workers’ compensation in the recent NFL lock out, see Business Insurance, “NFL players’ deal will allow workers compensation claims in other states,” Jeff Casale, 26 July 2011.
Pre-Season begins August 11, 2011 7:30 p.m. Are you ready?!

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