With the Super Bowl just a few weeks down the road, we once again turn our attention to a topic that comes up every few years: can professional athletes get workers’ compensation benefits if they are hurt?
The answer to the question – yes, albeit with many more restrictions than when we previously wrote about the topic.
Injury must still be work-related
No matter who you are, a basic rule applies to workers’ compensation: the injury you suffer must have happened at your job or be work related. This means that whether you are a star athlete or an average Joe or Jane, you can’t get workers’ comp benefits for non-work-related injuries such as hurting your hand in a fireworks accident.
Not as easy as it used to be for pros to get benefits
Until 2015, athletes were able to file for workers’ comp in nearly any state they wanted to. If they played a game in that state, they were covered by the state’s workers’ comp laws. This meant that most professional athletes filed for workers’ comp in California, as they considered the law and the benefits to be more favorable. In 2014, the NFL successfully lobbied California lawmakers to stop accepting claims from anyone other than players on California-based teams. This led to a massive rush of claims being filed before the law went into effect in 2015.
What happens today?
The majority of states still do not have specific provisions in their workers’ comp laws pertaining to pro athletes. However, the closure of California as a “workers’ comp haven” often means that athletes need to file for benefits in the states where their teams are based.
So, when a Colorado-based player suffers an injury suffers an injury, such as when Broncos player DeMarcus Ware fractured his ulna during a game earlier this year, any workers’ comp claims will likely be filed in Colorado.
But I’m not a pro athlete…
Workers’ compensation is designed to protect ALL workers, so if you’ve been injured at work, find out what benefits you can collect.