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Arizona Workers Comp Law Will Bar Pro Athletes from Filing Claims Out-of-State

Bill in the House Will Prevent Out-of-State Workers Comp Claims for Arizona Residents

On Wednesday, March 6th, a bill updating Arizona’s workers comp laws, previously passed by the Arizona Senate, was approved by a House Committee. The new bill aims specifically to prevent professional athletes living in Arizona from filing workers comp claims out-of-state – especially in California, which has lenient workers comp laws.

The bill requires that any workers comp claim for medical care or lost wages made by those employed by Arizona-based companies be filed in Arizona. That means that the claims would go specifically through Arizona courts, and would be governed by Arizona – a state that has much more stringent workers comp laws.

However, the driving force behind the bill appears to be two major sports teams in Arizona, who seem to be trying to limit their liability.

The bill would have a huge impact on retired baseball and football players in the state. According to Arizona workers comp legislation, claims must be filed within the first year of injury to secure medical help and compensation for lost wages.

According to Ned Ehrlich, an attorney for the NFL Players Association, the real problems with sports injuries occur after the first year. He described football as having “essentially a 100 percent injury rate” for players.

Professional athletes often have one-year contracts with teams. During that time, the team will provide medical care for any injuries sustained during that season. However, once the contract is up, the team is not obligated to provide care anymore. Ehrlich noted that athletes do not often think about the need to file for workers comp during their one-year contract, because their injury is being treated.

Arizona Argues that Workers Comp Legislation Is Not the Only Path for Professional Athletes

For professional athletes, long-lasting injuries such as joint damage and traumatic brain injury can require lifelong medical help, which has led athletes to file workers comp claims in the state of California, which has more lenient workers comp legislation.

Jim Stabler, chief counsel for the State Compensation Fund of Arizona, said that the state does provide compensation for “cumulative injuries,” but he acknowledged that the legislation was not as “squishy” as California’s laws.

Meanwhile, California lawmakers have proposed legislation to make rules for out-of-state workers comp claims stricter, so that professional athletes who played relatively few games in the state, and who do not currently reside in California, wouldn’t tie up the court system with expensive claims.

Matt Nussbaum, an attorney for the Major League Baseball Players Association, spoke with Arizona House lawmakers on Wednesday. He said that the Diamondbacks – which, according to attorney Nona Lee, have been beset by dozens of claims filed by former players through the California court system – tried to get an in-state requirement added to the collective bargaining agreement, but were unsuccessful.

“[Retired athletes are] basically, to my mind, looking for a second bite at the apple and looking to get secure what they couldn’t get in the context of private, arms-length negotiation through collective bargaining,” he told lawmakers.

The revised workers comp legislation in Arizona passed by a 7-2 vote.

The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation

The work-injury lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.



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