Posted: Monday April 15, 2013 4:01 PM

Pro athletes fight limits on Calif. workers' comp

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Professional athletes who spent years getting pummeled on the field and wearing out their muscles on the court are fighting a proposal in the California Legislature to prevent players for out-of-state teams from collecting workers' compensation benefits in California.

California is one of nine states that allow professional athletes from out-of-state teams to seek workers' compensation awards, which are paid by their employers. A bill by Assemblymen Henry Perea, D-Fresno, would allow only players from California teams to claim workers' compensation and would shorten the filing period for claims.

Proponents of AB1309 say out-of-state players abuse California's broad workers' compensation rules by filing claims here even when they have received awards elsewhere. Allowing non-residents to use the system increases costs for state taxpayers, they say.

"Professional athletes have every right to file for workers' comp benefits - but they should do so in their home state or in the state where they were principally employed,'' Perea said in a news release promoting the bill.

A dozen of the state's professional sports teams, including the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, and several insurance companies are backing the measure.

More than 30 former athletes, including former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver J.J. Stokes and ex-Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jim Everett, were expected to speak out against the measure Monday at an event outside the state Capitol. The former professional football and basketball players will be joined by the executive director of the National Football League Players Association, the union representing those athletes.

The California Labor Federation and Consumer Attorneys of California are backing the players and opposing the legislation. They argue that some injuries athletes suffer while playing may not be apparent for years, forcing players to turn to California's system.

"Due to the multi-year latency period of many of these disorders, by the time a retired player is diagnosed, it's too late to file a claim in most states,'' wrote Dick Stemerman, a workers' compensation attorney from Monterey, wrote in a recent op-ed.

Under Perea's bill, workers' compensation claims would have to be filed within year of an athlete's final game or of a physician diagnosing the condition, whichever is later.
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