Workers’ Compensation

Ca. Workers' Comp. Quarterly 2015, Vol. 28, No. 4

Professional Athletes and California Workers’ Compensation Claims: An Applicant Perspective


Oakland, California

Greedy. Selfish. Liar. Wimp. Phony. Desperate. These are the words I used as a defense attorney to describe professional football players who filed claims for workers’ compensation benefits. During the seven years that I defended these claims for a large, statewide defense firm, I believed that professional football players used the workers’ compensation system as a means of securing a final paycheck related to football and that the already-exorbitant salaries these athletes received for playing a game should be sufficient to compensate for any injury sustained while playing.

After those seven years of representing insurance companies, I became an applicant attorney. Perhaps not surprisingly, my opinion of athlete claims changed following an in-home meeting with an elite professional football player. He used phrases such as "concerned for my health" and "worried about potential brain issues." He spoke of "protection" and wanting to make sure the team took responsibility for injuries sustained on the job. This meeting, and others, helped me understand that professional athletes, although well compensated, want the same protections afforded to every individual employed in California.

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