The headline on and main talking point from this L.A. Times article is almost distracting, but it's fun: It turns out that moron and/or hypocrite Deion Sanders, who criticized former players are just "trying to make money" off of concussion lawsuits against the NFL, filed his own worker's compensation claim alleging that he's disabled from head trauma and other playing injuries.
But the bigger picture is more fascinating, if less conceptually satisfying. Taking advantage of a unique California law that allows athletes to pursue injury claims against their teams even if they only played a single road game in California, nearly 4,400 athletes, 80 percent of them football players, have filed worker's comp claims.
The Times pulled out the current NFL employees with claims pending; They include NFL Network analysts Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin, Darren Sharper, and Willie McGinest, and current coaches from nearly every team.
In all, the paper estimates the claims could cost as much as $1 billion, to be paid by the teams and by their insurance companies.
Although workers' compensation is administered by states, it essentially functions as a private insurance program. Awards are paid by employers or their insurance companies, not taxpayers. Employees who are injured at work may file for workers' compensation, but they cannot sue in civil court.
California is one of a handful of states that recognize so-called cumulative injuries, incurred over time, a category that includes brain trauma. It also allows some players to file years or even decades after their careers are over, because of a notification provision that most teams failed to follow. That has made it the forum of choice for retired athletes in recent years.
The train might be leaving the station soon. Legislation to be voted on next week could ban professional athletes from pursuing worker's comp claims unless they played for California teams. Which seems fair, until you remember California's particularly steep "jock tax," which requires all athletes to pay income taxes for road games they play in the state. That tax pulls in more than $200 million a year.