Workers’ Comp and Pro Sports

I’m a sports nut- like many people I know. I follow all four major pro sports and have read literally hundreds of sports books and publications in my lifetime. I’ve been to and watched countless games. What many people don’t know, interestingly, is that almost all pro sports injuries in the U.S. are covered by Workers’ Compensation.

In February this article appeared in the L.A. Times:

Last fall, the National Football League scored a huge victory in California, helping push through a new law barring most professional athletes from filing workers’ compensation claims in (that particular)  state.

But that win has come at a cost.

Publicity from a high-profile battle over the legislation prompted players from around the country to file more than 1,000 injury claims just prior to a September deadline – a huge influx that could cost the nation’s top professional sports leagues hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve.

In the first two weeks of September, current and retired players filed 569 claims against NFL franchises, 283 claims against Major League Baseball clubs, 113 against National Hockey League teams and 79 against NBA squads, a Los Angeles Times analysis of state workers’ compensation data found.

Nearly 70% of the filings include allegations of head or brain injuries caused by repetitive trauma. Most of these athletes appeared to have never played for a California team; they filed claims based on repetitive injuries they say were sustained in part during road games played in the state. It is those claims that are now barred under the new California law.

Among the athletes rushing to beat the deadline were sports legends such as Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer and Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, as well as many lesser-known retirees, some suffering serious physical impairment. A number of active players, including San Francisco 49ers standouts Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore, also filed claims.

My understanding of what happened in California is that every NFL injured player- whether they played for a California-based  team or not- used to file for comp in California because that state had the most favorable comp law. (Every state has its own separate Workers’ Comp law.) In California, even visiting players could file, and California allowed claims for “cumulative” injuries—successive blows led to concussions that added up to brain damage. However, after the law changed, players weren’t allowed to do this unless they played for a California team (like the Lakers or Sharks, for instance.)

So what’s my point here? My point is, that professional athletes who are suffering these head injuries, with attendant brain damage, or career-ending injuries, actually do have Workers’ Compensation as one way of recovering lost wages and for obtaining medical treatment for their injuries. But professional athletes are subject to what the law in their particular state says about cumulative injuries.

New York allows claims for cumulative trauma. I have both a love of sports and  a career-long enthusiasm for my law practice of Workers’ Comp—so maybe I can combine the two! I would be happy to help any injured pro player.

So, to any and all injured New York Jets, Giants, Mets, Rangers, Knicks, Nets, Yankees and Islanders : feel free give my law firm a call!

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Support Our Vets!

Last week I received a call out of the blue from Hofstra Law School. They needed a Disability attorney to come in on Sunday morning and advise veterans about Disability issues. This would be a “pro bono” (free) clinic. Could I help out? It took me a couple of milliseconds to think about it. Of course I could, I responded.

The first Hofstra Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic was held this past Sunday. It involved attorneys in various legal specialties: veterans, immigration, family, divorce, elder, consumer law, and more. Sponsors included the County, the Law School, and the Nassau County Bar Association. All advice given was offered free of charge. The vets were able to go from room to room where the attorneys had “set up shop” and get real-time advice about real issues. The attorneys were also being observed in action by Hofstra Law students. This was another cool part of the whole thing: not only were we attorneys helping the vets, but the Hofstra law students were getting training as well.

One veteran regaled me with stories from the Korean War, and I enjoyed hearing his tales. Another had such a complicated legal situation that he probably consulted four different attorneys while he was there about the same matter. Yet another owed Social Security $30,000 that he didn’t have. I helped him out as best as I could.

We should never forget our Veterans. I certainly tried to do my part, by participating in the first Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic at Hofstra Law School. And I’m glad I did.

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Need a legal referral? I can help.

My law practice is quite narrow in scope. I handle Workers’ Compensation and Social Security claims and not much else. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call me with other legal questions or needs. That’s because I happen to pride myself on being fairly knowledgeable about the legal community here on Long Island as well as in New York City.

What I’m saying is that I have been around long enough to have met dozens of terrific, skilled, reliable lawyers. Our profession is often made fun of or looked down upon; but my experience is that even with the occasional “bad apple” the vast majority are honorable and competent.

Of course, someone looking for counsel can always start by calling their local Bar Association. I should mention here that most Bar Associations have a “lawyer referral service” where persons in need of counsel are given a list of local lawyers that practice in the applicable field.

But of course, another way to go about it is to call a lawyer you know and trust and ask for a referral. This is commonplace and I get these kinds of inquiries every so often.

I belong to a group called the “Attorneys’ Roundtable” here in Long Island which is comprised of one or two top-flight practitioners in most specialties—there are tax lawyers, matrimonial lawyers, immigration lawyers, etc.—and I’ve grown to know each one. So I have a good base of lawyers to recommend.

Plus I have been networking extensively, so I meet lawyers through my many different networking groups. I also am active in many Bar Associations so I draw upon those contacts as well.

Of course, I do not guarantee that my referral will be right for you. It’s just a courtesy I extend with the hope that it will be helpful. So if you need any kind of lawyer, feel free to call me for a recommendation. I will try to help you as much as I can.

Lastly, though, I strongly recommend that you choose your attorney carefully and interview more than one. Ask a lot of questions at your initial consultation. These questions should include:

Who exactly will I be working with? You don’t want to find an attorney you really like only to discover that you’re handed off to a junior associate who you don’t like so much.

What are your credentials? Every lawyer admitted to the bar in your state is technically qualified to practice law but they may have also obtained a specialization, a credential like the AEP designation (Accredited Estate Planner), or an LLM (Master of Laws) in an area like tax law.

How much experience do you have working with clients like me in similar situations? You don’t necessarily want your son’s friend’s DUI lawyer drafting his first trust for you.

How would you be paid? If you’re paying a fixed fee or an hourly rate, you’ll want some idea of what this would cost you and whether it’s worth it.

Do you have any questions for me? A good attorney will be focused on your situation and needs rather than theirs.

So good luck in finding an attorney. And don’t hesitate to call me even if your legal problem is not an injury or a disability.

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