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02-06-2013, 04:00 PM
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Loophole allows NFL Players to file for Workers' Comp in California

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Californians may be footing part of the bill for the injuries NFL players suffer over the course of their careers.

Some call the NFL an industry based on hurt. Concussions are rampant, as are broken tail-bones, shattered femurs and blown-out knees.

Orange County attorney Mel Owens is a former NFL player himself. His firm represents at least 1,000 retired NFL players suing for workers' compensation in California. Many of them never played for a California-based team.

"What the NFL is trying to do is cut off every avenue of benefits for the players," Owens said. "They only place they can file now is in California because they have a right to file here."

Retired New York Giants player Christian Peter is one example. He played for three non-California-based teams over his six-year career in the NFL. Over those six years, Peter played just three games inside California.

Peter is just one of some 3,000 retired, non-California NFL players flooding the California workers' comp system with injury claims. Mark Fabiani with the San Diego Chargers explains the appeal to file in the state.

"Trial lawyers, who are very creative, figured out there was this loophole, and thousands and thousands of cases were then brought into the California system that have no business being here," he said.

California's workers' comp system is more generous than other states, and it's easier to file here. Professional athletes don't have to point to a specific injury that occurred in California. Wear and tear over the course of a career is enough, even if that athlete played just one game in California.

NFL teams have insurance, so the teams themselves and their insurance carriers pay the actual claims. But, California taxpayers are on the hook too, says state Assemblyman Curt Hagman.

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