It’s no secret NFL players are at high risk for serious injury each time they take the field. Most people assume injuries are part of the job they signed up for and don’t think twice about how players manage medical expenses or potential lost wages after their career is over. Current players can even be cut from their respective team and have their contract waived, leaving them without income while they struggle to pay costly medical expenses.
The good news is, NFL players, just like every other working American, are eligible for workers’ compensation after they’ve sustained an injury with their team. The process has some complexities, but here’s an overview of the facts surrounding NFL players and their right to workers’ compensation.
There are three types of workers’ compensation benefits available to NFL players:
It’s important to note that workers’ compensation benefits vary by state. In Florida, the statute of limitations regarding workers’ compensation is:
It’s important players act quickly to avoid exceeding the statute of limitations. To begin the process, players must contact a member of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Workers’ Compensation Panel Attorneys in their city.
If a player from a Florida team were to successfully file a workers’ compensation claim in 2017, they could receive up to $866 per week. The maximum weekly amount changes on Jan. 1 of every year, however.
The benefits timeline remains open as long as the player doesn’t allow more than one year to pass by without receiving authorized treatment on the injury, unless they receive benefits in a lump-sum scenario. In that case, future medical benefits are included in the lump-sum and all future benefits cease after the settlement date.
Some states have worked toward limiting workers’ compensation benefits. For example, California passed a law in 2013 stating that if an athlete who does not play for a California-based team gets injured in California – such as a Miami Dolphins player getting injured while playing in San Francisco – that player cannot receive California benefits.
Illinois legislature sparked a debate last year regarding the timeline of benefits for ex-players. Currently, players receive benefits until the age of 67. However, officials in Illinois believe the age should be reduced due to the fact most NFL players’ careers end 30 years earlier than that. The NFLPA has argued the benefits are much more crucial to the player than the potential financial savings would be for the team.
Even Florida has made changes to its workers’ compensation laws in recent years. Prior to the new laws, players with Florida teams who were injured in other states could file claims in that state if it had more favorable workers’ compensation laws. Now, they must file in Florida regardless of where the injury occurred.
NFL Workers’ compensation has always been limited to “traditional” injuries, like fractures. Unfortunately, that means unseen injuries like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) are not covered by workers’ compensation. In recent years, the NFLPA and some ex-players have fought to include CTE and related brain diseases in the NFL’s workers’ compensation coverage due to increasingly clear evidence that detrimental brain injuries occur often without notice and don’t show side effects until much later in life.
For example, dozens of ex-players recently filed a lawsuit against the NFL regarding brain injuries and a lack of financial assistance from the league. The players’ suit claims the NFL knew the players were at risk for long-term side effects from brain injuries but did not inform the players of that risk and have not provided assistance with medical coverage or financial restitution. The lawsuit ended with a $1 billion settlement from the NFL to thousands of ex-players in April 2015.
Not all workers’ compensation claims include high profile athletes and headline-making lawsuits. All injuries occurring on the job should be treated with the utmost attention to detail and seriousness – it’s your livelihood at stake. If you’ve experienced any kind of injury at work that has left you with costly medical bills or unable to earn a living, it’s likely in your best interest to speak with an attorney.