Think Oklahoma Workers' Comp is a Mess? Try California.

The Oklahoma legislature is currently debating a 260 page proposed bill that would reform the state's workers comp laws, laws which proponents of the reform bill say have a profound economic impact by discouraging new business. Opponents of the bill say that the proposed legislation would make it difficult for deserving employees to get the benefits they need after a workplace injury. While debate rages between business owners and workers compensation lawyers representing employees over what the proposed bill could mean for the state, national headlines make it clear that Oklahoma is not the only state faced with concern over a potentially flawed workers compensation system. Recent reports claim that professional athletes have gained millions of dollars in workers compensation benefits from the state of California, even if the teams for which they played were based in other states. Clearly, occupational injuries are a hazard of professional sports, and all states allow professional athletes to receive workers compensation benefits for specific sports injuries. California, however, allows athletes to receive benefits for cumulative sports injuries, a distinction which prompts many athletes to file claims in the state even if they played as little as one game their during the course of their career. Furthermore, the state provides a longer statute of limitations for filing a claim, giving athletes the opportunity to collect benefits for a specific injury in one state while filing a claim for compensation for cumulative injuries in the Golden State. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state has paid out $747 million in workers comp benefits to 4,500 injured professional athletes since the early 1980's. Though most of these athletes are minor players with smaller salaries and shorter careers, that number includes marquee players like Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who played with the Dallas Cowboys. Irvin was awarded $249,000 in workers comp benefits. However, many injured athletes are left with lifetime medical expenses for injuries that aren't sufficiently covered by league disability benefits, prompting them to file workers compensation claims to cover the costs of their injuries. California law says that anyone employed in that state for any length of time is eligible to receive workers compensation benefits--including professional athletes who play or train in the state, even if it is only for one game or one camp. New legislation proposed in the state would close that loophole that some team owners say allows athletes to "double-dip" and get a "large payday at the end of a career." The new law would not affect players of teams based in the state, but only players for out-of-state teams who occasionally play or train in California. Workers compensation reform is a priority of the 2013 Oklahoma legislature.  To find out how any changes may affect you, or to file a claim before the laws change, submit the confidential form on our website for a review of your claim by an Oklahoma workers comp attorney.

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