Are Professional Athletes Entitled To Workers’ Compensation?

In the US, the circumstances under which an athlete may claim compensation for an injury vary wildly by state.

Professional athletes are entitled to workers’ compensation and various coverage benefits if they are not offered a fair payment through the compensation program. Based on the type of sport, workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state.

For instance, professional boxers and jockeys, who have to deal with physical damage in every match, have to face the most complications with their workers’ compensation coverage. Because it’s common for individuals to get grave injuries in the sports sector, it’s important for athletes to make sure that they’re insured and can receive compensation for their injuries. If you’re wondering whether you’re entitled to workers’ compensation as an athlete, here’s what you need to know. 

Why Is There A Need For Workers’ Compensation Insurance For Fitness And Sports Businesses?

A workers’ compensation insurance program is meant to cover lost wages and medical expenses for work and sports illnesses and injuries. It can help workers, including professional players acquire financial help to either regain their original strength to get back to their profession or change their profession or retire with a pension to sustain their lives. Moreover, it’s mandatory insurance that every sports team needs to have for its players.

1. It Can Be A Life Saver

There is always a physical risk to players when it comes to fitness and sports activities. If a player incurs a muscle injury while practicing or performing a sports activity, it is considered a work-related injury. In this scenario, it is the duty of the sports team business owner to compensate for the medical bills due to the sports injury.

Instead of paying the complete amount from their pocket, the sports team owner can get compensation for treating the injury using the workers’ compensation scheme. Moreover, this claim is also liable to cover missed wages while the player undergoes a recovery period.

If a player incurs a muscle injury while practicing or performing a sports activity, it is considered a work-related injury.

With workers’ comp insurance, athletes can get help for:

  •   Emergency ward costs and immediate medical bills
  •   Partial wages lost while the injured player is undergoing a recovery session
  •   Physical rehabilitation costs and other medical expenses

2. It Helps Sports Business Owners

There can be a case where the player employed by the sports team owner decides to sue the business owner over a sports injury. In such cases, workers’ compensation schemes can help employers get the financial help needed to fight the lawsuit. This type of scheme is known as employer’s liability insurance, and it can help cover the following:

  •   Court costs
  •   Attorney’s fees
  •   Judgments and settlements

Whether the lawsuit is strong or not, a sports business owner might still need to compensate for the injuries of the player out of pocket if no insurance covers it.

Types of Sports Injuries 

Professional athletes can get injured during a game or have physical issues that develop over a long period. No matter what type of injury, they are entitled to compensation under this program so they can sustain their livelihood while they recover or re-train for other work (if permanent disability). The most common injuries for which professional players are entitled to receive workers’ compensation are:

  •       Spine or back injury
  •       Herniated disks
  •       Torn ligaments or ACLs
  •       Joint injuries to the elbow or knee
  •       Muscle tears
  •       Traumatic injuries to the brain and concussions
  •       Fractures and broken bones
  •       Rotator cuff issues and shoulder impingement

Professional athletes can get injured during a game or have physical issues that develop over a long period.

When Athletes Are Eligible For Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Any professional athlete who experiences injuries after sports is eligible for this insurance scheme. In most cases, the workers’ compensation program can provide the most benefit due to severe damage leading to long-term or permanent disability, or when the athlete’s body is in no condition to work anymore after their sports career ends. Problems due to joint pain may also receive some compensation, but we recommend choosing a good lawyer who can help build a strong case for you, ensuring monetary benefits.

How Can athletes Lower Their Risks?

Fitness and sports business employees are at high risk when it comes to sports injuries. If a fitness instructor or dance instructor gets an injury while working, he or she has a right to acquire an insurance claim, which can incur a higher workers’ compensation premium for the sports business owner or employer.

It’s in the hands of the employer to ensure that such risks of sports injuries are mitigated in the first place. To make sure that such mishaps don’t happen, they can try creating a safer environment for the employees. For that, they can use the following techniques:

  •   Maintaining exercise equipment regularly
  •   Safety training for the employees and athletes
  •   Rules to use proper footwear at the workplace

Such steps can help lower the risk of workplace injuries, which can help you decrease your workers’ comp insurance premiums.

Baseball player preparing to bat

How Can Athletes Calculate Their Compensation Rate?

The general rule to calculate the cost for a workers’ comp is based on the following formula:

Experience modification rate x Classification rate x (Payroll / 100) = Premium

The premium that you need to pay in this scheme is calculated based on each $100 that you take out from your payroll. The classification rate is the type of sports activity or works your employees perform for you. Your experience modification rate is the claims history of your employed player and the payroll is per $100.

It’s important to note that every state has its own laws and requirements for workers’ compensation programs. For instance, it’s mandatory for every New York-based Pilates studio to have workers’ comp insurance for its employees, even if the employee has a part-time job over there. On the contrary, sports business owners in Alabama are only obligated to carry this insurance if they have more than five employees with them.

Even if a professional athlete is not affiliated with any team or sports business, he or she still has a choice to buy this policy for self-protection.

Obtaining A Life Pension

Players are also entitled to receive a lifetime pension in cases where their body has incurred over 70% injuries, leading to permanent disabilities. The pension might not be too high, but it can still vary based on specific statutory laws for the workers’ compensation insurance in the area. Insurance companies will try providing a small pension for the players. That’s why it’s recommended to hire workers’ compensation experts who will help negotiate fair monetary coverages for disabled players. It can be hard to live life if your body cannot do physical work anymore due to the degree of disability after your sports career, which is why taking help from such attorneys can benefit you.

Players are also entitled to receive a lifetime pension in cases where their body has incurred over 70% injuries, leading to permanent disabilities.

Benefits Provided To Permanently-Disabled Athletes

Professional athletes get coverage based on the level of disability due to the injuries. Besides acute injuries, players can also receive compensation for cumulative injuries that form over an athlete’s whole career. Furthermore, the degree of injuries and disabilities also have varying coverages. The amount of monetary benefit may also be received for players based on the period of injury.

Claiming Compensation After A Long Hiatus

While most sports athletes will claim compensation due to a sports disability or injury within a couple of days, some might not be fit enough to file a claim. Furthermore, it’s also possible that they weren’t aware of this insurance scheme available for their benefit. If a professional athlete is not aware of workers’ compensation rights, they still have the right to file a claim in some states to try to obtain compensation for the losses. You may have to learn the rules and regulations regarding this type of delayed claim in your state first.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Athletes who get a permanent disability due to sports injuries cannot return back to become professional players. For such players, a vocational rehabilitation program offers a re-training compensation of up to $16,000 to acquire education or training for some other work. Usually, the funds acquired through this program can be applied by an athlete to pursue a trade school or college education. Furthermore, a portion of the funds is paid to the athlete as weekly compensation while they complete their studies at the college or school.

Successfully Filing for Workers’ Compensation

Unfortunately, getting workers’ compensation as a pro athlete is not that easy. The rules defining monetary and healthcare claims from this insurance policy differ based on states, injury types, and career periods. This coverage is quite complicated for sportspersons, and it can also take a lot of time to get the benefits for a filed claim. Mostly, individuals are not aware of the type of injuries or losses they are eligible to claim.

If a professional athlete is not aware of workers’ compensation rights, they still have the right to file a claim in some states to try to obtain compensation for the losses.

In other situations, the lack of information can lead to a weak case. That’s why it is recommended to get an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who will properly study the ins and outs of the case to help you get fair benefits. Their skills and experience in this field will be genuinely beneficial for winning such a case successfully.

Costs of Filing a Claim

As an employee at a sports business, you may need to file a claim for workers’ compensation. As mentioned earlier, it could be hard to file one on your own because of the numerous rules and regulations that need to be followed state-wise. Instead of doing it yourself, you can use an attorney to help you with the formalities, evidence, and documentation needed for filing the claim.

When you approach an attorney for this issue, they will get you evaluated to note down all the incurred injuries, which will act as proof for building your claim case. This could include MRI or X-rays. You might have to pay the expenses for the evaluation reports, but some attorneys may do it for you free of charge as well. They usually apply their fee later when the claim for the workers’ compensation is received. 

Other Insurance Policies For Professional Athletes

No doubt, a workers’ compensation program has a lot of safety and financial benefits for employees, but it is not the only insurance policy available. Moreover, workers’ comp has its limits as it doesn’t offer coverage for some of the risks. In short, it offers healthcare and monetary benefits to workers who get injured during their work-related duties, and in this case, it’s on the field or after strenuous exercise. 

With that said, professional sports teams purchase this insurance policy in case athletes get injured, so if you’re on a professional team, all your expenses during recovery should be taken care of. The insurance provider covers a filed claim for an injury after studying the case. That’s why, sports business owners may also consider checking out other policies, like the following:

1. Business Owner’s Insurance Policy

This insurance policy uses a blend of a general liability insurance policy with a commercial property policy and that too at a decreased premium. As owning and managing a sports team is a type of business, this policy can be quite beneficial at supporting some of the claims applicable to this business.

2. General Liability Insurance

GLI policy provides coverage for costs related to property damage and customer injuries. Furthermore, you can also use general liability insurance to cover injuries due to advertising, like when a competitor accuses your business of slander.

3. Professional Liability Insurance

With the help of this policy, you can get insured for omissions and errors that usually occur at work. For instance, one of your employees got injured while undergoing improper training. In such a case, professional liability insurance will help compensate for the medical bills and damages. 

Injuries in sports are common, but that doesn’t mean athletes should not be compensated for it. Most sports teams get workers’ compensation coverage for their athletes to help them in times of need. So make sure to use this privilege if you or some professional athlete you know needs help for a sports disability or injury. It’s best that you hire an attorney to guide you in case you are in need of a workers’ compensation claim. Or, you may also take help from a lawyer as a sports business owner to compensate for your employee’s sports injury fairly. 

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