Well, I’m on a roll.

I just attended the Florida Bar Workers’ Compensation Forum, and our section President was kind enough to give us a legislative update.  Since Emma Murray and the upheaval to remove “reasonable” from chapter 440, the Legislature has been relative quiet on the W/C front. 

However, our section President informed the Forum that there is a new Senate bill, lobbied by the National Football League, that would stop Claimants from seeking out-of-state W/C benefits; mainly from California.  You can see the Senate Bill, SB 1286, here.   It creates a new statute in Chapter 440, section 440.094, titled “Extraterritorial Reciprocity”.    The intent is to prevent the current rush of out of state claims from former players towards California  courts, were the W/C laws are the most liberal.

Since I’ve written about the NFL before, I think this bill is a wonderful step forward for the League to embrace head trauma injuries into the W/C fold and limit their exposure for future claims.

Back in August, I wrote the following:

“Since professional athletes are exempt from the Florida Workers’ Comp Act, unless their teams opt in to coverage, I wonder if it would behoove the NFL and other professional sports franchises to accept coverage for their athletes?”

With this new bill, the NFL is able to wrangle in their exposure from California, and push potential claims, from the three professional football teams, into the Florida W/C system.  It says that if an employee in Florida is injured in the course and scope of employment in an other state, the employee is still entitled to benefits as if he was injured in Florida.

Of course, this is a good start, but the teeth of the potential s. 440.094 is the language that gives out-of-state employers the power to exempt themselves from our laws if they can prove they have W/C insurance for the employee in their own state.  While this seems innocuous, the idea behind the NFL lobbying for this statute is nationwide, not just in Florida.

The statute would only be effective if other states have similar laws.  Hence, the “reciprocity” portion of the statute.  If other states have this statute as part of their W/C law, and the employer has proof of insurance, then then the Florida professional teams can keep their former players in Florida W/C court.   Since proof of insurance is required for this law to take effect, I assume this means that the three Florida NFL times are deciding to opt into the W/C system.

California, in particular, has the same reciprocity statute under section 3.600(5) California Labor Code.   California also has the most liberal W/C laws in the country.    California also allows out-of-state employees to file claims within California even if they just travelled through the state.   This exterritorial reciprocity bill would prevent former players from Florida from fleeing to California for their W/C claims.

I think the Florida W/C system is the best at containing costs, particularly potential head trauma cases which can lead to PTD benefits and long term medical attendant care.   As I wrote before:

“If the NFL or other sports teams were to opt in to the Workers’ Comp system, and accepted compensibility of these ALS cases, they would find their exposure to be capped significantly on indemnity (PTD ends at age 70) and medically.  They would be immune from any other tort suits for non-economic damages such as loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and future wage loss.  They would also save money on the medical bills under the current fee schedule.  It might also be a smart public relations move to show that the NFL is not ignoring the problem.”

This exterritorial reciprocity bill is an excellent step for the NFL in providing benefits to deserving players and limiting their exposure of future catastrophic injuries.   I will keep you updated on the legislative process of this bill.   In the meantime, you can check for your self at the Florida Senate’s website here.