When men and women are injured on the job, I have helped injured workers and their families obtain the compensation and medical care they are entitled to for over 28 years in Arizona. If you have had an injury on the job which prevents you from working and earning, contact me for a free consultation concerning your rights. Any time your employer or its insurance carrier make a decision in your case or take an action that you don't agree with, you have the right to have an attorney advise you. However, the time limits for filing a claim or requesting a hearing are strict, so do not delay.
Injuries which are covered by Arizona workers compensation statutes include:
Repetitive stress injuries or cumulative trauma injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or rotator cuff injuries occurring over time,
Toxic chemical or particulate exposures, lung injuries, exposure to blood, bodily fluids, certain diseases, and occupational diseases,
Mental stress injuries, psychological and psychiatric injuries substantially caused by unexpected or unusual or extraordinary stress related to the employment, or physical injury,
Heart-related injuries, heart attacks, strokes or death substantially caused by injury, stress or exertion related to the employment,
Amputation, loss of use of a body part, loss of sight, or hearing.
It is the responsibility of the injured worker to be sure your claim is properly filed with the Industrial Commission of Arizona within one year of the date of injury. You can call the Industrial Commission, at 602-542-4661, giving your name, social security number, date of birth, employer and date of injury and find out if your claim is on file. You may request copies of all the documents in your claim file at a small expense. It is your responsibility to notify your employer of any injury as soon as it occurs, and to file the claim in writing with the Industrial Commission within one year of the date of injury, with some limited exceptions. Forms are available on-line at email@example.com or you may contact me without charge or obligation.
Besides injured workers all over Arizona, for over ten years I have represented professional athletes in workers compensation claims as a member of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) panel of workers compensation attorneys. I am also a workers compensation panel member for the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA), National Hockey League Players Association, Arena Football League Players Association, Major League Baseball Players Association, Womens National Basketball Association Players Association, and other professional sports leagues players associations.
On November 21, 2009 I was selected as the PHPA Attorney of the Year at the PHPA annual workers compensation attorneys' meetings in Austin, Texas.
I have prepared a guide for workers compensation issues for professional athlete clients which follows. It applies to all workers suffering injuries on the job and explains the benefits available in Arizona. If there are questions, you may call me for a free consultation by telephone at your convenience, or by email.
Arizona Workers Compensation Issues for Professional Athletes
Professional athletes are covered by workers compensation laws. Workers compensation laws are specific to each state. Time limits, filing requirements, benefits and procedures vary from state to state. When a player is injured, contact a workers compensation panel attorney in the state where the team is located to learn the specific procedures and laws that apply. Following are general issues to consider in Arizona:
1. A compensable injury generally must occur within the course and scope of employment.
· Playing in a game
· Practicing / training
· Traveling with the team (Note: going and coming from home usually is not covered.)
· Other activities required by the team or by the contract.
· Cumulative trauma: Injuries need not be a single event. Cumulative trauma, or multiple small injuries, may result in a compensable injury once it is diagnosed and requires treatment.
2. There may be a choice of states where a claim may be filed.
· Where the team is located
· Where the injury occurred
· Where the player entered the contract of employment
Consider where the benefits would be the best when deciding where to file.
3. Filing requirements vary by state
· Usually claims must be filed within a specific time period after the injury by the injured worker or player. (For example, claims must be filed in writing at the Industrial Commission of Arizona within one year in Arizona; other states have different time limits). Forms for filing a claim may be found online at the Industrial Commission of Arizona website. The form is called Worker’s Report of Injury. A player cannot rely on the team to file the claim for him or her.
· In some states, claims must be filed within a specific time period after the injury or after the last period covered by compensation or after medical treatment was last furnished.
· Some states may allow extended filing periods for injuries not discovered immediately or which later require treatment.
· Frequently injury reports must be made in writing to the state’s industrial commission or similar authority (not just to the team’s trainer or workers compensation carrier) in order to be “filed.”
· A player does not have to live in a state to make a claim in that state. However, if a player moves to a different state while receiving active treatment, he/she may have to notify the Industrial Commission or similar authority in the state where the claim is located and obtain permission to leave that state temporarily or permanently.
4. Compensation for temporary disability varies by state
· Most states provide payment of a percentage of the player’s average weekly or monthly wage during periods of temporary total or temporary partial disability.
· A player’s average monthly or weekly wage may be limited by an arbitrary statutory maximum wage used in a particular state (For example, in Arizona, the current maximum average monthly wage (AMW) for injuries occurring in 2011 is $3920.75. Therefore the maximum compensation a worker or player may receive is 2/3 of $3920.75, or approximately $2613.96 per month, paid bi-weekly or monthly. For injuries occurring in 2010 the maximum average monthly wage was $3763.44. For injuries occurring in 2009, the maximum average montly wage was $3600. Therefore the maximum compensation a worker or player may receive for an injury in 2009 was 2/3 of $3600, or $2400 per month. Injuries occurring before 2009 are paid based on the AMW in effect at the time of the injury. The maximum monthly wage will increase slightly for injuries occurring in 2012, but future increases do not affect the compensation payable for earlier injuries sustained in 2011, 2010, 2009 or before.
5. Reasonable and necessary medical evaluation and treatment expenses are usually paid 100%, no deductible, no co-payment
· Medical expense payments are often paid according to a fee schedule that medical providers in the particular state are required to accept. If a player seeks treatment in another state besides Arizona, medical providers in other states are not bound to accept the Arizona fee schedule payment and may require the player to pay part of the expense, or bill other insurance if available.
· Players have a right to choose the doctors or medical providers who treat them, with some exceptions.
· Supportive medical care benefits may be available to pay the cost of medications, therapy, doctor’s visits, etc, after the player is discharged from active treatment. This benefit requires a doctor’s statement of necessity.
· Payment for treatment is usually limited to what is considered medically reasonable and necessary.
6. Compensation is usually paid in stages
· Temporary disability benefits are paid during periods of active medical treatment. (If the player continues to receive his/her contract salary, no temporary disability compensation is payable for the same period).
· Temporary total disability is paid when a physician has the player off work entirely.
· Temporary partial disability is paid when a physician releases the player to modified work, if there is a loss of earnings or earning capacity.
· Permanent disability benefits are paid after active medical treatment is concluded, depending on a physician’s rating of permanent impairment.
· Scheduled permanent disability benefits are paid for a limited number of months, set by statute, for injuries to one extremity or to one body part. For example, a 20% impairment of a leg after knee surgery for an injury occurring in 2009 results in payment of 10 months of compensation at $1800 (50% of AMW) per month or $18,000 total, if the player is able to return to playing, or $2700 (75% of AMW) per month or $27,000 total, if the player cannot return to playing. For injuries occurring in 2011, the payments increase to $1963.38 per month if the player returns to playing and $2940.56 per month if he does not return to playing.
· Unscheduled permanent disability benefits are paid for disabilities to the spine or whole person or more than one body part, if there is a loss of earning capacity. The amount depends on the player’s loss of earning capacity. Unscheduled benefits may continue for life. Total permanent disability results is a maximum award of approximately $2613.96 per month for injuries occurring in 2011, which may continue for life.
· No compensation for temporary disability is ordinarily available while a player is receiving his/her contract salary
· Temporary disability compensation usually ends when a player is medically determined to be discharged, stationary, or to have reached maximum medical improvement
· Compensation for permanent disability usually requires a rating of permanent impairment by a physician using AMA Guides for rating impairments
· In many states there are two types of permanent disabilities:
· Scheduled (impairment to one part of the body or one extremity, such as one knee, one hand, one eye etc.)
· Unscheduled (impairment to the whole person, most often where there is a spinal impairment, or impairments to two or more body parts or two or more extremities.)
· Scheduled permanent disability compensation is usually paid for a limited number of months established by the state’s legislature, depending on the percentage of impairment rated by the physician. Scheduled permanent disability compensation payments can be received even if the player returns to playing with no loss of earnings or earning capacity in Arizona.
· Unscheduled permanent disability benefits are paid based on a player’s loss of earning capacity, and may continue for a longer period, or for life, as long as there is a loss of earning capacity due to the injury.
· Lump sum settlements of temporary or permanent disability compensation payments and medical benefits are possible if both parties agree.
· REOPENING In Arizona, claims that are accepted may be reopened for the rest of a player’s life, for future medical care or surgery, and additional payments of monthly compensation. It is necessary to have a doctor’s report to reopen a claim, stating that the condition related to the employment injury is new, additional or previously undiscovered and requires medical treatment.
7. Third party claims
· If a person or business entity (other than the employer or a co-employee) negligently causes or helps to cause an injury which is covered under workers compensation laws, it may be possible to bring a separate, additional claim for damages against that third party. Such third party claims may include claims for damages for pain and suffering, not included in workers compensation claims, and the full loss of earnings or future earning capacity, and medical expenses.
· State law requires that the workers compensation carrier be reimbursed for payments it makes from any recovery of damages in a third-party case.
· There may be special time limits for “third party” claims. In Arizona such a claim must be filed within one year of the injury, or a reassignment from the workers compensation insurer is required to file the claim in the second year. If you are considering a third party claim, contact an attorney and do not let the first year pass without taking necessary actions to preserve your rights.
· Medical malpractice claims may be brought against doctors or medical providers for injuries caused by negligent medical care provided for a workers compensation injury. In Arizona, these claims must be filed within one year of the injury-causing event or within one year of discovery of the malpractice. After one year, a reassignment from the workers compensation carrier is required in the second year. Carriers frequently do not reassign claims against physicians or team physicians, so the claim effectively must be filed within the first year.
There is no cost or obligation to discuss your claim. If you retain an attorney, the attorney fee is ordinarily a reduced contingent fee of 25% of the compensation benefits you receive. That means there is no payment of an attorney fee until there is a recovery of compensation. Costs incurred in handling your claim are usually advanced by the attorney and then reimbursed when a payment of compensation is received.