What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers compensation is a system in which an employer must pay the lost wages of an employee injured on the job, either outright or through the provision of insurance. Though within each state/jurisdiction there are various statues that govern workers comp, there are key features that are consistent everywhere, ex: cash or wage-loss benefits, medical and career rehab benefits, benefits to dependents (in the case of an employee’s death), etc. About 70% of compensation costs are wages and salaries, and about 30% are benefits. Fault and/or negligence on the part of the employer or employee are not relevant.
The main aim of workers comp is to return an employee to working status as efficiently as possible without further harming the employee or the employer’s business. The goal is to be as beneficial as possible to the parties involved. However, it has not always been this way.
The History of Workers’ Comp
Before the early 1900s, workers injured on the job in the U.S. often found themselves without remedy against their employer or their fellow workers. England developed laws such as Vicarious Liability in 1700 in order to make the employer liable for the acts of the employee. However, later in the mid-1800s, laws were created to counter and combat these early forms of workers comp. These counter-laws ranged from simply removing liability from employers to going as far as to put sole liability for accidents and injury on employees, regardless of any possible negligence on the part of the employers.
Towards the end of the 19th century, English lawmakers began to realize the faults with these existing labor laws, and they, along with workers compensation lawyers, began to craft new laws in the style of Germany’s system at the time, which mandated that employers and employees share in the cost of paying benefits to workers disabled by accident, sickness, or old age. The British Compensation Act of 1887 embodied these ideas. Some 30 years later, in the early 1900s, the United States would finally follow suit with the same ideals. By 1920 all but 8 states had workers’ comp laws, and by 1963, Hawaii became the final state to adopt them. About 125.8 million employees were covered by workers comp laws in 2011.
The Role of Workers Compensation Lawyers
Although workers’ comp laws have come a long way since the industrial age, there are still issues and complications that arise with them. This is why workers compensation attorneys exist. These workers compensation lawyers serve to aid employees in cases where proper accountability and compensation are not being dealt out.