Workers Compensation - A History

The legal framework for workers compensation in the United States was set far before by English common law. There were some basic principles that guided the approach to Worker’s Compensation (and resonate in general tort cases as well). Contributory Negligance, Fellow Servant Rule, and assumption of risk have been the subject of great discussion and argument over the years. Contributory negligence is the matter of whether an employer should be liable if the employee contributed in any way towards their injury at work. Fellow Servant Rule revolves around the idea that the employer should not be responsible when one employee is responsible for another’s injury. And Assumption of Risk is just as it sounds; that an employee assumes the risk in his job and the employer should not have to pay when the employee is putting their self in danger.

The industrial revolution played a huge part in the development, frequency, and success of workers compensation claims. As industries boomed, and job related injuries followed, increasing the necessity to really examine the concept and approach. The increased demand for new areas of work and labor, with many risks unknown to the employer and employee, created a very dangerous work environment. Not to mention the new large and unproven machinery and technology led to the risk of unprecedented injury and damages.

Early on, the three principles above greatly restricted the ability to recover for workers compensation. As we entered the 20th Century, laws began to pop up regarding Workers Compensation to better address and define it. Maryland was actually the first state to pass the first Statewide law in the US in 1902. Through the first quarter of the century, mandatory employer insurance for worker compensation was gaining momentum. At the same time, courts were becoming more reluctant to listen to defenses based on the principles.

Numbers were staggering as industries grew, and the need for the development of the workers compensation systems in all states was obvious. In the United States, the railroad system was a major advance during the industrial revolution, and it was one of the major sources of work related injuries. Around 3000 were killed each year during the first decade of the 20th century in the United States due to the railroad industry. In all industries in 1913 alone, 25,000 were killed and over 700,000 suffered major injuries.

With the increased number of injuries, and the decrease in acceptable Employer defenses, even the states became more inclines and supportive of an organized workers compensation system that could protect both employer and employee alike. With a system, the employer could share some of the costs of workers compensation insurance with the employee which would reduce wages as well. This pushed to develop workers compensation legislation. Despite many opportunities over the years, surprisingly the federal government as left such legislation in the hands of the states rather than getting involved. This has resulted in many differences in laws and regulations from state to state.

Over the years systems were put in place to evaluate and value injuries and payments. A sort of standardize monetary system is You’ll find many differences from state to state, but many areas that overlap as well. In Maryland, here are a few basics.

  • Not all injuries “on the job” are covered by Workers Compensation Laws. A Person has to be injured accidentally “arising out of and in the course of their employment.”
  • Employer/Employee relationship must exist. Independent contractors need not apply.
  • Accidentally caused – sudden unusual or extraordinary event causes an unexpected result

These basics are far too simplified to really grasp the complexities of a workers compensation claim, but they are a snap shot into the questions presented when a workers compensation claim is made and the many factors that come into play. Continue reading our other workers compensation articles to gain a deeper knowledge into these factors.

If you have been suffered an injury on the job, and look to be explore your options with an experienced workers compensation attorney, please CONTACT Fred Antenberg at 410-730-4404 for your FREE consultation. In Workers Compensation Claims, it is important that the injury and damages are quickly documented to be sure to be compensated properly. Fred is a Maryland Personal Injury Attorney with his Offices located in Columbia, Maryland.