A Brief History of Workers’ Compensation Laws

History of Workers' Compensation Law

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Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your workplace injury, you are entitled to obtain a workers’ compensation attorney near Baltimore . If the injuries prompting your claim are severe enough to permanently alter your lifestyle or ability to work, your workers’ compensation attorney will advocate for your right to receive proper medical care and benefits. In pursuing a workers’ compensation claim, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the laws and history surrounding the workers’ compensation program.

Adoption in the United States

The current United States workers’ compensation program owes its origins to Germany. Known as Sickness and Accident Laws, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of Germany enacted the first modern workers’ compensation laws in 1884. The United States adopted workers’ compensation programs in the 1910s, which was a significant event in the country’s economic, legal, and political history. Workers’ compensation programs were quickly adopted throughout the country, with only six states not participating by 1921.

Alteration of previous system

Prior to states adopting workers’ compensation laws, the only way for injured workers to recover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages was by proving employer negligence. Doing so was typically a long, costly, and uncertain process, especially as workers did not meet with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Employers often used contributory negligence as a defense, which precluded workers from collecting any damages if they contributed in any way to the accident. Other times, an employer could successfully raise an assumption of risk defense to limit the injured worker’s ability to collect compensation.

Creation of state program

Workers’ compensation is a state run insurance program, so injured workers should consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer in their states. In the early 1900s, there were very few social programs in the United States. Additionally, the federal government considered social insurance and welfare to be a state matter. The only discussion of creating a federal program was in 1908, but this discussion was limited to federal workers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the country witnessed a wave of reforms aimed at reducing costs for employers.