The History of Workers' Compensation
While workers compensation seems to be a system which is mostly ironed out by now, this has been due to dedicated professionals more than time. In the course of human history, most things that we relate to work are relatively new and the idea of workers compensation is certainly one of the more recent developments. Although we may think of workers being protected from harm today as common sense, it certainly was not always a priority of employers to keep their employees safe. Tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, which killed 145 people and injured over seventy more pioneered reform of work conditions and helped to change the situations regarding compensation for those injured at work in America.
The first time we see modern recorded history of an employee requesting compensation for injuries sustained while working come to us from England in 1837. The employee, reportedly a 19 year old male, was making a delivery when the company van malfunctioned and he was “thrown with violence to the ground, and his thigh was thereby fractured”. It has also been reported that his shoulder was dislocated in the chaos. While the courts originally ruled in his favor, this was appealed and overturned in the same year. This case, Priestley v Fowler, is widely regarded as the first workers compensation case ever recorded.
Another sixty years would pass before the “Workmen’s Compensation Act” would be introduced in Great Britain. This is the first time we see a set of laws that regard injuries that occur on the job as “no fault”, meaning that compensation is to be paid out regardless of who is at fault if an accident occurs. Unfortunately, America was slower to adopt such laws. Although some states had been attempting to push regulations through as early as 1898, the first real instance of workers compensation in the US was revealed in 1908 by President Taft for those working on the interstate. It took until 1948 for every state to pass their own laws for workers compensation.
While we now have a fairly rigid set of laws which we follow in regards to work injuries, it hasn’t always been this way. By understanding how the system has changed over the years, we are better able to help you receive all of the help you deserve. Give us a call and see how we can serve you.