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A Brief History of Workers’ Compensation

Have you been the recipient of workers’ compensation recently? If so, you may value the limited benefits received during a difficult time, or you may be disappointed in the amount of support provided.

Either way, it may help to know that today’s workers’ compensation systems differ significantly from what United States workers had available to them in the past.

Pre-Workers’ Compensation

The Industrial Revolution brought new types of workplaces into the cities. However, along with more work benefits, these modern workplaces were more dangerous, with a higher workplace injury rate. Unfortunately, it was impossible to make a compensation claim. If an injured employee could no longer work, they were out of a job.

In Germany, the chancellor Otto von Bismarck passed the employer liability law of 1871, which granted some protection to railroad workers. By the early 1900s, the United States had followed suit. The federal government passed the Employers Liability Acts of 1906 and 1908, which allowed railroad workers who sustained workplace injuries to sue their employers under a civil action to receive compensation.

However, it was up to them to prove the injury occurred on the job due to the employer’s negligence. The employer often argued that the injury occurred due to the worker’s contributory negligence or a co-worker. They also used the assumption of risk argument, stating the injured worker understood the dangers associated with the job and accepted those risks voluntarily.

Proving negligence and arguing against it often led to a mixed bag of results, and decisions did not always favor the injured worker.

The Beginning of Workers’ Compensation

Beginning in 1912, most states, including Michigan, passed a Workers’ Compensation Act, creating a no-fault system. The worker no longer has to prove the employer’s negligence and automatically receives compensation.

The act intends to ensure employers compensate employees for all occupational injuries, regardless of who is at fault. Workers can receive compensation for personal injuries, occupational illnesses, and disabilities acquired from workplace injuries.

The act also limited the compensation benefits each worker can receive. The benefits only cover medical treatment costs, rehabilitation, lost wages, and death benefits. If you are permanently disabled, there are benefits available through social insurance programs.

As workers’ compensation law evolved, it became more defined and complex. In response, attorneys specialized in workplace accidents and workers’ compensation to better serve their clients.

Workers’ Compensation in Michigan Today

Several legislative changes have been made to Michigan’s Workers’ Compensation laws through the years following the 1912 Act’s adoption. New court case opinions, often in favor of the employer or the insurance companies, and technological advances in healthcare, have influenced the changes in the laws. It’s likely the benefits will continue to evolve as American workplaces change.

Work with a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Being injured while carrying out your work responsibilities adds a whole new dimension to a personal injury claim. In addition to working with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company, you’ll also need to file medical insurance claims. An experienced lawyer can ensure you don’t miss deadlines and include all required paperwork.

The attroneys with Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., will fight to ensure that you get the workplace benefits you deserve.

Call our law office today at (866) 868-3779 to schedule a confidential, free consultation.

Emily is a writer and legal professional with experience as a law firm paralegal and non-profit legal administrator. Prior to her legal career, Emily earned her Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs and worked with a government consulting group out of Washington, D.C. Today she splits her time between the Florida coast and the North Carolina mountains.

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