History of Workers’ Compensation in the United States

Admittedly, the workers’ compensation system in our country has many flaws that should be corrected; the slow-moving bureaucratic system can be very frustrating for injured workers, employers, and healthcare providers alike. However, it is important to remember that at one point in our nation’s history, the options for wounded employees were far more limited and much less helpful.

The roots of our current workers’ compensation system lie in the labor movement of the early 20th century. These political activists were motivated by the harsh working conditions, inadequate salaries, and preventable injuries often suffered by workers of the day. As the Industrial Revolution caused factories, mills, and corporate-run farms to spread across our country, severe workplace accidents became more and more common.

Consequences of Workplace Injuries

When these accidents occurred, workers rarely received any kind of compensation for their medical expenses or the wages they lost while unable to work. This negligence had repercussions in many areas: productivity was lost as people with severe injuries struggled to continue working, wounds that went untreated because much worse and even fatal, and many workers suffered psychological harm caused by stress, physical pain, and poverty.

Some victims of workplace accidents tried to receive the benefits they needed by filing lawsuits against their employers. However, these suits were often slow-moving, expensive, and unsuccessful. Plaintiffs in these cases were held to the standard of negligence, meaning they needed clear evidence that their employers have willingly failed to take necessary safety precautions. This was often extremely difficult to obtain.

Changing Tides

Things finally began to improve for workers in 1906, when the Employer Liability Act eased the standard of proof in employer liability cases. States began to attempt forming comprehensive compensation systems for employees around that time, but many of them failed. The first successful state law ordering employers to cover their workers’ health needs was passed in Wisconsin in 1911.

Many state and federal programs have since been developed to help workers in need, including the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (1916), Social Security (1935), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970). If you have any questions about the rights guaranteed by these programs, a Raleigh workplace injury lawyer can help.

Contact Us

Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys Scudder Seguin, PLLC will handle your case with efficiency, respect, and commitment. Contact our offices today at 919-851-3311.