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Workers’ Compensation Law 100 Years Old

This year many states around the nation are recognizing the 100th anniversary of the workers’ compensation law. This is an important anniversary as it marks the beginning of an agreement between employees and their employers in regards to who is responsible for paying for injuries sustained on the job.

Prior to legislation governing the workers’ compensation system as we know it today, workers injured on the job has little recourse to collect payment for lost wages or medical expenses. At that time, a worker injured on the job would be forced to either go without or sue their employer in the hopes of winning a settlement. Lawmakers were often paid off by the wealthy which meant in most cases the injured worker lost their case and no compensation was received.

This was unacceptable for workers and an agreement had to be reached which would benefit both the employers and the employees. An example of compensation in it’s earlier forms as practiced by 18th Century pirates and German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck established a basis from which the current workers’ compensation system is established.

Unlike those earlier forms which did not offer death benefits, workers’ compensation as we know it today has come a long way in 100 years. Despite this progress, there are still parties on both sides who feel the system is not as it should be. This becomes more clear as different states either approve or consider reforms to their workers’ compensation laws which could limit the benefits available to injured workers.

As we look back on this historic period in time, when workers first realized benefits and compensation, it is important to look forward with hopes of a better system, not one which takes away the rights established a century ago.