The History of Workers’ Compensation

The workers’ compensation system has been a lifeline for countless workers who have been injured on the job – and for their families. From slip and fall injuries that may keep you off work for a month or two to motor vehicle accidents that can leave workers permanently disabled, the workers compensation attorneys at the Panebianco Workers’ Compensation Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale have seen how important workers’ comp benefits can be to their clients. 

These days, most of us tend to take the workers’ compensation system for granted. But in terms of the big picture, it really hasn’t been that long since these essential protections were put in place to protect American workers. 

The Early History of Workers’ Compensation

As the Social Security Administration (SSA) says, “Most histories of workers’ compensation give credit for the origins of the current U.S. workers’ compensation system to Europe, to Germany in particular.”

Germany did, in fact, take the lead on offering protection for workers who were injured on the job. Their Sickness and Accident Laws, which are considered the prototype of all modern workers’ compensation systems, were introduced in the 1880s by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. England followed up with its own set of laws protecting workers in the late 1890s. 

The first workers’ compensation laws were passed in the United States in the early years of the 20th century. As the SSA says, adoption of these laws is considered to be “a significant event in the nation’s economic, legal, and political history.” 

Why were the early workers’ compensation statutes adopted by the states so important? Before such protections were put in place, anyone who was hurt while on the job would have to pay for medical expenses on their own – while they were trying to get by without a paycheck. If they wanted their employer to compensate them for their lost wages and medical costs, the SSA says they had to “prove the negligence of their employer in a long, costly, and uncertain process—one that negatively affected their daily lives.”

Despite the protections put in place more than a century ago, injured workers sometimes find themselves having to fight to get their employer to cover their medical expenses and lost wages. If that has happened to you, call Fort Lauderdale Workers’ comp lawyer Nick Panebianco for a free and confidential consultation: (954)388-7348 OR (844) 316-7696.