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Workers Comp

Essay by review  •  October 19, 2010  •  Essay  •  458 Words (2 Pages)  •  700 Views

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It shouldn't hurt to go to work. But in 1998, nearly 6 million U.S. workers were injured at work or became sick because of their jobs.

Most working Americans know that they are protected by workers' compensation laws if they are injured on the job. But many are unaware of the prominent role played by organized labor in securing these historic legal protections.

Workers' compensation laws became necessary at the turn of the century, when injured workers were faced with rising medical costs and lost time. In those days, an injured employee had to prove that the employer was at fault, due either to an unsafe workplace, lack of safe tools, failing to warn of dangers or failing to furnish adequate help. If the employer was not at fault, the employee received no compensation. Even if the employer was at fault, the injured worker still could not recover if he was partly to blame, or if he knew of the risks beforehand, or if the injury was caused by a fellow servant.

In most cases, injured workers received no compensation at all. Employees and their families faced financial ruin. And if a worker happened to overcome the legal obstacles and received money damages, the employer might be put out of business, costing other employees their jobs.

To remedy this unfairness, Labor struggled for the passage of workers' compensation laws. Labor argued that an employer could pay for work injuries by merely raising the price of its product or service by a few pennies to purchase workers' compensation insurance. In contrast, an employee bearing the cost of his own injury could become destitute. Labor's battle cry was, "the cost of the product should bear the blood of the worker."

The original model for workers' compensation legislation was a compromise between business and labor. Employees gave up their right to sue for large jury awards in exchange for more modest but certain compensation for lost time, medical bills and permanency. Employers gave up their cozy system of fault-based liability in exchange for a no-fault system, but with limits on the amount of money they would have to pay their injured employees.

Early workers' compensation laws covered only hazardous industries, such as construction, demolition and mining. In 1902, Maryland enacted the first state workers' compensation law, but it was limited to death cases. Illinois' workers'

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