A History of Workman Compensation Lawsuits and Worker Compensation Claims

A workman compensation lawsuit is a claim against an employer for injury that took place at work. Before workers compensation, an injured worker had to prove fault of the employer in a court of law in order to receive damages. If you have a workers compensation lawsuit or claim, be sure to have the advise of a workers compensation attorney in order to know your rights and obligations.  Many workers compensation cases have gone unnoticed in the past, but they need to be paid closer attention because they can cause serious financial damages to plaintiffs who are injured.

These include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Personal bills that pile up due to loss of wages

The basic structure of the American workers’ compensation system has remained almost unchanged throughout the century.  Workers compensation was developed to provide a fair balance for both employers and employees in resolving monetary compensation for workplace injuries. The basic premise of workers compensation is to compensation the injured worker and also protect employers from unreasonable court awards to an injured worker.  In essence the workers compensation system takes away the “fault” part of the claim.  Employees don’t have to prove fault of the employer to receive money on their claim.  On the other side of the coin, employers are relieve of the burden of legal expenses as well as excessive jury or court awards.  The compensation to the worker is established by a set of guidelines adhered to by the workers compensation board in the state the claim is filed.  If you have a worker compensation claim, in some states you can receive a worker compensation cash advance or worker compensation loan.

Below is a list of workplace injuries that have impacted the US workman’s compensation regulation. Included are the situation that lead to the type of case being included in being governed by workers compensation law.  These outcomes are important contributions in the evolution of workers compensation system.

  1. Contributory negligence.

In this example, if the worker was in any way responsible for his injury, the doctrine of contributory negligence held the employer was not at fault. Regardless of how hazardous the exposed machinery of the day was, any worker who slipped and lost an arm or leg was not entitled to any compensation. This was established in the United States through the case of Martin v. the Wabash Railroad, in which a freight conductor fell off his train. Although inspectors subsequently blamed a loose handrail, his injuries did not receive compensation because inspecting the train for faulty equipment was one of his job duties.

  1. The “fellow servant” rule.

Under the “fellow servant” rule, employers were not held liable if the worker’s injuries resulted in any part from the action or negligence of a fellow employee. This was established in Britain through the case of Priestly v. Fowler in 1837, a case of an injured butcher boy. In the US, precedent was provided five years later by Farnwell v. The Boston and Worcester Railroad Company.

  1. The “assumption of risk.”

The doctrine of “assumption of risk” was exceptionally far-reaching. It held simply that employees know of the hazards of any particular job when they sign their contracts. Therefore, by agreeing to work in a position they assume any inherent risk it carries. Employers were required to provide such safety measures as were considered appropriate in the industry as a whole. Assumption of risk was often formalized at the beginning of an employee’s tenure; many industries required contracts in which workers abdicated their right to sue for injury. These became known as the “worker’s right to die,” or “death contracts.”

While these common law principles were quite restrictive, it was their method of enforcement that proved most cumbersome. An injured worker’s only recourse was through the use of torts. In the nineteenth century, these were exceptionally expensive legal affairs. Most countries required considerable fees simply to file a personal injury lawsuit. These more often than not were beyond the limited means of the injured worker. It was uncommon for a working man to win compensation for injury.

Nevertheless, the worker did occasionally prevail through tort legislation. As the century wore on, this began to happen frequently enough that employers too became uncomfortable with the capricious nature and high cost of battling civil suits.

As a result of past occurrences and history of workers compensation lawsuits, there came the need for services that could play a role as a resource for financial aid.  Therefore, services that offer workers compensation lawsuit loans and settlement loans have been set up to help employees and their employers to come out of the class action lawsuit with much less financial burden and stress.

In the US, the primary instrument of change in workers compensation lawsuits has been the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. It requires government programs, contractors, and any entity receiving federal funding to make their facilities accessible to the handicapped.

The ADA was the result of a massive campaign to improve the employability of the disabled in America. It met with much legislative success; there were only 6 no votes in the Senate and 28 in the House. The ADA encompasses all of the American workplace, not just that fraction associated with the federal government.  The ADA requires that employers make “reasonable accommodation” for workers with disabilities.

The most commonly cited disability in employment-related suits filed under the ADA is back pain (19% of the total), followed by compressive neuropathy and similar neurologic disorders (12%), and mental illness (12%). Only 8% of complaints have come from the wheelchair-bound and 3% from the deaf or blind.

With the uncertain nature of tort-based lawsuits, it is important that employees have a peace of mind to help them throughout their workers compensation lawsuit or claim.