Workers compensation insurance is a staple at just about every business, known by employers and employees alike. But where did it come from? Today’s businesses have a legal and ethical obligation to prioritize the safety and well-being of their employees. Having workers comp protections in place also helps protect the business from a variety of risks, including lost productivity and expensive lawsuits.
Some history texts make a strong case that compensation for work accidents has existed for centuries. Some historians point to thousand year old texts from Greece, Rome, China and Iraq that indicate those injured in the line of work were entitled to some compensation and that each injury had a specific monetary value.
In the US, the Industrial Revolution brought a huge increase in factory employee injuries caused by mechanical equipment. At the time, the only recourse was to sue the employer and try to show negligence. It ended up being difficult for employees to overcome the restrictive burden of proof and convince a court of true employer negligence and responsibility. Many employees were assumed to understand the risks and therefore be at fault for any injuries.
Coverage for occupational injuries in the US started in the early 1900s, after the dangers of working in American slaughterhouses became public. The first federal attempt at widespread worker’s compensation law was in 1906 and 1908 when Congress passed the Employers’ Liability Acts, but most states would fail to pass employee protection laws. Still, the public demand for a more protected workplace increased, and Wisconsin was the first US state to pass a comprehensive workers’ compensation law in 1911. Mississippi was the last state to pass such a law in 1948. Initial workers’ comp insurance laws meant that employers needed to provide medical and pay replacement benefits for workers who were injured at work, and if an employee accepted the workers’ compensation benefits, they couldn’t legally sue the employer for negligence. The workers protection laws of today work about the same – to help safeguard employees and protect business assets. However, modern workers compensation doesn’t apply only to industries with heightened employee risks.
If your business needs workers’ compensation coverage or has questions about employee injury insurance, get in touch today. Our expertise and experience can help you provide the best possible protection to your business and employees.