Worker’s Compensation laws were created in order to provide benefits to workers who are injured on the job or contract a work-related disease. In America, there are five types of benefits that are generally available to someone if they can prove they were injured due to a work-related issue or disease. This means that the worker then has the “right to compensation”. They may collect money for:
- Loss of Earnings benefits for disabilities (as this will affect the earnings they can gain in the future due to the incident)
- Medical Benefits (as they will have to pay for cures, medical aids & associated costs with caring for their injury)
- Specific Loss benefits (Losing a specific body part I.E., hand, leg, eye, due to the work carried out)
- illegally-employed minor’s benefits (due to language not always being clear, a company may believe someone is legally employed, though the state or federal government disagrees. In this case, the worker is entitled to compensation just as a legally employed worker is)
- Death benefits (If a worker is killed while on the job due to the work being carried out, his dependants or immediate family members are entitled to the compensation, the costs of the funural will also be paid by the employer directly to the funeral home)
Why were workers’ compensation laws enacted?
Before workers’ compensation laws were enacted, the only way a worker could claim compensation for their injuries was to prove the employer was negligent, which caused their injury. In this case, it was up to the worker to prove the onus of responsibility lied on the employer and it was only due to their negligence that the worker was injured.
This held many problems as not only would the employer normally have more resources and money to spend on disproving the workers’ claim but that the burden of proof laid on the injured worker, at a time when sometimes they were unable to return to work and investigate. It would in the majority of cases become a case of workers’ word against employers, which ended up in an unfair trial.
The employer would often win these cases by claiming the worker was injured by not following safety procedures, that the injury was caused by a fellow worker, or it was caused by an ordinary workplace hazard, rather than negligence. This enables them to avoid responsibility.
The rare times a worker would win the case, the worker would often have delays in the being paid the money owed from the court case, as well as having high costs in hiring an attorney to take their case and fight for their rights. The employer would also often have to pay inordinate amounts of money compared to the injury received. Finally, the times where a worker could work while the court case was going on, they would encounter very stressful situations in the workplace due to frictions with managers and other co-workers.
Due to all of these problems, both employers and workers favor the new workers’ compensation laws. They mean that the worker is automatically entitled to the new benefits, which are a predictable amount, meaning companies can budget for the loss. Workers no longer have the difficulty of bringing a case to the courts, while companies are protected from a worker asking for a larger amount.
This would be fine, if it wasn’t for the fact that in the real world, laws often get amended, changed and sometimes completely re-written. This means workers are now often left suffering with no recourse. Therefore, workers are now having to hire attorneys to fight for their rights, and this is why the system doesn’t always work.