How and why did the workers’ compensation system begin in Arizona?
Workers’ compensation insurance protection has been around for quite some time, long before the United States was formed as a nation. The concept of damage payment for employees actually began as long ago as Babylonian times. Even then, workers were being injured on the job across a wide scale of employment and benefits were the norm in most situations.
This same concept continued through the Greek and Roman Empires, and even Ancient Chinese history shows that they implemented some form of workers’ compensation. Prussia had workers’ compensation laws as far back as 1871 with the Prussian Employer’s Liability Law.
Workers’ compensation laws are an ancient concept that was fought vigorously by American employers before the Employers’ Liability Acts of 1906 and 1908.
The early battle for workers’ rights in the U.S.
The early workers’ compensation system in the United States was arguably less progressive for injured workers than historic programs of ancient civilizations. Many factory operators in the early years were ruthless in defending workplace injury claims in state court cases.
Not only could (and would) employers commonly use the defense that a worker contributed to their own injury (known as “contributory negligence”) and refuse to pay, but the company could claim responsibility exemption even if a worker was injured by a fellow employee performing job responsibilities. This became known as the “fellow servant” rule and was a common employer defense.
Attention brought to unsafe working conditions
The Industrial Revolution of the early 1900s brought about many changes in employment law. Working in factories was indeed a grueling career and many had to endure the conditions that were not necessarily protected by occupational safety requirements at the time. Major employers fought the transitions since safety programs cost money.
The same was true for the implementation of workers’ compensation laws. The actual impetus to pass some sort of legislation came from a very unlikely source. That influence was, in part, the result of a novel published by Upton Sinclair entitled The Jungle, which detailed the terrible working conditions in Chicago’s slaughterhouses.
Slow evolution of workers’ compensation in America
Lawmakers attempted to pass legislation in several states between 1898 and 1908 to no avail, due to pressure from employers who were refusing to comply without governmental intervention. Congress finally passed federal legislation requiring all states to have a workers’ compensation program of some type that could be modified to fit state needs, and then established federal programs for railroaders and the Jones Act for maritime workers.
In addition, federal laws that applied to the railroad and maritime workers were completely different, and continue to be different to this day. It takes specific legal representation from attorneys who focus on this particular area of law when claims arise.
As the decades went on, workers’ compensation laws changed gradually across the United States to more closely represent the laws we have today. Wisconsin was the first state to pass a comprehensive workers’ compensation law in 1911, with Mississippi being the last state to establish insurance protection for workers in 1948.
All workers’ compensation programs are required to provide immediate wage replacement and medical benefits for employees injured in work-related duties. Employers were given an exemption from liability for a personal injury lawsuit in state or federal courts. This can be important for small businesses that could have to cease operations if an award was excessive for any reason.
Major employers in some states are allowed an exemption as long as they post a deposit that covers expenses associated with workplace injuries. Only major employers choose the self-insured option in the states where this is allowed, meaning that most workers fall into a similar benefit provision area when they are injured.
Exceptions were also made for employers who require workers to perform job responsibilities in environments that are non-compliant with Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) requirements for all workplaces, including potentially dangerous airborne chemicals used in production.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Arizona’s workers’ compensation system
Arizona enacted its workers’ compensation law in 1925 during the 37-year period when most states were transitioning to worker protection laws. The terms of coverage for Arizona workers are similar to many other states.
Workers are entitled to medical bill coverage, along with replacement wages at a specific percentage with no tax burden during the time of injury rehabilitation. Those workers who are injured long-term can only collect for a specified time under the current law, and cases are often settled in lump sum payments.
Many cases are still evaluated for extenuating factors that could result in additional general damage recovery when an attorney can prove that any specific employer was forcing workers to complete work assignments under unacceptable and non-compliant conditions, including potential wrongful death scenarios.
In 2013, the State Compensation Fund (SCF), formerly operated by the Arizona state government, was privatized and CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company took over the SCF’s responsibilities.
Workers’ compensation is an important benefit that the state provides, and its program should be taken advantage of by injured workers. Have you been hurt on the job in Arizona? Contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer like the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski to get started on your case immediately.