The History of California’s Workers’ Compensation System
An industrial accident can jeopardize your health and financial future. Fortunately, California’s workers’ compensation system exists to protect employees injured on the job. This social safety net did not always exist. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, medical and disability benefits were not there for injured workers, and an in accident could devastate an entire family. In California, the first form of workers’ compensation was established in 1914 through a state insurance fund. This fund, a non-profit enterprise, still exists. The workers’ compensation system, having been in place in California for a century, can be complex. To navigate it, rely on the skill of an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney. An attorney will guide you each step of the way, working to obtain the maximum compensation you need and deserve for you health and financial future.
Why Did California Workers’ Compensation Begin?
Workers’ compensation was born out of the Industrial Revolution. This revolution spread from the England to the United States in the post-civil war Reconstruction period. Powerful new machinery was used, posing new dangers to workers. With so many heavy, fast-moving parts, gruesome workplace accidents became all too common. Unhappy with years of long hours, low wages, and dangerous working conditions, labor organized and won public sentiment. As jury awards for workplace accidents and deaths increased, industrial employers began taking out liability insurance. Still, very few families were ever compensated. Soon, during the Progressive era, reforms were ushered in. In 1908, President Roosevelt lamented the devastating impact of workplace accidents and deaths on American families, and called for legislation to better protect American workers. The government itself was the first to act, providing government employees with medical and disability benefits to compensate government employees injured on the job through the 1908 Federal Employees Liability Act.
In 1911, Wisconsin was the first to enact a state level workers’ compensation law. Soon, state after state enacted similar laws, and by 1949, every state had some form of workers’ compensation in place. The employees received compensation for workplace injuries – typically two-thirds of one’s salary for the period of temporary disability, a lump sum payment for any permanent partial disabilities, and the cost of short-term and long-term medical treatment. The employers in turn received tort relief, limiting the amount of damages possible in civil jury awards.
In 1970, workers’ compensation was improved when President Nixon signed the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), allowing the federal government to set and enforce health and safety standards for most of America’s workers. The law also established a commission to review state workers’ compensation laws. The commission – a national body – was responsible for recommending many improvements that were made to state laws, such as expanded coverage and increased benefits.
Workers’ compensation stands as the first widespread social insurance program in U.S. history. If you have been injured in a workplace accident in the state of California, contact an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney. The state system, which has been in place for many years, can be complex. A skilled attorney will be of great assistance in protecting your rights and working for the maximum compensation you are entitled to.