When Was Workers’ Compensation Established in the United States?

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The risky and unsafe working conditions during the Industrial Revolution spearheaded workers’ compensation laws in the United States. Hazards were plenty, and injury rates were massive. Injured workers rarely received compensation. A majority of them sought the courts for assistance. Several industries began to unionize as a way to get better pay and more humane working conditions. The workers’ compensation system came out of these conflicts in what some consider a compromise.

The first statewide worker’s compensation law was passed in Maryland in 1902. However, Wisconsin passed the first comprehensive workers’ compensation law in 1911. Ultimately, the agreements made in all states upon the adoption of workers’ compensation statutes had a few common principles and similar categories of benefits. However, the details concerning the level of benefits provided and the specific mechanisms used to deliver the benefits varied on a large level from state to state.

The first law covering federal employees was passed in 1906 and another one in 1908. These were called the Employers’ Liability Acts of 1906 and 1908. They made contributory negligence less provisional. These acts ordered employers to provide medical and wage compensation benefits for injured workers. If the injured employee accepted these benefits then they would sacrifice their right to sue their employer.

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