By Erin Tucker
If you work for someone other than yourself, you probably are at least somewhat familiar with worker’s compensation. It’s a program designed to provide benefits to employees who are injured on the job, suffer a hearing loss or develop an occupational disease as the result of their on-the-job duties.
Although workers comp might seem like a modern idea, the basic concept goes as far back as 2050 BC. Ancient Sumerian law included a list of the monetary value of specific body parts if lost or injured. Ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese laws had similar indexes.
Fast forward to the mid-1700’s and the Industrial Revolution. After emerging in Britain, the revolution spread to other parts of the world, and with it came factories and factory jobs — work which was often extremely dangerous and carried out in the harshest conditions. The resulting injury rate was enormous.
In theory workers could seek compensation through the court system, but the existing laws were such that injured parties rarely received any renumeration. Workers were for all intents and purposes on their own. Industries even went so far as to make employees sign contracts — workers named them “death contracts” — as a condition of employment which forfeited their right to sue for damages if they were hurt.
The 19th century ushered in a more enlightened era. In an effort to quiet social unrest, in 1871 Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck implemented a system of social insurance known as the Employers’ Liability Law that provided some degree of protection for workers in industries. Thirteen years later he championed Workers’ Accident Insurance, which was the forerunner of today’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
Unfortunately, the idea of taking care of injured workers was slower to catch on in America. It took Upton Sinclair’s shocking 1906 novel The Jungle, which details the horrors workers experienced in Chicago slaughterhouses, to stir public outrage. In response Congress passed the Employers’ Liability Acts of 1906 and 1908, which made contributory negligence doctrines less restrictive. Wisconsin passed the first comprehensive workers’ compensation law in 1911, while Mississippi was the last state to follow suit in 1948.
Iowa passed its law in 1913 requiring employers to have the means to compensate employees, with limited exceptions, for any work-related injuries. To provide this coverage, the majority of Iowa employers purchase workers' compensation insurance from a private insurance company.
Insurance companies are required to follow the law. Like any company, however, they’re in business to make a profit and provide a return on investment to their owners and stockholders, so it’s in their vested interest to minimize payouts as much as they can.
Here are the most frequent reasons clients turn to us for help getting compensated for workers’ comp claims:
If you have been injured on the job and feel that you’re not being treated fairly, we’re here to help.
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