In the US, every employee is entitled to compensation in the event that he or she sustains a work-related injury or a job-related illness. This employee right is stipulated in the Workers’ Compensation Law which was approved by the US Congress in 1908.
The law was initially intended to address the rise in the number of workplace injuries, especially in construction sites. Its main aim was to provide injured workers with immediate financial assistance they will need for medical treatment, as well as cover their economic losses due to days of work missed.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance benefit. It does not consider fault, thus, approval can be granted even if the accident were due to the injured worker’s own act of negligence. It is also never dependent on the financial capability of an employer since the source of compensation is an insurance provider. One condition for recipients of this benefit, though, is that they will have to release their employers from any legal liability for their injury or sickness.
Before the workers’ compensation was passed into law, injured workers had to file a lawsuit against their employers to be able to receive the compensation they badly need. Lawsuits, however, only damaged whatever good relationship existed between the employee and employer; these were also almost always won by employers, who used the following arguments: assumption of risk; the fellow-worker rule; and, contributory negligence.
Workers’ Compensation benefits are often the appropriate means of addressing an injured worker’s needs, however, there are many cases in which an employer’s failure to uphold basic duties to employee safety may instead warrant legal action. Pursuing legal action against one’s employer is possible only if the injured worker waives his or her right to receive Workers’ Comp benefits, though. Often, filing a lawsuit is a more appropriate action because many employers and insurers rather seek to prevent workers from receiving the benefits they need.