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Harbsmeier Law Group, LLC

5120 South Lakeland Dr, Suite 3

Lakeland, FL 33813

 

Phone: (863) 619-7330

Fax: (863) 619-7303

Email: attorney@gotdefense.org

 

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Workers' Compensation Law

Workers' compensation laws in the United States developed during the early 1900s as a result of the industrial age and growing numbers of industrial injuries. Before these laws were developed, workers injured on the job often found themselves without remedy against their employer or their fellow workers.

The law of Vicarious Liability developed in England in approximately 1700 to make the master, or employer, liable for the acts of the servant, or employee. In 1837, however, the English case Priestly v. Fowler, 3 M. & W. 1, 150 Reprint 1030, created the fellow servant exception to the general rule of a master's vicarious liability; no longer would the master be held liable for an employee's negligence in causing injury to a coworker.

After Priestly, courts in the 1800s continued to develop employer defenses to liability for injured workers. One such defense, assumption of the risk, allowed employers to escape liability with the questionable logic that employees could avoid or decline dangerous work duties. Another defense, contributory negligence, allowed employers to escape liability, notwithstanding the employer's negligence, where the employee was also negligent. Therefore, during a century of burgeoning industry and its inherent risk of work-related accidents, workers faced nonexistent or inadequate remedies for their injuries.

At the end of the nineteenth century, state lawmakers recognized the problem and began studying the compensation system developed in Germany in 1884. Rooted largely in its socialistic tradition, Germany's compensation system mandated that employers and employees share in the cost of paying benefits to workers disabled by sickness, accident, or old age. Britain followed suit in 1897 with the British Compensation Act, which later became the model for many state workers' compensation laws in the United States.

In 1910, representatives of various state commissions met at a conference in Chicago and drafted the Uniform Workmen's Compensation Law. Although not overwhelmingly adopted, this uniform law became the blueprint for state workers' compensation statutes. All but eight states had adopted a workers' compensation law by 1920, and, in 1963, Hawaii became the last state to do so.

 

 

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