85 Years of Workers’ Compensation Law in Florida: A Retrospective
Dealing with the workers’ compensation system can be a major hassle. Your employer chooses your physicians, while focusing more on the bottom line than on your long-term health. If you happen to get a personal injury settlement for a third party that was involved in your accidental injury (such as the driver who collided with the work vehicle you were driving), then you have to pay a workers’ compensation lien to your employer, and your employer will do everything they can to take as much of your settlement money as possible. Did you ever think about what life was like before the current workers’ compensation laws were in place? Workers were even more vulnerable to financial ruin if they got injured at work. The workers’ compensation system still has plenty of flaws, but it is better than nothing. If you have suffered a work injury, a South Florida workers’ compensation lawyer can help you stand up for your legal rights as an injured worker.
A Brief History of Florida Workers’ Compensation Laws
You may remember from your history class in high school that, when the United States and some European countries first became industrialized in the 19th century, working conditions were extremely dangerous, and accidents that resulted in fatalities and serious injuries were a frequent occurrence. One of the legal responses to this was to enact stricter regulations for workplace safety, in order to prevent accidents. Meanwhile, “employer liability” laws passed at the federal and state level in the early 20th century required a process similar to a personal injury lawsuit, where it was the responsibility of the injured worker to prove negligence on the part of the employer. During Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, 15 percent of lawsuits related to work accidents resulted in a ruling in favor of the plaintiff.
There were two problems with the old “employer liability” system. First, it required plaintiffs to show that the employer was negligent, which meant that a large portion of injured workers lost their cases. Second, the system was costly for employers; the judgment amounts were large, and even when the employers won their cases, they still had to pay for legal representation. Therefore, some states started so-called “trade-off” laws, where employers were responsible for paying for all work injury-related medical treatment, regardless of negligence or fault, and in return, injured workers could not sue their employers over work injuries. This might sound like today’s workers’ compensation system.
The first states to institute a workers’ compensation system were in the highly industrialized North and Midwest. Florida was largely agricultural, and it did not pass workers’ compensation legislation until 1935. One factor that led to Florida’s adoption of workers’ compensation laws was that workers building railroads in Florida in the context of Federal New Deal projects were covered under a similar system. Florida’s first workers’ compensation laws excluded workers employed as domestic servants and farm laborers, but today almost all workers are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they get injured at work.
Let Us Help You Today
The law gives injured workers more protection than it used to, but you will probably still need a Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyer if your work-related injuries are severe. Contact the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld for more information.