Mesa, Arizona

A Brief History of Workers’ Compensation September 16, 2020

Mesa, Maricopa
A Brief History of Workers’ Compensation, Mesa, Arizona

Workers’ compensation is considered a vital part of the American labor force. It’s a state-mandated insurance program that provides monetary benefits to employees who have suffered a workplace injury or illness. What many people aren’t aware of is that this concept dates back thousands of years and has evolved significantly over time to become an important form of protection for both employees and employers. Here’s a brief overview of its longstanding history.

How Workers’ Compensation Came to Be

The Origins

The first record of people being compensated for work-related injuries is around 2050 B.C. in ancient Sumer, now known as Iraq. At this time, the Sumerian law implemented policies that allowed workers to receive restitution for specific on-the-job injuries. Following this outline, ancient Greek, Arab, Chinese, and Roman laws developed a system that provided compensation according to a scheduled value for each body part. These early laws failed to take into account the long-term effects a workplace injury could have.

The Industrial Revolution

workplace injuryWith the rise of the Industrial Revolution, working conditions became increasingly hazardous and injuries were commonplace. Unfortunately, the only option workers had was to take legal action in court, which rarely proved successful. They were denied any compensation if their employer was able to prove contributory negligence (meaning the employee was responsible for their own injuries), assumption of risk (by signing a contract the employee accepted the risk of working in dangerous conditions), or the “fellow servant” rule (a co-worker caused the employee’s injuries).

In 1871, employees working in factories, railroads, mines, and quarries found some relief with the enactment of Employers’ Liability Law, presented by Prussia’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. A decade later, he established workers’ accident insurance, laying the foundation for workers’ compensation insurance in Europe and America.

Introduction to the U.S. & Modern-Day Workers’ Compensation Law

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that change began to take place in the United States workforce. After several attempts to pass state workers’ compensation laws, Wisconsin was the first to succeed in 1911. The rest of the states started to follow suit, and by 1948, they all had workers’ compensation legislation in place based on the no-fault insurance structure instituted under Prussian law. This means injured workers are entitled to benefits regardless of who was at fault. In most cases, it also prevents employees from suing an employer once they accept benefits.

The same basic system remains in place today with clearer definitions of work injuries that are and aren’t covered by workers’ compensation. Laws also vary from state to state, but most are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.


If you’ve been hurt while on the job, turn to Accident Medical Doctors Auto & Motorcycle Injuries for prompt and reliable medical attention. This facility is comprised of a highly-skilled staff of physicians who will team up to provide you an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Serving Maricopa County, AZ, they’ve helped countless patients restore their bodies to optimal function following a workplace injury. They can also refer you to an attorney for assistance with your workers’ compensation claim. Call (602) 632-0000 to schedule an appointment, or visit them online to learn more about their services.  

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