Origins and Essence of Worker’s Compensation System
Workers Compensation analogue was created in Germany in the 19th century during the industrial revolution, when employers were looking for means to run their businesses without paying too many damages to the workers in cases of injuries. Imagine a multi-million dollar lawsuit against your boss with a favorable verdict in a civil law suit multiplied by 5 or 10 suits of your coworkers every year. No business would hold under such pressure. So, the whole point was to create a system where the workers would be only reasonably compensated, and the employer would be able to feasibly run the industry in which it operates. No juries, no loud verdicts.
Newly injured workers are usually asking if they are going to get such traditional civil damages like loss of earnings or pain and suffering or even loss of joy of life in work comp. The answer is NO. All these civil damages were scaled down to statutorily identified benefits which are their replacements in work comp. Their measure and span is much smaller and strictly regulated by law. Instead of loss of earnings which might be past and future damages you have the temporary disability benefit, which is allowed to be received at best for two years, and no more. Instead of actual damages and pain and suffering you have the permanent disability benefit which is strictly per schedule and measured by percentage. Loss of joy of life or consortium for spouses is not measured at all. At best you may bring a stress claim for which only limited treatment is available. Loss of Career prospects or professional losses are not accounted for. Only limited job training is available.
Going back to the German vision, the employer is protected from multi-dollar lawsuits. He or she is just paying annual premiums to the insurance company, which then adjusts and processes the workers’ claims. And insurances are adjusting all costs per some accepted schedules, be it a medical or disability cost. So, let’s say if you lost a limb or were reduced to a sedentary life style due to your injury, in a civil lawsuit the sky is a limit as far a jury verdict is concerned, may be $10,000,000.00 or may be more. In work comp that may not surpass the $500,000.00 mark. And then only some of it will land in your pocket, the rest will be allocated for your medical needs and training.
In complicated cases it is better to have a work comp attorney right away. Civil or personal injury attorneys are not equipped to help sometimes, because law schools do not teach workers compensation. Therefore, hands on experience in the field and further education of an attorney helps. I have an experience in the field and have practiced work comp for over 27 years. So please do not hesitate to ask for my help at the Law office of Farley and Ketendjian.