Workers’ compensation is insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job.
Employers—and, in the case of some co-op and condo boards, corporations that may not employ anyone—pay for workers’ comp insurance, and it’s not the workers who benefit. To understand why that is, we must look at the history of workers’ comp.
Origins in Labor Movement
Originally, workers’ compensation laws were established in part to reduce the need for litigation.
“The origin was in Germany at the turn of the 20th century,” says John H. Geaney, a partner with the law firm of Capehart & Scratchard in Mount Laurel and a prolific author of material on the subject. “In America, workers’ comp took root later in the 20th century.”
Before the workers’ compensation laws were passed, injured workers had to prove that the employers’ negligence caused their injury. So if Building Super John Smith injured a knee while carrying out his duties for ABC Condominium Association, he had to prove that the HOA was at fault. In a workers’ comp claim, the employee waives his or her right to sue for negligence, but gains the right to get benefits for injuries sustained at work—even if the injuries were the fault of the worker.