Workers compensation attorneys as we know them today did not exist more than 100 years ago. The history of workman’s compensation goes back thousands of years, to the time of Hammurabi and his Code. But the rise of the workman’s compensation lawyer did not come about until the development of a common law in the late Middle Ages.
This common law created a legal framework that set the stage for workers’ compensation attorneys to enter the scene during the Industrial Revolution.
At the onset of the Industrial Revolution, worker’s compensation attorneys were not known by that name. In general, they were grouped together with all other lawyers, be they a workman’s compensation lawyer specifically or not. Strict principals governed workmen’s compensation attorneys during the Industrial Revolution and made it difficult for workers to file complaints or receive compensation, even with the help of their workers compensation lawyer.
Compensation for injuries or sickness was not awarded if there was contributory negligence, injuries caused by fellow workers, or if the injured worker has the assumption of risk when accepting the job in the first place. These restrictions made it extremely difficult for workman’s compensation lawyers to even file, let alone win a case.
The extremely high costs of pursing a workman’s compensation case left most common workers with no recourse but to pay for their injuries and try to find a safer job less likely to put them in harm’s way.
To help combat the exorbitant costs of a case, societies were formed to assist the more affluent workers by providing them with workers compensation attorneys who could help purchase a variety of different kinds of liability insurance. Such protection was minimal, but was better than nothing. On the rare occasion a workers’ compensation lawyer prevailed in court and won his client compensation, it was considered a great stride forward for all workers compensation attorneys.
Near the end of the 19th century workman’s’ compensation began to become more popular through the adoption of worker compensation laws in Europe. Workers were now able to hire an attorney who specialized in that area of law, and file and appeal cases through the government for redress. It is important to note that while workman’s’ compensation attorneys could file a suit with the government, a lawyer was prohibited from filing a workers compensation suit in civil court, as the government court was considered the only valid court for workers comp cases. This helped secure employers against false claims and fraud.
Workers compensation did not begin to become popular in the United States until after the turn of the 19th century. Taking their cue from Europe, American workman’s compensation lawyers worked hard to implement a system to help protect workers on the job. By the early 19th century several states had adopted comprehensive workman’s compensation laws.
Within the next one hundred years, workers compensation attorneys all across the country worked diligently to provide their services for the hundreds of thousands of workers in the labor markets, and in the process brought workers’ compensation attorneys to the forefront of the legal world.