In 1911, New Jersey was one of the first States to enact a Workers’ Compensation Law. Although it was touted as a law to protect injured workers, the real purpose was to shield employers from lawsuits by their employees.
The law has been in effect for over 110 years with no major overhaul, only amendments here and there. When we think about 1911, those crafting this new law were almost all on the side of the Industrialists. Unions had very little power and the politicians were controlled by the wealthy.
On March 25, 1911 in New York City, a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Shirt Factory. The workers were Italian, Jewish, and other European girls. The conditions were deplorable. Many of the young women jumped to their deaths as the fire approached them. Fire personnel could only watch as their ladders and hoses could not reach the upper floors where the fire spread. Reformers vowed that conditions in these facilities had to change. When charges were brought against the owners, they were found not responsible because they did not know that the exits were all nailed shut with no means of escape. The women were trapped like rats yet everyday they went to work 12,14, and 16 hours a day.
How can an employer escape responsibility under these conditions? Well they did. And rather than fix the law the create a path to hold employers like this responsible States began to craft Workers’ Compensation laws that had two purposes:
- Shield employers from having to face charges for unsafe working conditions.
- Compensate workers who got hurt on the job.
So what was called the GRAND BARGAIN was written. You cannot sue your employer when you get hurt at work no matter the circumstances and you will in exchange be compensated for your injuries without any burden on you to prove an unsafe workplace. It was called a no-fault system for injured workers.
Every state has a workers’ compensation law of some sort. Some are better than others for workers. All have one thing in common: you cannot sue your employer. Nowhere at any time in this Country has any group ever been able to carve out Immunity from lawsuits. Even the Federal Government can be sued under certain circumstances.
Since the law was written in 1911, you can imagine that the law tended to favor employers. The mindset in 1911 toward workers was very different. Rather than paying the worker outright for their injuries, the law required payments to be made over time to protect the worker from their own irresponsibility in handling their finances. Doctors were chosen by the Employer and or insurance companies because workers were considered incapable of directing their own medical care. Caps were placed on wage replacement benefits to encourage/force workers back to work quickly. These laws are still in place today, 110 years after the GRAND BARGAIN.
Levinson Axelrod, P.A.: Fighting for Injured Workers Since 1939
Levinson Axelrod, P.A. was founded on helping workers navigate through this maze we call Workers’ Compensation. It is no easy task when the law is stacked against you.
For 37 years, I have always described Workers’ Compensation as a Pinball game. No matter how proficient the operator, the ball at some point goes in a hole. The game is designed for that to happen at some point. Even the Pinball Wizard could not keep the ball in play forever.
The goal in a Workers’ Compensation case is much like Pinball. Keep the ball in play. Get paid your compensation, get the medical treatment you need, and finalize the case with a fair settlement. Sounds easy but it isn't. Every one of those goals is a case in and of itself. Getting paid while you are out of work has its challenges. So does getting to the doctors you need to get better. And finally, the settlement is a completely different set of rules and laws.
This is why we at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. have five lawyers who only handle Workers’ Compensation cases. Each one has at least 20 years’ experience in this field. They know every law, every judge, every insurance company lawyer. They are the experts you need to bring your case to a successful conclusion despite the lop-sided law. We and our clients recognize we are the underdogs in this fight. Yet despite the challenges of this 1911 law, we fight, work, and use our connections and resources to keep that Pinball in play until you are better, your benefits are paid, and you get a fair amount of compensation.
If you have been injured on the job, call us at (732) 440-3089. The consultation is free.