Workers’ compensation laws are a product of the 20th century. According to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, prior to the passage of these statutes, workplace injuries were addressed through individual lawsuits. If there was an employee hurt on the job, that person had to file a negligence lawsuit against his or her employer in order to collect compensation. This type of litigation would require proof that an employer behaved negligently, and that this negligence caused the worker’s injury.
While workers could recover damages through these lawsuits, the process was generally slow and costly. In addition, there were no guarantees that workers would receive compensation in the end.
Workers’ compensation laws were passed in an attempt to improve these situations. Under these statutes, workers enjoy guaranteed benefits. These payments address lost income and medical expenses, as well as income benefits to the dependents of deceased workers.
Under workers’ compensation programs, fault is not an issue. Workers simply have to show that their injuries are work-related. It does not matter whether the employer, the employee or both were at fault. This is a much easier burden of proof than that required in a negligence lawsuit. In exchange for this guarantee of benefits, workers give up the ability to sue their employers for negligence.
Part of the goals behind workers’ compensation laws was to streamline the process of compensating injured workers. By substituting a no-fault benefits program for negligence lawsuits, court costs, time and judicial workloads were reduced. This was beneficial to both employers and employees.
Today, workers’ compensation programs exist throughout the country. South Carolina’s workers’ compensation programs are administered by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission.