Workers' compensation law is a compromise between business and labor, a compromise that has benefits for both. The system provides workers with prompt medical and disability/wage benefits. It sets standards for employer liability and requires financial reserves for such liability, thus cushioning the economic effect of work injury and illness for the employer. It delivers no-fault benefits, at least theoretically allowing for a straightforward administrative and litigation-free system.
Of course, there are drawbacks. In some cases, an individual worker may receive less than he or she would receive at common law--that is, if the worker went to court, alleged negligence, and won. On the other side, in some periods, employers are plagued by the intrusion of attorneys in record numbers into the system, as well as skyrocketing medical costs and spiking premiums. Nonetheless, the work accident insurance system has been a great boon to society, reducing worker-employer conflict, improving work safety, helping the survivors of fatal work accidents, and protecting the public coffers from the needs of destitute and disabled workers.
Most workers' compensation programs are established and governed by state law. However, there are a few federal programs:
• The Federal Employment Compensation Act (FECA) provides workers' compensation for nonmilitary, federal employees. Most of its provisions are similar to state workers' compensation programs.
• The Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA), while not a workers' compensation statute, provides that railroads engaged in interstate commerce are liable for injuries to their employees if they have been negligent. ...