Workmen's Compensation: Prevention, Insurance, and Rehabilitation of Occupational Disability

By Herman Miles Somers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Workmen's Compensation at the Crossroads

The Balance Sheet

The preceding chapters have detailed the accomplishments as well as the failures of workmen's compensation. Legislation, in some form, has been adopted in every State and territory, although it took 37 years from the first to the last. Its constitutionality and legitimacy as a method of alleviating the cost of occupational injuries is unchallenged, although all the debilitating provisions inserted when constitutionality was an issue remain. The basic principle of "liability without fault" has so well demonstrated its practical social utility that it is rapidly being extended to other forms of legal liability, but the compromise which the occupationally injured made for the innovation of this principle remains fixed and progressively more disadvantageous to them.

There has been little advance in statutory provisions regarding employment coverage, but it has increased as a result of employment shifts. Between two-thirds and four-fifths of U. S. jobs are now covered. Considerable indifference exists with regard to its further extension, despite the fact that the omissions generally strike at the type of worker most sorely in need of protection. Injury coverage has been greatly broadened, partly through judicial expansion of the concept of causal relation to the job, and the line of demarkation between occupational and non-occupational disability grows increasingly tenuous. By January 1954, all but two States covered some occupational diseases by statute, although only 26 covered all.

The most obvious characteristics of the benefit structure are arbitrary inconsistency, both within and among States, and, despite, peri

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