Brief History Of Workers Compensation Law

The history of compensation for bodily injury begins shortly after the advent of written history itself. [1] A tablet from ancient Sumeria outlines the law regarding workers compensation and dates back to approximately 2050 B.C. [2] Ancient Greek, Roman, Arab, and Chinese law provided sets of compensation schedules.  These schedules included precise payments for the loss of a body part. For example, under ancient Arab law, loss of a joint of the finger was worth one-half the value of a finger. The loss of a penis was compensated by the amount of length lost.  The loss of an ear was valued based on the amount of service area lost.[3]

The methods used to determine the amount of compensation an injured worker was entitled to clearly change over the years, but the fundamental principles remain.

Workers compensation insurance coverage is designed to compensate employees who are injured on the job.   In the United States, the need for a workers compensation system came about in connection with the industrial revolution.  The industrial revolution caused an increase in the use of machinery, new concepts of producing goods, and an increase in pressure resulting from demand for the product.  The combination of these factors resulted in an increase in the number of job injuries.

The first “workmen’s” compensation law passed in the United States was the Federal Employer’s Liability act. [4] The federal law was adopted in the United States in 1908 under President Theodore Roosevelt.

The basic tradeoff with workers compensation is summarized as follows:  workers injured on the job receive medical care and lost wages regardless of who was at fault. In return, employers are protected from virtually uncertain exposure resulting from disastrous losses in connection with a work accident.  The protection exists as a result of requiring certain employers to pay a premium for workers compensation coverage.  In exchange for receiving the benefits that are supposed to be guaranteed through workers  compensation, the injured worker is prohibited from filing a lawsuit against his or her employer.  There are certain limited exceptions that allow an employee injured on the job to file a lawsuit against their employer.  To determine whether your work accident would be covered under workers compensation insurance or whether you could sue your employer civilly, contact our office for a free consultation.

Florida’s adoption of workers compensation laws did not move as quickly as other states.   The main reasons were that comparably, Florida had a smaller work force and virtually no manufacturing. Florida industry was limited and consisted primarily of phosphate mining, agricultural harvesting of fruits and vegetables, tobacco, cattle, and logging.  This new law was signed May 23,1935 as House Bill 29 and became effective July 1,1935.

From 1935 forward, Florida has seen many changes in the laws governing work comp claims.   The Dolman Law Group remains aware of any and all law changes that could both benefit our work comp clients or laws that we can warn our clients about to help avoid such a law negatively impacting their case.   Fortunately, recent law changes regarding workers compensation in Florida have been favorable for injured workers.  Contact our office for a free consultation (727) 853-6275 or visit

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275


[3] Geerts A, Kornblith B, Urmson J., Compensation for Bodily Harm. Brussels: Fernand Nathan; 1977. pp. 7–211.