Fire Protection Law
To first understand North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Law we must first understand the history of Workers’ Compensation and how it came into effect in the United States. The first written history of compensation for bodily injury was about 2050 B.C. The Nippur Tablet No. 3191 from ancient Sumeria in the Fertile Crescent outlines the Law of Ur-Nammu. This law provided monetary compensation for specific injury to workers’ body parts, including fractures (2). The development of English common law in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance provided a legal framework that persisted into the early Industrial Revolution across Europe and America. Three critical principles gradually developed which determined what injuries were compensable; contributory negligence, the fellow servant rule, and the assumption of risk (1, 2). Contributory negligence held that if the worker was in any way responsible for his injury, he was barred from any recovery, and the employer was not liable. Under the fellow servant rule an employer was not liable if the worker’s injuries resulted in any part from the action or negligence of a fellow employee. Assumption of risk held simply, that employees who knew of the hazards of any particular job when they signed their employment contract and by agreeing to work in that position they assume any inherent risk thereof (1, 2).
In 1884 Chancellor Otto von Bismarck introduced the Workers’ Accident Insurance creating the first modern system of workers’ compensation which became the model for Europe’s and ultimately America’s workers’ compensation programs. Europe proposed a workers’ compensation act in 1893 which finally passed after a four year legislative struggle in 1897(1, 2). America did not enjoin the workers’ compensation revolution until the early 1900’s. Several states attempted to pass legislation, such as, Maryland (1902), Massachusetts (1908), Montana (1909), and New York (1910) and all were struck down under constitutional challenge as due to violating “due process” (2). One day after New York’s Court of Appeals declared the state’s compulsory workers’ compensation law unconstitutional in 1911, one hundred and forty-six (146) workers were killed in a fire at the Triangle Waist Co. Events such as this and the recognition of the value of an employee spurred the movement towards a social system of workers’ compensation in the U. S. between 1900 and 1911 (2). In 1908 President Taft signed into law the first viable workers’ compensation act, the Federal Employees Liability Act, which covered workers involved in interstate trade. In 1908-1909 various states set up commissions to study the merits and drawbacks of a social system of injured employee compensation (1, 8). In 1910 a special conference was held in Chicago and was attended by representatives of industrial states to outline a uniform set of guidelines for a compensation law. Employers agreed to pay medical bills and lost wages, regardless of fault and in return the employees agreed to give up the right to sue, this is known as exclusivity (8). In 1911 Wisconsin passed the first comprehensive workers’ compensation and was followed by nine more states that year (1, 2). By 1948 all states had adopted workers’ compensation legislation in the U. S. (8).
North Carolina in 1929 passed the North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act which was created to provide two forms of protection; it provides employees with a way to receive medical treatment and financial recovery from job related injuries and it provides employers with limited liability in most cases of work-related accidents (4). N.C. workers’ compensation laws are contained in chapter 97 of the N.C. General Statutes (3). These laws state that all employers with three or more employees must have a workers’ compensation policy that provides for weekly payments to cover lost