Workers’ compensation laws are a tradeoff between employees and employers. Employees give up the right to sue their employers for full damages, in exchange for specific benefits without the burden of proving fault. Before workers’ compensation laws, employees had to show fault on the part of someone–usually their employers–in order to be compensated.
Most workplace accidents are not the result of anyone’s fault, so even though workers’ compensation benefits are less than the damages available in court, employees are usually considered better off having workers’ compensation than not having it. This is hard to accept when you only receive 60% of your pre-injury average weekly wage, like New Hampshire workers do, and only a little less painful if you receive 2/3 of Average Weekly Wage, as many states and the Longshore, Defense Base Act, and other laws provide.
However, the alternative–having to prove in court that an employer’s fault caused an injury–is more expensive to pursue and takes a much longer time than a normal workers’ compensation administrative hearing. For better or worse, workers’ compensation is the tradeoff we have to live with.
NEWS UPDATE: Injured workers in Florida may have expanded options! A court in Florida recently found that the Florida workers’ comp system was so meager that it unconstitutionally deprived Florida workers of remedies guaranteed to them by the state constitution. Here is a link to the story: Florida Workers’ Compensation Law Struck Down