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Here is an interesting article on the History of Workers' Compensation and how it evolved.

By Christopher J. Boggs, CPCU, ARM, ALCM

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the workers' compensation system in the U.S. As Christopher Boggs, director of Education for Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance, writes in the following Workers' Compensation History: The Great Tradeoff!, the states' workers' compensation systems have evolved and expanded since the beginning.

Workers' Compensation History: The Great Tradeoff!

Pirates of the 18th century and a 19th century German "Iron" Chancellor preceded the United States in the creation of a social system for the protection of injured workers. The modern U.S. workers' compensation system owes parts of its existence to this parentage.

Arrrrg, I'm Hurt!

Pirates, contrary to popular myth, proved to be highly organized and entrepreneurial. Prior to their assignment to the ranks of outlaws, they were considered highly prized allies of the government, plundering and sharing the spoils with governors of the pre-Revolutionary colonies who gave them a safe port.

Privateering (the gentleman's term for piracy) was a dangerous occupation; taking booty away from those who did not want to give it up leads to sea battles, hand-to-hand combat and injury. Because of the ever-present chance of impairment, a system was developed to compensate injured "employees." There was one catch: he or she (there were female pirates as well) had to survive the wounds to collect as there was no recorded compensation for death. provides some information regarding the amount of payment made to the injured:

• Loss of an eye — 100 pieces of eight (Spanish dollar);
• Loss of a finger — 100 pieces of eight;
• Loss of left arm — 500 pieces of eight;
• Loss of right arm — 600 pieces of eight;
• Loss of left leg — 400 pieces of eight; and
• Loss of right leg — 500 pieces of eight.

Average weekly wage for colonial Americans of this period equated to approximately two pieces of eight per week. Loss of an eye or finger would merit payment approximating 50 weeks of wages. The right arm was worth 300 weeks (a little less than six years). These compare rather closely to modern compensation schedules.

In addition to being compensated, injured crew members were allowed to remain on board and were offered less strenuous duty. The first return-to-work program was created.

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Did you know that Cliff Cottam Insurance Services provides Workers' Compensation Insurance for businesses?  If you would like to get a free quote contact us at (800) 807-6871!  Or you can complete our online Workers' Compensation form.

Posted 4:47 PM

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