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History of Workers' Compensation

About the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the Industrial Commission
BWC collects workers’ compensation insurance premiums from employers, oversees the insurance system, and pays compensable claims to injured workers. The Industrial Commission of Ohio resolves claim disputes.
 
Pre-1911  
An employee had to file a tort claim in court against the employer, alleging the employer was negligent. The injured worker then had the burden of proving this negligence was the actual cause of the injury. The employer could raise several very effective affirmative defenses against the claim (i.e., assumption of risk, fellow servant doctrine, and contributory negligence).  In most instances, injured workers received no wage replacement or coverage for medical expenses.  In rare instances when injured workers won their tort lawsuits, they received large punitive damages awards that sometimes bankrupted their employer.
 
The Compromise
The Workers’ Compensation Act passed in 1911.   It was in response to the unchecked and frequent workplace injuries and fatalities of the Industrial Era.  The Act created a state insurance fund to compensate workers injured on the job.  The Industrial Commission of Ohio ran the system until 1955 when the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation was created.
 
In Ohio, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.  Both employees and employers gave up certain rights.  Only after a workers’ compensation dispute has totally worked its way through the administrative system of BWC and the Industrial Commission of Ohio can a party appeal a disputed legal matter into Ohio’s court system.
 
Common Law Not Applicable
We find guidance on how to handle disputes from four sources: 1) Section 35, Article II, of the Ohio Constitution; 2) the Ohio Revised Code (mostly Chapters 4121 and 4123), 3) the Ohio Administrative Code; and 4) court decisions.