‘Recasting the Workers’ Compensation Grand Bargain’

Nate Holdren, Injury Impoverished (2020). In his excellent book, Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era, Nate Holdren satisfyingly scrutinizes the ‘Grand Bargain’, through which workers are said to have traded tort rights for workers’ compensation statutory rights. It has always been a little difficult to swallow the idea that in 1911 – the year of enactment of the first US workers’ compensation statutes – American workers were sufficiently organized nationwide to compel employers and Government to make this trade. Still, as Holdren makes clear, American workers had every incentive to be interested in supplanting a negligence system that defeated worker injury claims through operation of the dreaded ‘unholy trinity’ of contributory negligence, assumption of the risk, and the fellow servant rule. But the Grand Bargain may have been more about what industry and Government wanted than what workers wanted … (more)

[Michael C Duff, JOTWELL, 1 February]

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