Workers suffered serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries in accidents in which no one was at fault or when the worker had made a mistake.Theodore Roosevelt, writing shortly after his presidency ended in 1909, described one such worker – Sarah Kinsley, who lost her hand when it was crushed by a cogwheel.
The tort system, though, is designed to punish bad behavior, not provide insurance for workers.
Illinois needs a system that is as dynamic and innovative as the 21st century workplace.
Opponents of reform have focused on the conflicts between employers and employee interests, but evidence suggests that employers have been far more responsive to the needs of workers than the government programs designed to protect those workers.
A successful negligence claim not only forced the employer to cover expenses such as lost wages and medical bills, but could also include severe punitive penalties.
For this reason, it was not sufficient that a worker was injured: There had to be actual wrongdoing on the part of the employer.
While Illinois’ system made sense in the early 20th century, the workplace has changed radically since then: Fewer Americans work in heavy industry; women are now a much larger portion of the workforce; and employees are much more likely to balance work with responsibilities to children and elders in their care.