The Workers’ Compensation Act

The ultimate social philosophy behind the Workers’ Compensation Act is that is it wise to provide for a dignified, efficient form of protection to an injured worker for basic benefits rather than settling a dispute in court between two parties.

The Maryland General Assembly first enacted the Workers’ Compensation Act in 1914.  The purpose of the Act was to provide relief to the increasing number of workers in a rapidly expanding industrial society. The Act enumerates four basic principles: (1) the employee is automatically entitled to benefits if he suffers an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment, and if so, he is automatically entitled to benefits; (2) negligence and fault are largely immaterial; (3) recovery under the Act is limited to the relationship between the employer and the employee – if there is no relationship, no right to proceed under the Act; and (4) the benefits system provides cash benefits for lost wages, medical benefits, death benefits, and vocational training.

The Act provides the administrative process for workers’ compensation claims.  It is quasi-judicial, and there are 10 commissioners who hear cases.  The litigation system put in place by the Act forces employers to provide covered to employees if they are hurt, even if the employer or employee is negligent.   Neither party can sue for the other’s negligence under workers’ compensation law.  The employer is also required to carry insurance to cover the risk and the cost is passed on to the consumer of the product, rather than forcing government to set up an entitlement program for tax payers to fund.

The Act provides a presumption of jurisdiction, meaning that it is presumed that all claims filed come under the jurisdiction of the Workers’ Compensation Commission.  There is also a presumption of notice and that the notice requirements placed on the employee have been satisfied.  There is also a presumption that the failure to file the claim within the first allowable time by the claimant, which is 60 days, of an accident, does not cause prejudice to the employer.   There is also a presumption that, in part, the claim is not barred by an intoxication defense (if the injury was caused solely by a worker’s intoxication, then the claim is totally barred).

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