Imagini ale paginilor


Limitations are placed on the time for giving notice and for making claims under the acts, notice usually being required within from 5 to 30 days, and a claim within from 3 months to 2 years. A number of laws contain. the provision that no notice is necessary where the employer has other knowledge of the fact or where the accident was a fatal one. The time set may also be extended if it is shown that the employer was not prejudiced, but if prejudiced the liability will be reduced only to the extent of such prejudice. Many laws also provide that no defect in the notice shall be a bar to proceedings or recovery. As a matter of practice, the commissions construe this provision quite liberally; nor is the strict adherence to the technicality of the law always insisted upon by the employers and insurers if the injury actually occurred and their liability therefor is unquestioned. On the other hand, it is necessary to protect the employer from false claims made by employees a considerable period of time subsequent to the alleged injury. It would be difficult for an employer to disprove several weeks or months after the occurrence of an injury that it arose out of the employment if he had no knowledge of its occurrence and no report of it had been made. Then, too, the employer should have immediate knowledge of the injury in order that he may furnish competent medical and surgical treatment so as to minimize the result of the injury and to secure as early a recovery as possible. Several States have recently amended their compensation acts, requiring employees to report immediately all injuries to their employers.

Claims for compensation, as already noted, must be made within 3 months to 2 years. In 6 States 35 claims must be made within 3 months; in 12 States 36 within 6 months; in 20 States 37 and the Federal Government within 1 year; and in 4 States 38 within 2 years. The Wyoming law makes no provision in this respect, while in Utah the time is fixed by the commission. In New Mexico claim must be made within 2 months after the refusal of the employer to pay compensation except that in fatal cases the limit is 1 year. A short time limit for the presentation of claims works an injustice where the disability does not develop until a considerable period after the date of the accident.

35 Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada (1 year in case of death), Oregon (1 year in case of death), and Porto Rico.

36 California (1 year in case of death), Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota (1 year if reasonable cause is shown), Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia. 37 Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Tennessee, and Washington.

38 Alaska, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

172308°-20-Bull. 275- -8


The three most important factors in a compensation act are its scope, compensation benefits, and administrative system-in other words, who should receive compensation, how much should he receive, and does he actually receive it, and if so, when, The first two are fixed by law, subject, of course, to the interpretation of commission and court; but some responsible administrative body is necessary to insure to the injured workman his rights under the law, and to see that he receives the full amount of his compensation immediately and regularly. As to administration, there are two general types of compensation acts-the commission or board type, of which there are 34,39 and the self-administrative or court type, of which there are 11.40

In the commission type, a special board, usually of three or five members," is appointed to enforce the law, including usually the administration of the State insurance fund, if such a fund is created. The commission is granted extensive powers and quasi-judicial functions. It receives accident reports, investigates claims, settles disputes, hears cases, grants awards, issues deerees, and, in case of a State fund, classifies industries, fixes and collects premiums, and pays compensation. In some States it has the additional function of accident prevention, while in a few States 42 it administers the entire body of labor laws. There seems to be a tendency among States to consolidate the separate agencies authorized to enforce the various labor laws into one body called an industrial commission. Several States 43 in recent years have created such commissions, thereby abolishing all existing agencies.

In the court type of law the amount of compensation and other questions at issue are settled directly by the employer or insurer and the injured employee. In cases of dispute the matter may be referred to an arbitration committee, and eventually taken to the courts. In some of these States, however, there exists a certain amount of loose supervision by one or more State agencies. For example, in Alabama the director of the department of archives and history, who is ex officio compensation commissioner, shall receive accident reports and settlements, prepare blank forms, and compile statistics on the

39 California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Porto Rico, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

40 Alabama Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

41 A single commissioner in Iowa, Nebraska. South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia.

42 Indiana, New York, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

43 Indiana, New York, Ohio, Utah, and Wisconsin. Also of similar type are California, Colorado, and Montana.

operation of the act; in Alaska, rejections of the act are filed with the United States commissioner; in Arizona, in case the parties do not agree, reference may be had to the attorney general; in Kansas, disputes are settled by local committees or arbitrators selected either by the parties in interest or by the court; in Minnesota, notices and settlements are filed with the commissioner of labor, who shall advise the employee of his rights and assist in adjusting disputes; in New Hampshire, acceptances and proof of financial solvency are filed with the commissioner of labor; in Rhode Island, acceptances, accident reports, and proof of financial solvency are filed with the commissioner of industrial statistics; in Tennessee the bureau of workshops and factory inspection receives notices of rejection of the act; accident reports, settlements, and releases; while in Wyoming, the State treasurer supervises the State fund and county assessors are required to report lists of extrahazardous employments to the treasurer, who shall compile accident statistics.

Two variations from the standard compensation commission type of administration are (1) the system in Hawaii, which provides for an industrial accident board in each county, and (2) the district system of Connecticut. In the latter State the administration of the act is vested, not in a central board, but in five separate commissioners, each supreme in his own district, which coincides with a congressional district of the State. Each commissioner maintains an office at some central point, generally the largest industrial city in the district. The five commissioners, acting as a board, make rules, prescribe forms, issue bulletins, etc.; but as regards the interpretation and administration of the act, each commissioner is supreme and independent in his own district. Although conflicting decisions have been made, a satisfactory uniformity in rulings and practices seems to be maintained by means of frequent conferences and the use of each other's awards. This district system is defended on the ground that it permits closer supervision of compensation cases and expedites settlements, and that the close personal relationship between the commissioner and the parties in interest makes possible a feeling of mutual confidence. On the other hand, it is maintained that a single commissioner is more easily subject to undue influences and affected by personal considerations.

The great predominance of the commission type of law seems abundantly warranted from the experience that has developed under the various methods. The need of authoritative agencies to administer compensation laws is sufficiently demonstrated in those States which do not possess them. The average non-English-speaking foreign workman is generally unfamiliar with his rights under the law and does not know what action to take in case of injury. Complaint, too,

is frequent that the fear of discharge acts as an effective deterrent in demanding compensation.

The experience of New Jersey under court administration proved conclusively that thousands of compensable accidents are insufficiently compensated or not compensated at all. A comparison of accident statistics of New Jersey with those of Massachusetts is very illuminating. Both States require all employers to report their accidents. In Massachusetts during the year 1916 there were reported 28,060 accidents resulting in death or in disability of two weeks or longer, whereas in New Jersey, which has 78 per cent as many employees as Massachusetts, only 8,611 such accidents were reported. Inasmuch as the industries of New Jersey are fully as hazardous as those of Massachusetts they should produce proportionately the same number of accidents. The probable number of accidents in New Jersey in 1916, therefore, was 21,887, not 8,611, as reported. In other words, 13,276, or over 60 per cent, of New Jersey's compensable accidents were not reported and presumably were not compensated.


The settlement of disputes is one of the principal administrative functions of a compensation commission or board, and consumes most of its time and energy. The speedy settlement of cases and the immediate and regular payment of benefits depend in a great measure upon the efficiency of the commission, which in turn is affected by the method of organization. It is important, therefore, to examine the methods provided in the various laws for hearing and settling compensation cases and disputes. Much of the administrative routine, such as examining accident reports, investigating claims, and checking up voluntary agreements and settlements, may be delegated to subordinates. On the other hand, a large proportion of the work, such as hearing and deciding cases and granting commutations, is quasi judicial in character and can not ordinarily be so delegated; in fact, the hearing of cases by the commissioners, either individually or collectively, frequently takes up so much time that little opportunity is afforded for constructive work, such as accident prevention, restoring the maximum earning capacity of injured workmen, and fitting them to their new and changed economic environment. In fact, in many cases, compensation commissioners are merely highly paid claim agents. The settlement of compensation cases, in the first instance, therefore, by methods which insure both justice and expedition in the settlement of claims is of utmost importance.

The most common system devised for this purpose is the settlement of cases directly by the parties in interest through the medium of direct settlements or voluntary agreements. These voluntary agree

ments are later reviewed by the commission and if found to conform with the provisions of the act are approved. Approximately 75 to 95 per cent of industrial accidents are settled in this way. In other States, especially those having State funds, the injured workman files a claim with the commission. This claim is examined and if found legitimate is approved and payment ordered. The principal argument in favor of direct settlements is that it expedites procedure and insures more prompt payments. It is held that a majority of injuries involve no dispute and substantial justice is insured through the direct settlement plan. The argument against direct settlements is predicated upon the claim that injured employees are not always familiar with their compensation rights, that they can not cope successfully with a trained insurance adjuster, and that in demanding compensation from their employer they are laboring under constraint. The fear of antagonizing their employer, it is held, effectively inhibits injured workers from insisting upon their rights. The recent investigation of the operation of the direct settlement system in New York 44 made by Mr. J. F. Connor showed that of 1,000 unselected cases 114 were underpaid. This underpayment amounted to $52,279.84, or $459 per case. The total underpayments, on the basis

of the 1,000 cases, would amount to $1,400,000 annually.

In case the parties can not agree the compensation claim may be settled in one or more of several ways. In the 11 noncommission States, disputed cases usually go to the inferior courts for adjudication, although Arizona and Kansas provide for arbitration committees appointed either by the interested parties or by the court; Arizona also provides for reference to the attorney general; and Minnesota authorizes the department of labor to attempt to settle the matter. In the 34 commission States disputed cases may go either directly to the commission for adjudication or they may be first heard before a subordinate tribunal, usually appointed, in part at least, by the commission. These preliminary tribunals may be either arbitration committees, referees, or individual members of the commission.

The findings of fact and decisions of all such preliminary tribunals are, of course, subject to review by the full commission. Right of appeal from the commission's rulings to the courts is generally provided for, but a number of States limit this right to questions of law only.

Another method of settling disputes, not originally provided for in law but developed through experience, is the informal conference. The parties in interest are requested to appear before a member or representative of the commission. The points in dis

11 Report of investigation by Jeremiah F. Connor, as commissioner under section 8 of the executive law, known as the Moreland Act, in relation to the management and affairs of the State industrial commission. Submitted to the governor, Nov. 17, 1919.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »