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An automobile may be insured against damage or destruction hy fire whether occasioned by any external cause or by ignition or explosion in the machine itself, against loss or damage while in course of transportation by land or water, against injury from collision with other objects or other accident, and against theft.
The owner may also be insured against claims for damages for death, or for injury to the persons or property of others, occasioned by collision with his machine.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION LAWS. Under the common law an employer was responsible for accidental injuries suffered by his employees only when the accident was due to some negligence on his part, or on the part of some one to whom he had entrusted the superintendence of his business. In an action for damages resulting from such an accident not only was the employee required to prove the fact of the employer's negligence but the employer might, among other things, plead in defence, (1) contributory negligence—that is, that the accident was due in part t the negligence or carelessness of the employee; (2) voluntary assumption of risk—that is, that the employee, knowing that there were certain dangers incident to the work in which he was to be engaged, voluntarily entered upon the employment and thereby assumed the risk of any injury not directly traceable to the employer's negligence, and (3) the fellow servant doctrine—that is, that the accident was due to the carelessness or negligence of a fellow employee for whose conduct the employer was not responsible.
The results of this system were extremely unsatisfactory. Both the theory of the employer's negligence as the ground for compensation to the employee, and the defences which the employer was allowed to set up, whatever may have been the case at an earlier day, are admittedly inapplicable to modern industrial conditions.
The first changes in the laws merely increased in certain respects the employer's responsibility, making him answerable to his employees for the acts of other employees entrusted with the duty of superintendence, and for defects in the machinery and appliances furnished for the performance of the work. This was the origin of the “Employers' Liability Laws,” which we have already considered (ante p 872).
These laws, however, failed to effect the object desired. On the one hand there were a very large number of industrial accidents not directly traceable to the negligence of either the employer or the employee, and for which the employee therefore could recover no compensation, while in any case the expense of prosecuting the employee's claim usually absorbed a large part of any sum finally recovered. On the other hand there was no
established rule for compensation, and the employer often had to pay excessive sums awarded by sympathetic or prejudiced juries. There resulted a growing sentiment that compensation for industrial accidents should be put upon an entirely different basis and that the best practical way of dealing with the matter was to treat such accidents as incident to the business, making the employer primarily responsible in all cases, without regard to the question of negligence. In this way compensation for injuries would form a regular part of the cost of conducting the business and would ultimately be paid by the public as a part of the cost of production. . An essential part of the plan also was the establishment of a definite basis for compensation for injuries of different kinds, the amount in each case depending upon the character and the degree of the injury. The result is the “Workmen's Compensation Laws." Laws of this kind have now been enacted in more than half of the states in the Union. While they are all based upon the same general principles, they vary widely in their scope and in their details. It would be impracticable to give them in full in a work of this kind, but we give here a general view of the subject, followed at the end of the chapter by brief abstracts of the laws of the several states.
FIRST THE SCOPE OF THE LAW. In only a few states have the Workmen's Compensation Laws been made absolutely obligatory. In a large majority it has, for constitutional reasons, been made optional with the 'employer, in form at least, whether to accept the provisions of the law or not. We say, in form, because in every such case the law is so drawn as to put at a distinct disadvantage any employer who does not accept it. This is usually done by providing that the employer who does not adopt the compensation system shall be deprived of the three special defences above mentioned, but that this provision shall not apply to those who accept it. Where the employer accepts, his employees are put to a similar election, for if they choose to stand outside of the law their employer may set up any of the above-named defences against them. By accepting the compensation law both parties waive all other legal remedies and consent to be governed exclusively by its provisions.
In some of the states acceptance of the law is presumed unless notice to the contrary is given to the Industrial Board or other state officials having jurisdiction over the operation of the law. In others, the employer must file a written acceptance. He must then notify his employees of his acceptance of the law and post notices of such acceptance in his factory or other place of business; the acceptance of the employees is then conclusively presumed unless they give written notice to the contrary. Provision is also made for the subsequent withdrawal of assent.
In most of the states there are limitations to the application of the law. In a few, as in Louisiana, New York, New Hampshire, and Washington, it is limited to certain enumerated “hazardous ” trades or occupations; although in New York the list is so comprehensive that the limitation is more nominal than real. In other states the provisions of the law do not apply to employers of less than a specified number of employees, varying from two to ten, or of casual employees or outworkers. In others, as in Massachusetts, there is an express exemption of employers of domestic servants or of farm laborers.
Compensation is denied in many states, when the injury is due to the wilful intention of the employee to injure himself or another, or where it is due to his intoxication, or to his neglect to use safeguards against accidents, which are provided for him. Accidents due to " serious and wilful misconduct " or to “ wilful misconduct” are also excepted. Under the former clause it is held that the word “serious” applies to the misconduct itself, not to the actual consequences of it; accordingly not every breach of rules deprives the employee of compensation. The word "wilful” imports that the conduct was deliberate, and not merely a thoughtless act done on the spur of the moment, or as the result of some pressing emergency. But where a workman intentionally violates an express order made solely for the protection of employees, and which he fully understands, he is guilty of " serious and wilful misconduct.”
SECOND NATURE AND EXTENT OF THE LIABILITY. Even under the compensation law the employer is not the insurer of the employee's safety at all times or under all circumstances. His liability extends only to “personal injury sustained
by an employee arising out of and in the course of his employment.” This is the language of the Connecticut statute, and in substance it is found in the statutes of all the other states. On the other hand it is sometimes provided that when the injury is due to the serious and wilful misconduct of the employer double the amount of the usual compensation shall be paid to the employee, and this clause, it is held, is not limited to acts done with the positive intention of inflicting injury, but includes reckless acts evincing utter disregard of consequences, and even persistent neglect to remedy dangerous conditions of which the employer has actual knowledge. In the English statute, and in those of a considerable number of the states, a further limitation is introduced — the injury must be “accidental,” or “caused by accident.” The most important effect of these terms is in relation to claims for injury caused by disease. Where the word "accident" is not used, it is usually — though not always — held that death or injury from disease is included. Thus, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts say, “ It is clear that personal injury under our act includes any injury or disease which arises out of and in the course of the employment, which causes incapacity for work, and thereby impairs the ability of the employee for earning wages." Accordingly, it was held in that case that loss of sight resulting from an attack of optic neuritis induced by poisonous gases escaping from furnaces which the workman was tending was a "personal injury
personal injury” within the meaning of the act. In these states death or injury from occupational diseases,” such as lead poisoning, is placed upon the same level as that caused by external violence. On the other hand, where the word "accident" is used compensation for the effects of disease is denied, unless the disease results from some actual physical injury. The statutes of Iowa, Louisiana, New York, and Vermont exclude liability for disease in express terms.
In this connection the word 'accident' is used in the popular and ordinary sense of the term as denoting an unlooked for mishap, or an untoward event which is not expected or designed;" and it is said that “where no specific time or occasion can be fixed as the time of the alleged accident there is no 'injury by accident' within the meaning of the act." Accordingly, when a workman after ten days' service in a bleachery