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Early version of worker's comp covered colorful characters

If someone were to offer to tell you the history of workers' compensation, you would likely make a very quick exit from the room. After all, even though workers' compensation serves the vital task of helping injured workers get the care and treatment they need, it's background cannot be interesting, right? Well, that's true only if you find tales of pirates boring.

Yes, you read that right; pirates. You see, during the pre-revolutionary days in the 18th-century, pirates were not regarded by the colonies as outlaws, but rather valuable allies. The governors of the colonies actually formed an alliance with the pirates. Sure, the pirates would take to the high seas to plunder, but they would share the spoils with the governors.

But successful pirating often involved engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the crew of the ships being invaded. So as you can imagine, pirates were subject to suffering very severe wounds while "on-the-job." And thus, a system was developed to provide compensation for pirates who were injured while carrying out the tasks of their employment.

And just like today's workers' compensation system, the amount that pirates received was compensatory to the severity of their injuries. For example, if a pirate lost a finger or an eye, he or she would be paid 100 pieces of eight, which was a Spanish dollar. The loss of a right arm drew the largest payout at 600 pieces of eight.

The pirates even had a return-to-work program. That's right, injured pirates were permitted to keep working on the ship and were assigned less strenuous duties.

So there it is, pirates were among the first workers' who were able to collect benefits after being injured at work. And today, the workers' compensation program is extended to most employees in the workforce. But the system is not perfect, and sometimes it is necessary to fight to get the benefits you deserve.

If you should ever have a claim denied, an experienced workers' compensation attorney could act as your representative. The attorney could help you compile the evidence you need in an effort to file a successful appeal.

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