Under Common Law an employer has always been liable to his workmen for his own personal negligence, but it was not until 1897 that there was enacted the first of a series of Workmen's Compensation Acts which introduced a remarkable change in the law, inasmuch as the workman was given a statutory right to compensation for accident without requiring him to prove any negligence whatever.
The evolution of the law relating to Workmen's Compensation is traced through the successive Acts of Parliament, and the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act 1925, which codifies the law on the subject, are summarised so far as they relate to the liability covered by an Insurance Policy. Under the Act the employer is liable for personal injury to his workmen by accident “arising out of and in the course of” the employment or by certain scheduled industrial diseases.
An Insurance Policy covers the liability at Common Law and under the Employers' Liability Act 1880 as well as under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, and in addition makes the Insurance Company responsible for the cost of defending claims. The injured workman may have to consider whether he is likely to recover a larger sum by way of damages than he would receive in compensation by arbitration proceedings under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, and he can then elect which course to take.
A description is given of the Returns of Compensations made by Insurance Companies to the Home Office on behalf of the employers in certain selected industries as required by the Workmen's Compensation Act 1925.
The requirements of the Assurance Companies Act 1909 relating to Employers' Liability Insurance business are stated. In the Annual Returns to the Board of Trade under this Act, an Actuarial Valuation of the Outstanding Claims that have been in existence for five years or more is called for on an annuity basis, but no regulations are laid down for estimating the Liability in respect of Outstanding Claims of shorter duration. The present method is to take each of such claims and after considering the facts—nature of injury, rate of compensation, etc.—to make the best possible estimate of the ultimate cost to the Insurance Company. Later developments of the injury, however, may cause such estimate to be wide of the amount which the Company is called upon to pay. A plea is advanced for an investigation into the liability in respect of Outstanding Claims, in the hope that it may be found possible to arrive at average factors which could be used, with a suitable grouping of the Claims, to determine the Liability under the non-fatal Outstanding Claims from the first occasion of their becoming outstanding. When there is no recognised method based on past experience of making such an estimate, judgment may be influenced by factors not solely relevant to the ascertainment of the liability.
All the leading Offices transacting Employers' Liability Insurance business are members of the Accident Offices Association. This Association was formed after the passing of the Workmen's Compensation Act 1906, by which the scope of workmen's compensation was widely extended. The Association controls the rates and policy conditions of the Tariff Offices, but as the regulations are in great measure confidential, detailed information can only be given regarding what is already common knowledge.
A further step was taken in Government supervision of Insurance Companies by the Agreement made in 1923 between the Home Office and the Accident Offices Association, the effect of which is to limit to 37½% the expenses and profits in respect of the combined figures of the members of the Association.
The trend of probable future legislation as recommended by the Departmental Committee in the Insurance Undertakings Bill is described, and the questions of Compulsory Insurance and State Insurance are touched upon.
An account is given of an Undertaking made recently by the Accident Offices Association to furnish the Government with workmen's compensation statistics in connection with a Home Office Scheme of enquiry into the Incidence and Causation of Accidents.
The subject is so extensive that it has only been possible to deal with it in broad outline, but in conclusion reference is made to various aspects that could with advantage be expanded.