Before Florida adopted a workers' compensation system, in 1935, for workers injured on the job to recover medical expenses and lost wages, or be compensated for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, they had to prove that the accident resulted from negligence on the part of the employer or some third party. Further complicating their path to recovery was the legal principle known as contributory negligence, which acted as a complete bar to recovering benefits if the injured worker contributed in any way to causing the accident, even by as little as 1%. Few workers were able to overcome these two burdens. And for those few who succeeded, the slow grind of justice often left them broken and destitute.
The new system created an immediate sea change of good for Florida's workers. No longer would they be forced to fight, usually unsuccessfully, for every needed benefit. So long as the injury happened in the course and scope of the employment, medical and lost wage (indemnity) benefits would be furnished, contributory negligence notwithstanding. It was the declared ideal of the system to be self-executing, meaning benefits would come without a fight, and, where there was a dispute, the worker received the benefit of any doubt.
In exchange for this no-fault system, injured workers were forced to give up the right to seek common law civil remedy damages, like pain and suffering, from the employer. (They could still seek these damages from third parties.) In other words, employers were immune from civil lawsuits. See, Florida Statute 440.11 for the present day manifestation of what is commonly referred to as "workers' compensation immunity."
The system was hailed as a fair balance between the needs of injured workers and the rights of employers. Workers would receive the quick delivery of benefits, while employers were protected from jury verdicts. Neither side was entirely satisfied or entirely disappointed with the system, an indication of its success.
While the system was tweaked from time-to-time by legislative action and court decrees, it remained fairly evenly balanced for more than 50 years. That fair balance changed dramatically, in favor of Big Business and insurance companies, under the rule of Governor Jeb Bush (1999-2007), who followed the example set by his big brother George, as governor of Texas . Successive Republican governors -- Charlie Crist and Rick Scott -- and Republican legislators, who controlled both the Florida House of Representatives and the Senate, did nothing to swing the pendulum back towards a fair middle ground. Accordingly, It can be said with full certainty that Florida now has one of the most unjust, if not the single most unjust, workers' compensation systems in the entire United States.