The statutory accident insurance system is the oldest branch of Germany's social insurance system, dating back even further than the health and retirement insurance systems. Like many social achievements, it too was the work of the former German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. At the end of the 19th century, Bismarck ordered that a comprehensive body of social legislation be created. In the industrial society which was developing apace, blue-collar and white-collar workers alike were to be insured against sickness, old age and occupational accidents.
The new social insurance system later was copied around the globe, but the accident insurance code adopted on 6 July 1884 was the cornerstone of it. This legislation was the first of its kind worldwide, and marked a sea change: previously, employees had had to claim compensation for an occupational accident or disease directly from their employer – often a hopeless undertaking, since fault on the part of the employer had to be proved.
Since this historic change, it has been possible in the event an occupational accident or disease to make a claim to the statutory occupational accident insurance institutions. This brought benefits to employers and employees alike, in the process also assuring industrial peace. From the outset, the prevention of accidents was an important function of the statutory accident insurance institutions, enabling prevention and rehabilitation to be combined effectively.
In 1971, school and nursery-school children and students were also brought under the protection of the statutory accident insurance system. In 1995, they were followed – in conjunction with the newly introduced nursing care insurance – by statutory accident insurance for domestic carers, and in 1997 by children in crèches and after-school care centres.
In 1996, the provisions governing accident insurance in the German Social Insurance Code were replaced by Volume 7 of the new German Social Code (SGB VII). The Social Code brought the functions of the statutory accident insurance institutions up to date and placed them on a new legal footing.