Workers’ compensation insurance programs play an instrumental role in providing protection for American workers and limiting the liability of employers. This paper quantifies the monetary benefits that workers expect to receive if injured and illustrates how and why they vary across states and over time. State-level political and economic data are used to understand benefit changes, and to test the hypotheses of existing theoretical models of political decision-making. The treatment of injured workers and state mandated benefits have been influenced by national politics, inflation, and labor groups. Calls for greater generosity in the early 1970s, and the threat of a federal takeover induced dramatic and lasting changes as states raised benefit levels and increasingly linked them to state average weekly wages in order to mitigate the future impacts of inflation.