Once upon a time, workers' compensation did not exist. Workers who were injured on the job were expected to pursue compensation through normal litigation methods. Namely, workers could try and negotiate a settlement with their employer (it usually failed) and then try their luck with the courts. Unfortunately, this meant that workers were tied up for years in litigation before their claims were heard or resolved. This left workers destitute as they lost their only source of income, were too injured to find replacement work, and would not see a "payday" for months or years.
Additionally, employers were stuck in a bad position. Employers were forced to litigate every single claim, in order to discourage people from taking advantage of the system. Employers were saddled with high litigation costs, as they battled employees every single year. The courts were clogged with the cases and, in the end, many workers ended up losing as well (this is due to another legal theory, which is largely out of use, which eliminated any chance of recovery if the plaintiff is at fault for any part of their injury, which was almost always true).
To address these concerns, states passed a series of workers' compensation laws which guaranteed compensation for employees in a quick fashion but also shielded employers from traditional litigated claims. The goal was to reduce costs overall and protect workers.
If you suffered an on-the-job injury, you should contact a lawyer at your earliest convenience. While this article paints a rosy picture of the principles underlying workers' compensation, the legal slog that it has become is convoluted and can leave many workers stranded without any supplement funds. A lawyer can help ensure that you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. That money is critical to pay for your future medical bills and to keep your family finances stable. Don't risk your right to compensation; a lawyer can help you.