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Accuracy in the Assessment of Damages

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  • Louis Kaplow
  • Steven Shavell

Abstract

Assessment of damages is a principle issue in litigation and, in light of this, we consider the social justification for, and the private benefits of, accurate measurement of harm. Greater accuracy induces parties to exercise levels of precaution that better reflect the magnitude of the harm they are likely to generate, and related, it stimulates uninformed parties to learn about risks before acting. However, accuracy in the assessment of harm cannot influence the behavior of parties -- and is therefore of no social value -- to the degree that parties lack knowledge of the harm they might cause when deciding on their precautions. In addition, regardless of the social value of accuracy, litigants generally gain by devoting resources toward proof of damages, leading often to socially excessive private incentives to establish damages.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4287.

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Date of creation: Mar 1993
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Publication status: published as Journal of Law and Economics, vol. XXXIX, no. 1, pp. 191-210, April 1996.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4287

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  1. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1991. "Private Versus Socially Optimal Provision of Ex Ante Legal Advice," NBER Working Papers 3868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Steven Shavell, 2003. "Economic Analysis of Accident Law," NBER Working Papers 9694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kaplow, Louis, 1995. "A Model of the Optimal Complexity of Legal Rules," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 150-63, April.
  4. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1992. "Accuracy in the Determination of Liability," NBER Working Papers 4203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Daniel L. Rubinfeld & David E.M. Sappington, 1987. "Efficient Awards and Standards of Proof in Judicial Proceedings," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 308-315, Summer.
  6. Craswell, Richard & Calfee, John E, 1986. "Deterrence and Uncertain Legal Standards," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(2), pages 279-303, Fall.
  7. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1989. "Legal Error, Litigation, and the Incentive to Obey the Law," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 99-108, Spring.
  8. Png, I. P. L., 1986. "Optimal subsidies and damages in the presence of judicial error," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 101-105, June.
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