On the optimality of a duty-to-rescue rule and the cost of wrongful intervention
In common law legal systems, there is no legal duty to rescue persons in danger. By contrast in code-based legal systems, the principle of duty to rescue does apply. What is behind this difference? To answer this question, we develop a new model extending the reach and strength of the standard civic duty game by taking into account the cost of wrongful intervention. We use this model to analyze and compare three policy options: doing nothing, adopting a duty-to-rescue rule, and encouraging would-be rescuers. We show that a duty-to-rescue rule is more likely to be welfare enhancing when the cost of inappropriately intervening is low, and that, in certain cases, encouraging would-be rescuers is preferred by a representative citizen to both a duty-to-rescue rule and no-rule. Finally, we offer an explanation for the choices made in the USA and France as to whether to use rescue laws.
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