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Bilateral Accidents with Intrinsically Interdependent Costs of Precaution

  • Dhammika Dharmapala

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Sandra A. Hoffmann

    (Resources for the Future)

The standard economic model of bilateral precaution postulates an interdependency between the care taken by injurers and victims that operates through the effects of each on the expected accident loss. This paper considers situations in which each party's precaution affects not only expected accident loss, but also directly affects the other party's cost of taking precaution. Generalizing the economic model of tort law in this way allows for a more complete analysis of when standard tort rules can and cannot induce optimal precaution. When this additional externality is introduced into a model of unilateral harm (where all accident losses are borne by the victim), none of the standard tort liability rules induces socially optimal behavior by both parties. Moreover, under a contributory negligence rule, the only equilibrium is in mixed strategies; this gives rise to the possibility of litigation in equilibrium. A 'tort-like' liability rule that induces socially optimal behavior by both parties is then characterized; this involves a payment by victims to non-negligent injurers whenever an accident occurs. The model is then extended to consider the case of bilateral harm (where both parties suffer accident losses). It is shown that, as long as both parties can sue to recover their accident losses, all negligence-based tort rules lead to socially optimal behavior by both parties.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2002-11.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2002-11
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  1. White, Michelle J, 2004. "The "Arms Race" on American Roads: The Effect of Sport Utility Vehicles and Pickup Trucks on Traffic Safety," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 333-55, October.
  2. Shavell, S., 1986. "The judgment proof problem," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 45-58, June.
  3. Arlen, Jennifer H, 1992. "Liability for Physical Injury When Injurers as Well as Victims Suffer Losses," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 411-26, April.
  4. Emons, Winand & Sobel, Joel, 1991. "On the Effectiveness of Liability Rules when Agents Are Not Identical," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 375-90, April.
  5. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2000. "On the joint use of liability and safety regulation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 371-382, September.
  6. Steven Shavell, 2003. "Economic Analysis of Accident Law," NBER Working Papers 9483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Steven Shavell, 1984. "A Model of the Optimal Use of Liability and Safety Regulation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 271-280, Summer.
  8. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Yeon-Koo Che, 1991. "Decoupling Liability: Optimal Incentives for Care and Litigation," NBER Working Papers 3634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Leong, Avon K., 1989. "Liability rules when injurers as well as victims suffer losses," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 105-111, June.
  10. Steven Shavell, 1983. "Liability for Harm Versus Regulation of Safety," NBER Working Papers 1218, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Arlen, Jennifer H., 1990. "Re-examining liability rules when injurers as well as victims suffer losses," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 233-239, December.
  12. Kolstad, Charles D & Ulen, Thomas S & Johnson, Gary V, 1990. "Ex Post Liability for Harm vs. Ex Ante Safety Regulation: Substitutes or Complements?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 888-901, September.
  13. 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.
  14. Hindley, Brian & Bishop, Bill, 1983. "Accident liability rules and externality," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 59-68, June.
  15. Kahan, Marcel, 1989. "Causation and Incentives to Take Care under the Negligence Rule," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 427-47, June.
  16. Hoffmann, Sandra & Schwartz, Warren & Dharmapala, Dhammika, 2001. "A Neglected Interdependency in Liability Theory," Discussion Papers dp-01-13, Resources For the Future.
  17. Rea, Samuel Jr., 1987. "The economics of comparative negligence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 149-162, December.
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