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Optimal negligence rule under limited liability

We study the standard economic model of unilateral accidents, in its simplest form, assuming that the injurers have limited assets.We identify a second-best optimal rule that selects as due care the minimum of first-best care, and a level of care that takes into account the wealth of the injurer. We show that such a rule in fact maximizes the precautionary effort by a potential injurer. The idea is counterintuitive: Being softer on an injurer, in terms of the required level of care, actually improves the incentives to take care when he is potentially insolvent. We extend the basic result to an entire population of potentially insolvent injurers, and find that the optimal general standards of care do depend on wealth, and distribution of income. We also show the conditions for the result that higher income levels in a given society call for higher levels of care for accidents.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 759.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
Date of revision: May 2004
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:759
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe & De Geest, Gerrit, 2006. "When will judgment proof injurers take too much precaution?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 336-354, September.
  2. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Why the Legal System Is Less Efficient Than the Income Tax in Redistributing Income," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 667-81, June.
  3. Marcel Boyer & Jean-Jacques Laffont, 1994. "Environmental Risks and Bank Liability," CIRANO Working Papers 94s-22, CIRANO.
  4. Steven Shavell, 2000. "On the Social Function and the Regulation of Liability Insurance," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance - Issues and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 25(2), pages 166-179, April.
  5. Marcel Boyer & Donatella Porrini, 2002. "Modeling the Choice Between Regulation and Liability in Terms of Social Welfare," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-13, CIRANO.
  6. repec:dgr:kubcen:200033 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Polborn, Mattias K., 1998. "Mandatory insurance and the judgment-proof problem," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-146, June.
  8. Boyd, James & Ingberman, Daniel E, 1997. "The Search for Deep Pockets: Is "Extended Liability" Expensive Liability?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 232-58, April.
  9. Dieter Balkenborg, 2001. "How Liable Should a Lender Be? The Case of Judgment-Proof Firms and Environmental Risk: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 731-738, June.
  10. Innes, Robert, 1999. "Optimal liability with stochastic harms, judgement-proof injurers, and asymmetric information1," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 181-203, June.
  11. Yolande Hiriart & David Martimort, 2006. "The benefits of extended liability," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(3), pages 562-582, 09.
  12. Boyd, James & Ingberman, Daniel E, 1994. "Noncompensatory Damages and Potential Insolvency," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 895-910, June.
  13. Steven Shavell, 2002. "Minimum Asset Requirements," NBER Working Papers 9335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jost, Peter-J., 1996. "Limited liability and the requirement to purchase insurance," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 259-276, June.
  15. Yeon-Koo Che & Ian Gale, 1998. "Caps on Political Lobbying," Microeconomics 9809003, EconWPA.
  16. Lewis, Tracy R. & Sappington, David E. M., 1999. "Using decoupling and deep pockets to mitigate judgment-proof problems1," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 275-293, June.
  17. Eberhard Feess, 1999. "Lender Liability for Environmental Harm: An Argument Against Negligence Based Rules," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 231-250, November.
  18. Juan José Ganuza & Fernando Gómez, 2002. "Caution, children crossing: Heterogeneity of victim's cost of care and negligence rule," Economics Working Papers 666, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  19. Miceli, Thomas J. & Segerson, Kathleen, 2003. "A note on optimal care by wealth-constrained injurers," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 273-284, September.
  20. Sanchirico, Chris William, 2000. "Taxes versus Legal Rules as Instruments for Equity: A More Equitable View," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 797-820, June.
  21. Steven Shavell, 2004. "Minimum Asset Requirements and Compulsory Liability Insurance As Solutions to the Judgment-Proof Problem," NBER Working Papers 10341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Shavell, Steven, 1981. "A Note on Efficiency vs. Distributional Equity in Legal Rulemaking: Should Distributional Equity Matter Given Optimal Income Taxation?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 414-18, May.
  23. Tracy R. Lewis & David E. M. Sappington, 2001. "How Liable Should a Lender Be? The Case of Judgment-Proof Firms and Environmental Risk: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 724-730, June.
  24. Miceli, Thomas J & Segerson, Kathleen, 1995. "Defining Efficient Care: The Role of Income Distribution," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 189-208, January.
  25. Arlen, Jennifer H, 1992. "Should Defendants' Wealth Matter?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 413-29, June.
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