Empirical Legal Research in Action
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Empirical Legal Research in Action

Reflections on Methods and their Applications

Edited by Willem H. van Boom, Pieter Desmet and Peter Mascini

Empirical legal research is a growing field of academic expertise, yet lawyers are not always familiar with the possibilities and limitations of the available methods. Empirical Legal Research in Action presents readers with first-hand experiences of empirical research on law and legal issues.
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Chapter 4: Experimental approaches to private law: the case of redressing personal injury

Christopher P. Reinders Folmer

Abstract

Experimental approaches examine legal questions by means of laboratory or field experiments, which simulate litigation contexts, or experimentally test initiatives in actual litigation practice. In these approaches, key features (such as the presence or absence of apologies) are varied systematically, while variability on other factors (such as between types of tort, level of harm, and so on) is minimized. The researcher can thus isolate the unique effects of particular features that cannot be separated in legal practice – or which have not yet been implemented there. Thereby, experimental approaches can enrich legal scholarship and practice, by providing causal evidence that speaks to the validity of the assumptions and presumptions on which legal theorizing and policy are based. This chapter illustrates this process by reviewing experimental approaches on personal injury litigation and applying their conclusions to the current discussion on the sufficiency of its extant litigation designs, and the direction of their future reform.

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