Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts
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Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts

Edited by Jennifer H. Arlen

This pioneering Handbook contains specially-commissioned chapters on tort law from leading experts in the field. This volume evaluates issues of vital importance to those seeking to understand and reform the tort law and the litigation process, taking a multi-disciplinary approach, including theoretical economic analysis, empirical analysis, socio-economic analysis, and behavioral analysis. Topics discussed include products liability, medical malpractice, causation, proximate cause, joint and several liability, class actions, mass torts, vicarious liability, settlement, damage rules, juries, tort reform, and potential alternatives to the tort system. Scholars, students, legal practitioners, regulators, and judges with an interest in tort law, litigation, damages, and reform will find this seminal Handbook an invaluable addition to their libraries.
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Chapter 18: Empirical analysis of tort damages

W. Kip Viscusi


The law and economics theory of damages for tort cases is much more abstract and less nuanced than the practice of setting the value of these awards. How awards are set and at what levels are both crucial determinants of the functioning of the tort liability system. Do tort damages in fact establish appropriate incentives for deterrence and provide the levels of insurance consistent with law and economics theory? Are there inadequacies in the levels of these damages that might warrant some kind of reform to the damages determination process? Have there been stark upward trends in amounts of damages that would suggest that the functioning of the tort system has changed in a perhaps unintended manner? This chapter reviews the different damages’ components and provides a general empirical review of their performance.

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