Tailoring Negligence Standards to Accident Records

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The standard 1-period, unilateral care accident model assumes identical injurers and perfect information of an individual’s risk type. However, these assumptions are unlikely to hold in real-world accident scenarios. This paper considers a 2-period, unilateral care accident model in which injurers differ by probabilities of accident (their risk types) and have incomplete information about their risk types. We find that courts should optimally examine an individual’s accident history to accurately infer the risk type and adjust the due level of care accordingly. We show that tailoring due levels of care in the second period affects the definition of the due level of care in the first period. When judges have access to accident records but the risk type is hidden, they should relax the due level of care for first-time offenders to generate more information about an individual’s risk type, which helps to establish more efficient differentiated standards in the subsequent period.

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