Victims versus Tortfeasors: A(Symmetric) Reactions to Symmetric Incentives
54 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2018 Last revised: 3 Feb 2020
Date Written: November 8, 2019
Tort models predict a symmetry in the behavior of tortfeasors and victims when respectively faced by strict liability and no liability. Tort scholars have widely relied upon this prediction. Yet, the prediction is based on a theoretical economic model that has not yet been empirically tested. This lack of validation is problematic, because experimental evidence has unveiled the existence of hyper-altruistic behavior, whereby individuals prefer harming themselves rather than others, as well as self-protective behavior, whereby individuals overestimate the direct harm they suffer relative to the harm they cause to others. Using a novel experimental design, we test whether the symmetric behavior hypothesis is an empirically plausible assumption for tort models. Experimental results provide qualified support for the hypothesis. However, results do not confirm all the predictions of the standard tort model and reveal statistically different behavioral patterns of victims and tortfeasors through time.
Keywords: incentives; precautions; tort models; liability; experiment
JEL Classification: K13, C91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation