Beyond Compensation? Examining the Role of Apologies in the Restoration of Victims’ Needs in Simulated Tort Cases

Law and Human Behavior 43 (4), 329-341

54 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2018 Last revised: 3 Sep 2020

See all articles by Chris Reinders Folmer

Chris Reinders Folmer

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Pieter Desmet

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Law

Willem H. Van Boom

Nijmegen Faculty of Law; Leiden Law School

Date Written: January 1, 2019

Abstract

Tort law currently debates the value of facilitating apology in order to enhance the restoration of
victims’ non-material needs, and to promote dispute resolution. However, the extent to which
apology can augment these outcomes beyond conventional, monetary reparations is not yet clear.
The present research aimed to provide some first insights into this question, by means of two
experimental studies conducted among community members recruited through MTurk (Study 1)
and Prolific (Study 2). Participants imagined a scenario in which they became victims of a traffic
accident. Study 1 (N = 81, 42 men, 39 women, Mage = 35.90) manipulated the resulting harm
(personal injury or property loss) to examine which needs participants experienced, and what
remedies (apology, compensation) they desired. Factor analysis revealed (non-material) needs
for interpersonal treatment, responsibility taking, closure, and punishment, and (material) needs
for compensation; these needs were as prominent after property loss as after personal injury.
Non-material needs predicted greater desire for apology (and not compensation). Study 2 (N =
485, 286 men, 199 women, Mage = 31.03) examined how these remedies impacted the
satisfaction of these needs and dispute resolution by manipulating apology (no apology,
apology), compensation level (partial, approximate, or exact), and harm within the same
scenario. Apologies enhanced the restoration of participants’ non-material needs. However,
settlement remained mostly contingent on compensation: (modest) effects of apology were
restricted to partial compensation. These findings therefore imply that apologies could augment
victims’ restoration after torts, but may be limited as a catalyst for settlement.

Keywords: Apology, nonpecuniary loss, pecuniary loss, personal injury, property loss, immaterial needs, damages, settlement  

Suggested Citation

Reinders Folmer, Chris and Desmet, Pieter and Van Boom, Willem H., Beyond Compensation? Examining the Role of Apologies in the Restoration of Victims’ Needs in Simulated Tort Cases (January 1, 2019). Law and Human Behavior 43 (4), 329-341, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3156149 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3156149

Chris Reinders Folmer (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Pieter Desmet

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Law ( email )

3000 DR Rotterdam
Netherlands

Willem H. Van Boom

Nijmegen Faculty of Law ( email )

Nijmegen, 6500 KK
Netherlands

Leiden Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 9520
2300 RA Leiden, NL-2300RA
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.professorvanboom.eu

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