Models of Legal Decisionmaking

Research Design and Methods

by D. A. Waterman, Mark A. Peterson


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Describes how the application of rule-based computer models could provide valuable information to the settlement process in civil litigation. Models would be developed by asking lawyers and insurance company claims adjusters to describe how they try to settle specific cases. Reasons for litigators' actions on a broadly representative range of hypothetical cases could be translated into a series of "if-then" rules. Each rule would describe part of the litigator's decision as an interim conclusion reached for a given set of premises for subsequent rules. The rules would be incorporated in a computer program that attempts to reproduce litigators' reasoning processes. A limited prototype developed to explore the feasibility of such models is described. It indicates that at least some aspects of the settlement process can be described by such models, although further research is needed to develop more comprehensive models and to address technical issues.

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