Assessing the Effects of Tort Reforms

by Stephen J. Carroll


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This report offers a framework for assessing the effects of tort reforms. It attempts to provide a coherent structure for systematically thinking about how research can contribute to the policy debate over tort reform. It identifies four basic policy issues critical to assessing the effects of tort reforms on the tort system: (1) how soon we can expect to see effects of reforms; (2) whether reforms have affected the outcomes of disputes; (3) who won, who lost, and how much; and (4) whether reforms have affected economic behavior. The author points out that the kinds of data needed to assess the effects of reform are generally not available, and suggests that three types of new data collection systems need to be considered: (1) systematic efforts to obtain data from insurers and self-insured defendants on the aggregate outcomes of liability claims; (2) special surveys of claimants, the bar, and insurers to obtain the detailed individual claim information needed to identify the winners and losers in the reformed system; and (3) systems for collecting information both on the other factors that affect the behavior of participants in the tort system, and on economic outcomes and injuries.

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