Responsibility, Compensation and Accident Law Reform

Dissertation, University of Adelaide (2007)
This thesis considers two allegations which conservatives often level at no-fault systems — namely, that responsibility is abnegated under no-fault systems, and that no-fault systems under- and over-compensate. I argue that although each of these allegations can be satisfactorily met – the responsibility allegation rests on the mistaken assumption that to properly take responsibility for our actions we must accept liability for those losses for which we are causally responsible; and the compensation allegation rests on the mistaken assumption that tort law’s compensatory decisions provide a legitimate norm against which no-fault’s decisions can be compared and criticized – doing so leads in a direction which is at odds with accident law reform advocates’ typical recommendations. On my account, accident law should not just be reformed in line with no-fault’s principles, but rather it should be completely abandoned since the principles that protect no- fault systems from the conservatives’ two allegations are incompatible with retaining the category of accident law, they entail that no-fault systems are a form of social welfare and not accident law systems, and that under these systems serious deprivation – and to a lesser extent causal responsibility – should be conditions of eligibility to claim benefits.
Keywords responsibility  compensation  tort law reform  no-fault  distributive justice  social welfare
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