chapter  9
31 Pages

Law Without Accidents

WithKim Lane Scheppele

This chapter shows how traditional tort analysis differs from sociological strategies for thinking about accidents. It examines the ways in which some sociological knowledge has been taken into account in traditional tort doctrine and assesses the ways in which two of the major institutional changes in that field have improved the traditional tort track record in considering sociological knowledge. Accidents are only one source of pain and suffering, but they are interesting precisely because they occur at the limits of someone's knowledge, where mishaps come as a surprise. Studying the legal construction of accidents is a way of examining the production and distribution of knowledge in a particular social setting. Social scientists know much more than they used to about the sorts of things that produce what are seen as accidents at the level of the individuals affected. Analyzing accidents by focusing on the social distribution of surprise represents a major departure from the traditional analysis of torts.