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Policy Goals of the "Swedish Alternative," 34 American Journal of Comparative Law 657 (1986)


In the following remarks, I shall try to outline: (a) where the Swedish approach fits in a theoretical scheme of accident law, and (b) some things that can be said in favor and against that fit. Because it is my own, and because I find it difficult to think about accident law differently, I shall use a variant of the outline of accident law goals which I originally presented many years ago in The Costs of Accidents. I shall quickly describe these, and then see how, and how well or on what bases, the Swedish approach attempts to meet these goals. The goals of accident law in this schema are the following five:

(1) A deterrence or safety goal-the object of which is to reduce the sum of accident costs and safety costs, or, in other words, to achieve the optimum level of safety. This goal assumes that some accidents, some injuries, some harms are not under existing technology worth avoiding. It also does not necessarily measure costs in a strictly economic way, and indeed, when I apply that goal, I certainly do not so measure them. (So a particularly painful or offensive injury may be worth avoiding even though the safety costs are significant, while another injury which has the same economic consequences to the injured party may not be worth avoiding because it entails lower "moral" or "non-economic" costs.)

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