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Statutes of limitations for accident cases: Theory and evidence

Research in Law and Economics

ISBN: 978-0-76230-308-3, eISBN: 978-1-84950-022-7

Publication date: 6 September 2000


This paper provides a theoretical and empirical analysis of statutes of limitations for accident cases. The theoretical model formalizes the tradeoff underlying a finite statute of limitations; while a shorter statute limits injurers' exposure to liability, thereby curbing incentives for care, it also limits costly litigation associated with legal error. The model yields several comparative static results that are tested using cross-state variation in statutes of limitations for personal injury cases and accidental damages to property. In order to minimize the impact of historical inertia in the statutes, we used census data from 1910 and statute lengths from 1916. This represents the earliest period when there were both adequate census data to construct the explanatory variables, and a convenient survey of the statutes for the forty-seven states. Despite difficulties in constructing the data, the empirical model performs reasonably well in explaining variation in the statute lengths.


Baker, M. and Miceli, T.J. (2000), "Statutes of limitations for accident cases: Theory and evidence", Research in Law and Economics (Research in Law and Economics, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 47-67.



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