The Calculus of Negligence

It can often be difficult to determine or assign blame in a personal injury case. Unlike the workers’ compensation system, personal injury lawsuits may need to weigh less tangible injuries like pain and suffering in order to calculate the total losses experienced by a victim. In order to determine whether or not a person is at fault for an accident and the resulting losses, courts and jurors have used a system roughly modeling what is known as the  calculus  of negligence or the Hand formula, as it was created by United States Judge Learned Hand.

This method of figuring out whether or not a person breached what is known as the duty of care works along the principles of burden, the chance of a loss, and the severity of that loss. According to the formula created by Hand, a person can be found negligent if the burden of preventing the accident is less than the probability that an accident will occur multiplied the severity of the loss.

According to detractors and critics, this method is particularly problematic. Specifically, what is known as the severity, or gravity, of a loss is extremely subjective for a system that proposes to be formulaic. While other numbers may be able to easily be generated, this method estimates how badly a person would suffer from a particular loss.

One other major complaint with this system is that it does not account for any shared responsibility or other factors that could have influenced an accident.

For more information assigning blame in a personal injury case, contact a personal injury attorney.