REVIEWS

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1972.tb02358.x
Publication Date01 Jul 1972
REVIEWS
ACCIDENTS,
COMPENSATION
AND
THE
Law.
By
Y.
S. ATIYAH. The
Law in Context Series. [London
:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson
.
1970.
620
pp. Hardback
26-50;
paperback
22-75.]
‘his
book
is
the first in
a
new series called “Law in Contexf” which ia
designed to give
a
broader perspective
to
law by examining it in its political,
social and economic context.
Its
appearance was well-timed, some months
before the Report
of
the Ormrod Committee on Legal Education (March
1971) eniphasised in paragraph 101 that the academic study of law should give
the student
(inter
alia)
“an understanding of the relationship of law
to
thr
social and economic environment in which
it
operates.” Professor Atiyah has
set
a
very high standard for the series, and shown how stiniulating an
account of the law in action can be.
He
has studied the various ways in
which
the
law provides compensation for the victims of accidents. After
a
200-page examination
of
the substantive rules
of
tort law, he moves
to
a
100-page study of “The
Tort
System in Operation”; there follow anothn
100 pagcs on
Other Compensation Systems
(such as personal insurance,
criminal injuries compensation, the industrial injuries system and social
security) and
a
further
100
pages on “The Overall Picture.” In the final
section (again just over 100 pages) he discusses the theoretical purposes
of
compensation, and, briefly, the prospects
for
reform.
The author’s style is fluent, and the clarity
of
his argunients makes thr
book a pleasure to read. The different chapters naturally overlap at many
points, and the author is often forced to remind the reader
of
arguments hr
has already dealt with,
or
to
outline those to come; occasionally, this seems
to be done unnecessarily, and the author sounds like
a
lecturer ramming home
a point to
a
live audience. But it is obviously
a
Hcrculenn task
to
weave
so
many strands into
a
single cloth, as this book attempts to do.
As
the abovr
outline indicates,
it
is
a
book of over
GOO
pages, and its very length may
militate against its usefulness to
the
law student, who can read it only as an
adjunct
to
his basic reading on the law
of
torts. Although Professor Atiyah
covers many aspects
of
the orthodox law of torts in the first third
of
the
book, his treatment
is
not comprehensive
:
he selects the anomalies and
deficiencies of the law, and subjects them to critical analysis, and often
to
a
scathing indictment.
For
the law student who has already mastered thc
basic elements
of
the law of torts, this section will deepen his understanding
and emphasise the haphazard growth of the complexities and anomalies
of
thc
law.
But
I
doubt whether it was necessary for the development of his theme
in the
rest
of the book for the author to spend
so
long on the defects of thc
existing legal rules, as distinct from their operation in practice. The section
analysing the present tort system should be
of
benefit
to
the practitioner as
well as to the student: these pngcs should force him to stand back from thc
rules and
to
reflect on their implications and their lack of theoretical
consistency. Can the book (as the editors of the series hope) be read with
profit by the intelligent layman? The answer
is
probably
Yes,”
although
there are places where the author seems
to
assume that his reader will havr
a
background knowledge of law; for instance, on page
62,
the author says
that Lord Atkin’s remarks in
Donoghzce
v.
Stevensow
“are so well known
that it would be pointless to quote them yet again.”
There is some overlap with the author’s earlier work on vicarious liability,
and there
are
a few points in the account of the common law which will not
be accepted by everyone.
For
instance, there is the statement that
a
duty
of
484

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