Case evaluation is part art and part math. And we’re not even talking calculus; we’re talking arithmetic.
A surprisingly large number of lawyers tell me they’re bad at math. They’re not alone. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo recently had his math corrected by co-anchor Michaela Pereira while discussing Powerball lottery numbers.
You can’t come up with a realistic evaluation of a workers' compensation claim if you can’t quantify the component parts: permanent disability, life pension, Medicare-eligible and non-Medicare-eligible future medical.
In mediation caucus, when parties give me their offer or demand, I often ask how they came up with that number. I want their best argument, the one that will convince the other side. The first answer I get is often vague, something like, “We thought it would settle the case.” Workers' compensation professionals often neglect running the numbers. Getting parties to see the same numbers moves them toward settlement.
I recently got a call about an offer in a personal injury case. I questioned the plaintiff’s attorney about what he thought this number represented. His answer didn’t sound right to me. I asked him, “Did you ask them how they came up with that number?” No, he hadn’t. I suggested the attorney ask opposing counsel that question to allow things to move forward, toward settlement.
Random demands and offers are unlikely to settle a claim. Before you assume the other side is being unreasonable or before you respond, ask: How did you get to that number?