How Did You Get To That Number?

Case evaluation is part art and a lot of math. We’re not 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 got his math corrected by his 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, and Medicare-eligible and non-Medicare-eligible Future Medical.

In mediation caucus, when parties give me their offer or demand I often ask, “How did you come up with that number?” I want their best argument that will convince the other side. The first answer I get is often vague, 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 to 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. It didn’t sound right to me. “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 movement forward toward settlement.

Random demands and offers are unlikely to settle a claim. Before you assume the other side is being unreasonable or you respond, ask: How Did You Get To That Number?