Needless to say, it can be very dangerous for insurance companies to “roll the dice.” Over at the Michigan Auto Lawyers Blog, Steve Gursten tells the story of an adjuster who showed up 40 minutes late for a mediation, and then wouldn’t go north of $1 million in a catastrophic truck accident case involving serious personal injury. The carrier rep obstinately told Gursten that no jury would “ever return a verdict of more than a million dollars for pain and suffering.” Well, the guy was at least partly correct – the jury didn’t come back with a million. They came back with $3.5 million. Ouch.
A couple of lessons about negotiation here. First, always treat your opponent with respect. Showing up 40 minutes late for a meeting is really not a good idea. To paraphrase a former law partner of mine, never give the other side something to put on their locker room bulletin board. And second, instead of making an obnoxious statement like “no jury will ever return a verdict of more than a million dollars,” always resort to objective fact. As in, “we’ve looked at the case carefully, and based on similar cases, we think this one should be valued at about a million.” Show your opponent some verdicts from similar cases and say something like: “We want to do the right thing here. Have a look at these and tell us how your case is different and why you think we’re wrong.” Will this strategy always work? No. Sometimes your opponent will be unreasonable and you’ll have to take your chances with a judge or jury. But you’ll know that you approached the situation intelligently and gave yourself the best chance to succeed.