Monday, May 5, 2008

What Number is Your Number?

The mediation process in litigated cases usually comes down to emotions and money. And usually for the lawyers, claims professionals and even clients involved, the focus quickly shifts to the dollars.

So, when we negotiate in mediation, what do the numbers that make up a proposal or counter proposal mean? Does it matter if you go first or should you always try to be second? What happens if one side thinks the first number presented is much too high or too low? These are important questions and during the month of May, I want to address a range of issues as it comes to numbers. Today, I want to tell you about a recent mediation where numbers mean numbers.

This was a workers’ compensation case where the employee claimed a knee injury which was denied by the employer. The employee was a paramedic. During mediation, after some initial discussion about the case in general session, we met in private caucus to further discuss the case and then claimant made a demand for settlement. Proposals were exchanged and the negotiation moved forward.

The negotiation continued and upon entering one of the caucus rooms something about acronyms came up and on the next proposal, claimant moved to a figure and called it a “1017” number. In emergency medical speak, “1017” refers to being en route to a destination. For the claimant, they were saying – “We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.” The response from the employer, which included the employee’s supervisor, was a counter proposal as a “1023” number. Saying “1023” means that you have arrived on the scene or in mediation terms, we are at our number. Using this jargon shifted the mood of the discussion, seemed to lighten each room and while the 1023 number turned out to still be a 1017, the next number was the 1023 and the case settled.

So, what number is your number?

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