How To Add Value To That Which Is Priceless

How to value that which is priceless is the title of Chapter Four in Nicholas Rowley & Courtney Rowley’s new book, Running With The Bulls, How To Win Top – Dollar Settlements.  As the book begins, the point is made that many lawyers undervalue personal injury cases for two main reasons.  First, many lawyers are afraid to say “no” to unreasonably low offers and take their clients case to trial. And second, those who do reject unreasonable settlement offers often fail to spend the time it takes to get to know the story of the “human” they represent.

As the book warms up, the Rowleys ask the reader to write out how they would calculate the answer to the following question, “How much money would be reasonable to give you (the reader) in trade for a year of chronic pain in your left foot?”  The reader is instructed, “…you cannot continue reading this book until you answer these questions.” 

I followed the instruction.  Here is my analysis on how I would calculate a trade of money for a year of chronic pain in my left foot.  As a hopeless optimist I am sure I have way underestimated the impact chronic pain would have on my life.

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In this hypothetical question, I assume I would notice this sharp pain on a daily basis and it would be the kind of pain that would make it hard to do my job.  Because I enjoy being productive at work and how this pain may affect my ability to think, would make the amount of money I would accept rise significantly. There are few things I enjoy more than a good night sleep, waking up early with a clear head, drinking a cup of black coffee and working for three hours without interruption. Chronic sharp ankle pain would no doubt affect my ability to get a good night sleep.  I have had pain that wakes me up at night and it is frustrating to not wake up refreshed and sharp in the morning.  The unknown of how chronic ankle pain would affect my ability to work happily and productively requires significant monetary compensation – $200,000.

Chronic ankle pain would also impact the Orange Theory Fitness classes I currently enjoy once a week.  The typical class consists of about 20 to 25 minutes of running on a treadmill. Chronic ankle pain and running do not agree with one another.  So I take $500 per class, times four classes a month, or $24,000 for the reduced ability to enjoy my Orange Theory exercise routine.

When traveling with my family, there would be increased ankle pain as a result of all of the luggage I carry through the airport for my family.  We average three plane trips a years; the added aggravation of hauling carry on luggage through the airport with pain in my ankle, three times a year, $1,500 per trip or $4,500.

About once a month, I enjoy going for a jog or brisk walk up to Phoenix Lake which is about two miles up a road near my home.  This activity is a good way to clear my head and get some fresh air. Sometimes my wife and I go together, and the result is some good quality time with my wife without interruption.  Chronic ankle pain would certainly dampen the fun of this activity. My doctor may not even allow it as the running and hiking may cause even more injury. Losing this mind relaxing activity and time with my wife, $1,000 per outing, time 10 times a year, $10,000.

During the work week I take the stairs for extra exercise, to get my heart rate up, and generally wake me up during the work day.  Stair climbing would cause extra ankle pain and would likely be something I would now avoid during a year of chronic pain, $100 per week, or $5,000 per year.

Each winter, our family skis on average five to seven days.  I may be able to still ski in pain, depending on what my doctors says. But there is no doubt that the impact an ankle joint takes skiing moguls would be painful, and potentially aggravate the injury.  Skiing would not be as much fun. $1,000 per lost ski day or $5,000.

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My evenings at home with my family would be impacted.  I would be less focused on my wife and kids as I tried to suppress the chronic pain while talking.  The pain would make it more difficult to be present with my wife and kids. Evenings at home also involve standing, helping to make dinner, and then doing the dishes, activities that may aggravate the ankle pain.  At $300 times five nights a week, or $1,500; times 50 weeks a year totals $75,000.

Impact on ability to think clearly at work: $200,000

Impact on OrangeTheory Fitness Routine: $24,000

Added pain with Family Air Travel: $4,500

Outdoor time in Marin: $10,000

Avoiding stair exercises during work week: $5,000

Reduced ability to enjoy skiing: $5,000

Pain at home doing chores and being present with family: $75,000

TOTAL: $323,500.00

This all assumes I knew with 100% certainty that the pain would go away after twelve months.  Not knowing if the chronic pain was going to get better after 12 months would make the amount needed to go through all of this much greater.

Have I not ever settled a case or tried a case where I have asked for $323,500 for one year of ankle pain?  This exercise made me think. If I put such a high value on a pain free life, why am I not putting this same value on the lives of my clients?  That seems to be the point Nick and Courtney are making in Chapter Four. More to come as, I continue to read Running With The Bulls.


About Albert Stoll

In his 20 years of law practice, Al has handled more than 40 jury trials. This experience, combined with a commitment to ethics and integrity, has earned Al an excellent reputation throughout the San Francisco Bay Area legal community. He is the recipient of Martindale-Hubbell‘s “AV” peer rating, which signifies preeminent legal ability and ethical standards, and has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer every year since 2006. In 2009, Al was awarded the prestigious 2009 Civil Justice Award by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, given to attorneys who show integrity, grit, tenacity, ethics, and great advocacy skills, and who contribute to the betterment of consumers and/or injured victims and their families.