Defense attorney: “How much do you need to settle this case?”
Plaintiff's attorney: “I need $5 million dollars.”
“That's not going to happen,” says the defense attorney authoritatively. "What do you really need?"
"I really need $2.5 million.”
“That's not going to happen either,” says the defense attorney with finality.
What just happened?
What just happened is that the plaintiff's attorney lost all credibility and any negotiating advantage he had. He equated the word “need” with what he expected his client to receive and the insurance company to willingly pay. That was mistake number one.
Mistake number two was answering the question “What do you really need?”
That presumes that the answer to the last question was totally inflated and false. The plaintiff's attorney misinterprets that question again by thinking that the word “need” is what the defense and their insurance company is willing to accept and pay.
Now the defense attorney has been able to reduce the amount of money being demanded not once, but twice. In addition, simply by uttering the word "No," he has already lowered the bar and the possibility that this matter could be settled for a substantial sum of money. Plaintiff's attorney has lost all negotiating advantage and now must wait for the defense lawyer to offer a lowball settlement amount.
“Okay, what do you think this case is worth and what is the insurance company willing to pay to settle this matter?”
The plaintiffs attorney has now subconsciously transferred all negotiating power to the defense lawyer to set the value of this case and to control whether or not the case is able to be negotiated. No matter what number the defense lawyer throws out, the plaintiff's attorney will then have to either accept or reject the offer.
It is unlikely he will now be in a position to obtain substantially more money for his client.