Whiplash: Negotiation and Clean Driving Record

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The Whiplash Negotiation – MetroMart
Background
Acting in the capacity of the in-house lawyer for MetroMart Supermarkets Limited, I was charged with handling a claim against one of our drivers who was accused of careless driving which resulted in his truck colliding into the back of the car of one of our customers. Our driver, who has a clean driving record, said in his statement that the traffic was really quiet heavy and moving relatively slowly when the plaintiff, Mrs. Johnson, who was driving directly ahead of him, suddenly slammed on her brakes without any warning. Consequently, the MetroMart truck collided with the back of her car. Our driver claims that he is not to be blamed for the accident because in addition to the fact that Mrs. Johnson failed to signal before suddenly stopping her vehicle, she was also disoriented when she got out of her car after the accident had occurred and he also theorized that she had alcohol in her system having sampled wine in the store before getting behind the wheel of her car. MetroMart wishes to avoid any adverse publicity from this incident and so even though it appears that Mrs. Johnson’s injuries may be caused by her age as opposed to the accident, it seems to be in the interest of both parties to negotiate a settlement with Mrs. Johnson’s lawyer, Mrs. Tamara Daley-Brown. The average sum currently awarded for such injuries is in the region of $250,000 to $500,000.

Preparation
In preparing for the negotiation, I decided to approach it from the angle where we try to arrive at a monetary settlement that would be reasonably received by both parties since MetroMart wished to avoid negative publicity and Mrs. Johnson was seeking compensation for moneys that she had allegedly spent due to injuries suffered as a result of the accident. In my reasoning, Mrs. Johnson had the law on her side, since our driver had indeed ran into the back of her vehicle but on the other hand, MetroMart had the power and the resources to engage Mrs. Johnson in a lengthy legal battle which she probably could not afford. I was aware of the fact that Mrs. Johnson’s attorney would want to settle at the higher end of the continuum but due to the fact that we were unsure of the true source of her injuries, I thought it in my clients interest to settle somewhere towards the middle of the continuum. That said, it was decided that MetroMart’s Target Offer to Mrs. Johnson would be $250,000.00, our Optimal Offer would be $300,000.00 and our Reservation Offer would be $ 350,000.00. If these offers were rejected then our Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement would be to pursue legal action since MetroMart had the resources to emerge victorious if this option were to be pursued and in addition, if the matter was before the courts then it could not be covered in the media which would significantly minimize MetroMart’s exposure to negative publicity. I planned to be forceful in presenting my position as I thought that MetroMart was at a distinct advantage going into these negotiations given the fact that the heavy and slow moving traffic already disproved the plaintiff’s claim of careless driving, our driver had a clean record and the plaintiff was intoxicated and elderly which calls into question her ability to operate her vehicle properly further concretized by her disorientation directly following the accident. My approach in the actual negotiation would therefore be one in which I stated my target offer up front and since I am reasonably sure that this will be rejected I will then have Mrs. Daley-Brown state her claim and present her optimal offer. At this point I planned to state all the facts as to why MetroMart was not willing to agree to that offer and then present my optimal offer all the while keeping sight of my both my reservation offers and BATNA in the worst case scenario. Process

I opened the negotiations as planned, introducing myself and putting MetroMart’s target offer of $250,000.00 on the...
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