Do you remember those credit card commercials that were all about pointing out that you can’t put a price on the “priceless”? These commercials would have a camera going through the house and a narrator saying something like, “Popcorn, hotdogs, sodas: $27”; “Autographed baseball: $50”; “Real conversation: priceless.”
Although these commercials were just trying to sell you a new credit card, they did touch on a truth of human experience: some things, like watching the sunrise over the lake, are truly priceless.
How much is being able to ride your bike everyday worth? What about being able to hold your grandbaby? What about a good night’s sleep—or just being able to sit down—without pain? It would be awfully hard to put a price to any one of these situations.
Insurance companies use glorified calculators
However, this process happens in some form every time someone submits a claim to insurance or when a civil case is litigated. Essentially, all civil claims are about reducing the human experience of suffering into a dollar amount. Big Insurance simplified this process long ago by turning to a glorified calculator.
In the 1990s, insurance companies like Allstate licensed and popularized a computer program called Colossus. An insurance adjuster using Colossus gives the program a series of inputs—something anyone who has tried out ChatGPT is familiar with—and Colossus will output a dollar amount. Colossus calculates insurance payouts in a way so these companies can pay out as little as possible. This was one reason why insurance companies like Allstate and Farmers grew to be as massive as they are. It’s like magic!
Unfortunately, using Colossus to evaluate personal injury claims can be unfair to personal injury victims. Here at Anderson Law, we see lives changed because of a seemingly insignificant car crash. We see how a healthy person in his 20s can go from biking to work every day to hardly being able to stay seated without pain. We see Grandparents who can hardly hold their grandbabies because of the negligence of a distracted driver. And, at the extremes, people deal with the loss of loved ones.
Essentially, the problem with any data-driven calculation is that it cannot replace our human understanding other people’s pain and suffering. A computer just cannot get that. Colossus doesn’t understand that these priceless experiences are not price-less. There is no input for “unbelievable agony and horror.” Artificial intelligence is after all, artificial. Colossus cannot truly understand how to evaluate those intangible injuries, because it is a computer program.
Let a judge or jury decide
Judges and juries here in Washington, however, understand that “pain and suffering” carries significant worth. That is the advantage of having a skilled attorney, who cannot only understand what your happiness means to you, but can also advocate that message in front of a judge or jury. That way, they can decide.
At Anderson Law, priceless is our specialty. We understand that money is not like a bandage you can slap on a wound. Compensation for injury needs to be individually tailored. At the same time, we do understand that money can be a substitute, albeit a poor one, for our inability to turn back time and avoid the injury in the first place. As a famous country artist once said, “I know everybody says money can’t buy happiness… But it could buy me a boat.” Or a car, or a house, or peace of mind.