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118 – Deena Buchanan – An Inside View of How Insurance Companies Value Cases

Big insurance cases can become complicated quickly. The ins and outs, layers of coverage, and strategies aren’t a one-size-fits-all, but learning from someone who has spent years putting on the parachute and jumping out the plane can save you from many of the headaches that follow.

With a storied career ranging from big law and excess coverage, to truck accident and personal injury, Deena Buchanan has earned the skills to pay the bills and chooses to pay it forward. Since her switch from big law and Fortune 500 in-house counsel to the plaintiff side of law, Deena holds valuable insight that can apply to both sides of the court. 

In episode 118, Michael Cowen speaks with Deena Buchanan, Managing Partner at Buchanan Law Firm, LLC. On this educational episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael and Deena also discuss what it’s like running a law firm, giving advice and brainstorming with less experienced attorneys, different excess cases, not settling against major corporations, and much more.

Featured Guest

Name: Deena Buchanan

About: Deena Buchanan brings more than 20 years of experience, thoughtfulness and a commitment to strong advocacy to every case she handles. 

Deena has been a trial attorney since she was admitted to practice, and she’s earned high regards from judges, clients and other attorneys. She’s known for her thorough preparation, her oral advocacy skills during trial proceedings, and her poise and composure in any situation. She has tried employment, personal injury and wrongful death actions. She’s also represented insurance companies and major corporations, for many years, so she knows what to expect from the other side.

Though she has considerable experience in a number of jurisdictions, Deena focuses her current practice on controversies arising in New Mexico. She has a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the laws and procedures in New Mexico, as well as local trial practice.

Company: Managing Partner, Buchanan Law Firm, LLC

Connect: Linkedin 

Key Points

Top takeaways from this episode 

  • How do you know when there is excess coverage? It can be easy to overlook the specifics in big insurance cases, especially when there’s a large settlement offer. However, by doing this, lawyers often leave money on the table. By asking in discovery early and often about the coverage you see, you can pick out wordings and layerings being used to hide the actual amount your client could be up for. 
  • You need to build relationships with adjusters and decision makers. Often with insurance cases, your information is based on what is collected and provided by the defense lawyer. They’re often overworked or a true believer in the case and want to make it difficult for you to get the policy information you need. This is why it’s important to build relationships with adjusters who can get you the information you need, work around the people withholding or dragging their feet, and build your name in the industry.
  • You can drive up the value of your case. By serving with complaint, pushing in discovery with motions to compel, and giving notice for depositions early, you can push the value of your case for your client up. You’re showing that you’re serious both to your client and to who you’re going after, showing you won’t settle for less or be pushed around. By doing this it strengthens a long term relationship with your client, not just adjusters, and opens the chance for them to gain higher compensation more quickly.

Episode Highlights 

[02:35] Deena’s Background that led her to a successful career in law: How a career spanning many different areas can prepare you for your next steps. 

[10:32] Don’t settle when there’s money on the table: It’s common for lawyers to settle for less money when they don’t quite understand the policies they’re covering.

[16:14] Finding the pressure points on the carrier: Deena talks about the pressure points you want to find for a carrier to settle the covered claim in an insurance case.

[21:56] Plaintiff lawyer questions: Deena shares specific ways a plaintiff lawyer can make sure the right information makes it to adjusters.

[30:09] How a plaintiff lawyer can drive up the case value: Deena shares ways that plaintiff lawyers can show they’re serious and drive up the relief for their clients

[35:28] How management changes affect relationships: You want a good relationship and to run a good case to avoid breaking down relationships with management at insurance companies or head adjusters.

[37:46] Experienced lawyers are willing to help you with advice: Deena and Michael discuss the fear that younger lawyers may have of asking for advice on a case – fearing that they will have to bring someone new on. But that’s not the case! Ask for advice and to brainstorm all over. 

[41:33] What work Deena is doing now: Deena switched to the plaintiff side of law and has never been happier. She mainly focuses on trucking cases now, and carries her knowledge throughout her career. You can reach Deena on her website at Buchananlaw.com.

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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

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