Catastrophe Adjuster Salary: How Much Can a CAT Adjuster Make?

catastrophe adjuster salaryWhat does a catastrophe adjuster salary usually look like? Great question, but it depends greatly on the type of adjusting you pursue.

When a big disaster strikes, cat adjusters can make a lot of money in a short amount of time. But can you make a steady income year-round?

Whether you want to be independent, or work full time for an insurance company, there are plenty of ways to earn a good living in the field when you become an insurance adjuster.

The pay for each of these can be very different, but we’ll cover both subsets of insurance adjuster salary for cat claims in this article.

How much money does a field claims adjuster make?

The national average for staff adjusters is between $35,000 to $70,000. These positions typically also earn benefits like healthcare in addition to their salary.

An established independent claims adjuster can earn between $40,000 to over $100,000 per year, if they are consistently working. Payment is generally arranged using an independent adjuster fee schedule.

Take a look at these examples to see the range depending on company, location, and job description:

All of the jobs listed above mention that you must be ready to travel for catastrophic claims.

As an independent claims adjuster, you control how much you earn, because your pay is based on how many claims you inspect. It isn’t capped at a certain amount.

The type of claims you are looking to handle may also affect the amount you earn as a catastrophic adjuster. If you are handling property claims, you’ll be able to earn over six figures, but when handling auto claims you’ll likely cap out around $80,000. That’s because on a per claim basis, property claims pay more than auto.

Independent property claims are more competitive due to the higher pay and auto claims are easier to obtain. (For info on auto damage appraisal, check out my post on auto damage appraiser salaries.) But an independent adjuster doesn’t have to do just one or the other. It is your business, and you can offer more than one type of service.

What is CAT Adjusting?

catastrophe adjusting property damage

Catastrophic or cat adjusting is when a licensed adjuster is sent to an area that has been affected by a major disaster of some kind. Many times this is a natural disaster, like a hail storm or flood, but sometimes man-made disasters like oil spills can be the reason for a large number of insurance claims to be filed.

When insurance companies do not have enough staff adjusters to deploy to a catastrophe they deploy independent adjusters through independent adjusting firms, with qualifications like a State Farm adjuster certification. and the NFIP certification for flood claims.

Similar to temp agencies, IA firms get paid by the insurance company, and hire independent adjusters to do the work.

Independent adjuster license requirements can vary by state.

IA firms usually keep 30-40% of the amount the insurance company is paying and the contracted IA is able to keep the rest.

As a catastrophic adjuster, you’ll be given a large number of claims to handle and you’ll be expected to handle the following tasks:

  • Schedule inspections with the vehicle or homeowner
  • Inspect the damaged home or vehicle
  • Document the damage with photos and notes
  • Compile a professional estimate in the industry-leading software (Audatex or CCC One for auto claims and Xactimate typically for property claims)
  • Upload documents, photos, and reports to the IA Firm or insurance company
  • Settle the claim with the insured
  • Re-inspect claims for additional damages or missed items, if requested by repairers

Catastrophe adjuster jobs

You will have a lot of career options if you are successful as a catastrophic adjuster. In this section, I’ll show you some different options for auto and property adjusters.

Body shop

The skills learned on an auto catastrophe are easily applied to working as a body shop estimator. Working with customers and vehicles in a fast-paced environment prepares you for what a body shop is like.

Independent adjuster or auto damage appraiser

Catastrophe isn’t the only way to make a living as an IA. If you have a solid income during the hail season you can easily increase your yearly income by working as an IA in your hometown. Connecting with multiple appraisal companies will help you to always have a steady income.

Insurance company

If you are looking for consistent income, insurance companies always need good adjusters who have experience, especially in the catastrophe arena, for both property and auto.

Paintless dent repair companies

Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) companies repair the hail damaged vehicles and need project managers, adjusters, and support for their company. Your knowledge of hail damage and the ability to work catastrophe can lead to a good career working with a PDR company.

Catastrophe adjuster

There are also many options other than hail that offer longer deployments in the catastrophic arena. Some of the options include property, flood, total loss, liability, or being an inside adjuster. These are harder spots to land, but they can set you up for a lifelong career.

Construction or roofing estimates and sales

If you have a comprehensive knowledge of Xactimate and can properly construct estimates and assess damage, you may be a valuable asset to a roofing or construction company. You will be assessing damages for the company, writing estimates, and bidding on jobs. The skills learned in handling catastrophic property claims correspond closely to this career option.

Bottom line on catastrophe adjuster pay

catastrophe adjuster snow damage

Becoming a catastrophic adjuster is a thrilling experience. The ability to earn $500+ per day as an independent adjuster, or to earn bonus income as a staff adjuster traveling the country is something many people desire and dream about.

I was a catastrophe adjuster for six years. My family and I really enjoyed the rush of adrenaline every time we got the call to drive cross country within the next twenty-four hours. This career isn’t for everyone, but it is exciting.

You can earn great money in both capacities, and I’ve known independent property adjusters that earned a catastrophe adjuster salary of over $300,000 in a single year. Many of those same IA’s would tell you the additional income was not worth the time away from home or family. But, as an independent, you can decide how much you want to work. Scaling back to maintain a somewhat normal life, IA’s can still earn more than $200,000 per year.

The hardest part about becoming an independent or a staff adjuster is getting started. Finding someone to take a chance on you is difficult, because most companies are looking for people with experience.

If you are interested in a career as an independent adjuster and want to learn how to get started, claim your free copy of my book, Independent Adjuster’s Playbook: Step by Step Guide & Roadmap to Becoming a Successful Independent Adjuster.

If you prefer to read a physical paperback copy or on your Kindle, you can click HERE.


Do insurance adjusters make good money?

Absolutely! Many people have heard about the glory days of Hurricane Katrina where many people earned six figures in three months, but that is not the normal situation.

You can earn a catastrophe adjuster salary of well over six figures once you are established as an independent adjuster or staff adjuster if you earn bonuses and travel pay. 

The big benefit and drawback to being an independent adjuster is that you don’t work twelve months out of the year like staff adjusters do.

How do I become a catastrophe claims adjuster?

Like most jobs, you need to be trained, have an education in the industry, and be properly licensed to legally handle claims in the state you reside in. Finding someone to give you work is the next big task. 

You can find a complete list of steps to become an independent adjuster for FREE inside of my book, Independent Adjuster’s Playbook.

Also, you can check out our article and podcast episode about the 5 Reasons most people won’t make it as a catastrophe adjuster. That way you can avoid those common pitfalls.

The fastest way to get started is to find a mentor in the industry who will vouch for you to IA Firms. AT IA Path we offer mentorship plans for both auto and property catastrophic careers. You can view them at

What do insurance adjusters do?

At the core of being a field adjuster you are an inspector and will perform the following tasks:

  • Schedule inspections with the vehicle or homeowner
  • Inspect the damaged home or vehicle
  • Document the damage with photos and notes
  • Compile a professional estimate in the industry-leading software (Audatex or CCC One for auto claims and Xactimate typically for property claims)
  • Upload all the documents photos and reports to the IA Firm or insurance company
  • Settle the claim with the insured
  • Re-inspect claims for additional damages or missed items if requested by repairers

Is there a demand for insurance claims adjusters?

There is a very high demand for properly trained and licensed adjusters nationwide. But just because you are licensed and have taken the standard training doesn’t make you desirable by default. 

There are particular strategies you can employ to raise your desirability as an adjuster which I cover deeply in my book, Independent Adjuster’s Playbook. You can get a free copy here.

The main things you can do to become more desirable to IA Firms and insurance companies revolve around:

  • Licensing
  • Being on Rosters
  • Training
  • Networking
  • Working Experience

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