What Does an Insurance Claims Adjuster Do?

Becoming a claims adjuster was one of the best decisions I ever made, but few people know about this career. Those that have heard about it often aren’t too sure what insurance claims adjusters and auto damage appraisers actually do.

So, what does a claims adjuster do?

Adjusters are like investigators for insurance claims. Their job is to gather evidence in a variety of ways.

In this article, I’ll explain the role of a claims adjuster in the insurance industry, the different types of adjusting, and what it’s like to be a claims adjuster.

Types of insurance claims adjusters

types of insurance adjustersThere are as many different types of adjusters as there are different types of insurance claims. There are also various situations under which you can be hired to complete claims.

There are also various adjuster licenses available, including all lines licenses in certain states that cover a range of insurance claim types.

Understanding the difference and what each adjuster or appraiser does can help someone decide on a career path.

Let’s review some of the most common types of adjusters below.

Public Adjusters

Public adjusters are hired by policyholders to represent them. They assist with the filing of the claim and settlements. Their job is to make sure the policyholder is represented.

Staff adjusters

A staff adjuster works full-time for an insurance company as a w-2 employee. Whether they are positioned as an outside or inside adjuster determines how they work.

Outside staff adjusters

Outside adjusters working on staff for an insurance company go out into the field to complete inspections. They are focused on gathering evidence of a claim from outside of the office.

They take photos of the damages, interview witnesses, talk with the insured people, and write estimates based on the information they have gathered. The outside adjuster’s estimate is then used to determine the amount that will be paid to the owner of the damaged property.

They also collect police reports and medical records when it is needed.

Inside staff adjusters

Staff adjusters who work exclusively inside the office focus on gathering all the information about a claim, and the proper handling and closing of a claim.

They may assign inspections to outside staff adjusters, independent adjusters, or auto damage appraisers to gather evidence in the field. The inside staff adjuster is focused on handling policy decisions, talking with owners, finalizing paperwork, and settling the claim.

In some companies, an insurance adjuster may perform both roles, inside and outside.

Independent adjusters

Independent claim adjusters work for multiple clients as a 1099 contractor. Their clients range from working directly for insurance companies to working with independent adjuster firms, also known as third party administrators or TPA’s.

An independent adjuster owns their own business, provides their own insurance adjuster tools, and is responsible for performing field inspections on behalf of their clients.

Because they work for multiple clients and own a business, it can be more challenging to be an independent adjuster than a staff adjuster. For the same reasons, independent adjuster salaries tend to be higher than that of staff adjusters.

How much do claims adjusters make?

how much do adjusters makeThe average insurance adjuster salary is $56,000 per year, but this varies greatly based on the type of adjusting you are doing.

The average auto damage appraiser’s salary is just over $50,000, while independent adjusters and catastrophic adjuster salaries can be well over $100,000 in a busy year.

My strong recommendation is that you decide what type of adjuster you want to be based on your interests and passions and NOT based on salary.

What it’s like to work as a claims adjuster

Most adjusters get started in claims because they want to help people. With each and every claim, you can see the difference you are making in someone’s life. This makes the satisfaction of the job itself very high.

But it’s also important to note what the job prospects are like, and what it’s like doing claims work on a daily basis.

Are claim adjusters needed?

Adjusters and appraisers are in demand. When I searched claim adjuster jobs on Indeed, I found 3,266 positions listed. Adjusters are needed nationwide.

With the high average age of 60+ in the insurance industry, more people are retiring than entering the business. This creates a great career opportunity for younger generations, as well as those searching for a second career.

Is claims adjusting a stable career?

Being an adjuster is a very stable career. As long as people are damaging property or themselves, there will be insurance claims to process.

Also, during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, adjusters in many states can still work — they have been considered essential to the economy. Both staff and independent adjusters have been able to keep working while much of the world stopped.

A day in the life of a claims adjuster

A day in the life of an insurance claims adjuster varies greatly whether you are an independent, staff, or public adjuster.

Staff adjusters typically work normal business hours and often report to an office. They have a set coverage area, so staff adjusters can find more resemblance of a routine than their counterparts working independently.

Independent adjusters own their own business and work more of a feast and famine schedule. Since they are a for-hire adjuster, they may have days, weeks, or months when they are really busy, followed by others that aren’t as full of claims.

Work for independent adjusters can surge due to weather, filling in for a vacationing staff adjuster, or adding new clients. You can work as much or as little as you want since it is your business and you decide on your income needs.

All adjusters handle claims of some kind. Processing claims requires most, if not all, of the following tasks:

  • Communicating with all parties involved in the claim
  • Speaking with policyholders, claimants, and witnesses
  • Completing inspections of damaged property
  • Taking photos of damaged items
  • Writing estimates or gathering invoices
  • Filling out reports and documents
  • Determining the value of loss on the claim
  • Deciding if the claim is covered under the policy
  • Working with the insured or claimant and those contracted to fix the damages

Besides the general list above, there are some specific tasks an adjuster needs to perform, based on the type of claims they are processing.

Adjusters who handle property claims

Both staff and independent adjusters tend to focus on a particular type of claim in their day to day work. Property adjusters typically focus on houses, buildings, and damages to the property.

Insurance adjusters that handle these types of claims will need to be able to climb a ladder to inspect roofs, and not be afraid of closed spaces like crawl spaces, attics, or basements.

Property adjusters create estimates based on their findings using software such as Xactimate or Symbility. In addition to an estimate, property adjusters create a sketch of the house inside of their estimating software.

Auto adjusters and auto damage appraisers

Auto damage appraisers and auto adjusters focus on damages to vehicles. Their job is to take photos of the vehicle damage, document damaged parts, and create an industry-standard auto body estimate using software such as CCC One or Audatex.

Auto damage appraisers are focused on the damage to and the value of the vehicle and do not settle claims. They report all their finders back to an adjuster who makes final policy decisions and payment.

Marine and heavy equipment adjusters

Adjusters that specialize in marine and heavy equipment have extensive training and experience on these types of property. Marine adjusters focus on boats, jet skis, and other types of watercraft.

Heavy equipment adjusters inspect and write estimates on farm equipment, commercial trucks and trailers, and construction equipment.

This type of adjuster writes estimates using Mitchell Truck Est or TruckWriter Estimator. When inspecting RV claims they may use Duncans RV Damage Estimating Software.

Crop adjusters

Crop adjusters inspect damaged crops and fields that claims have been filed on. They investigate by inspecting the soil, crops, and aerial photos, and discussing their findings with the farmers.

How to get started as a claims adjuster

If becoming a claims adjuster sounds like a career that you are interested in, finding out what the state adjuster licensing requirements are for your state is the first step.

You’ll also need to determine what type of claims you’ll want to handle as an insurance claims adjuster.

Do you want to work as a staff adjuster or as an independent?

Do you want to inspect property or auto claims?

At IA Path, we help independent adjusters and auto damage appraisers get started working in their career in 90 days with our online training and mentorship programs.

If you are interested in learning more about how to become an independent adjuster, check out this free insurance adjuster video course, Independent Adjuster’s Crash Course, for a step-by-step walkthrough.

You can also check out our post on the best free insurance adjuster training.

No matter what type of adjuster you decide to become, always remember to claim your life and to keep walking your path.

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