Property and casualty claims adjusters have a lot of responsibility. People who are in crisis and have suffered damage to their homes or other property rely on adjusters to approve their claims from the insurance company so they can get on with their lives. But the insurance company is the adjuster's employer and wants to make sure the claim is fair and meets the guidelines of the policy holder’s insurance guidelines. In 2010, the median income for adjusters, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $58,460.
Most training to be an adjuster occurs on the job. A college degree is not required to land a position as an adjuster. Employers may look for a bachelor’s degree in business or experience in home construction or with an insurance company. The type of experience an adjuster needs depends on the type of property he will be investigating. Most states allow an adjuster to work under the license of the insurance company; some states do require that the adjuster have a license. Each state has different prerequisites regarding an insurance exam; check the National Insurance Producer Registry for specifics.
The first order of business when a company receives a claim is to send out an adjuster to investigate the claim. The adjuster verifies the damage done to the house or property and gathers information pertinent to the claim, such as police reports, fire department accounts and weather documentation. Adjusters spend a considerable amount of time in the field, as they physically visit properties to verify damage and assess repairs. Most claims result from floods or fires.
Once the adjuster looks at the property and takes pictures of the damage for the company's records, she interviews the homeowners and anyone else involved in the casualty. She may have to talk to the first responders who took the call. Neighbors can shed light on claims where the homeowners weren’t home or that an arsonist started a fire. The adjuster may talk to architects, builders, contractors and accountants to find out if the amount of the claim is appropriate.
The next step is to analyze the claimant’s insurance policy to see that it covers the damage under the circumstances the adjuster discovered. The adjuster needs to check that premiums are paid up and that the policy doesn’t have any riders that preclude payment. He analyzes estimates and the requests from the policy holder to make a determination to pay the requested amounts or not.
Once the adjuster determines the veracity of the claim and that the circumstances warrant coverage from the company, she begins negotiations. Although the adjuster wants to be fair to the customer, she does work for the insurance company and has guidelines and policies to follow regarding the amount of payments she can offer. After the adjuster and the claimant agree on an amount, the adjuster submits the claim to the company for payment. In the event that they don’t reach a settlement, the adjuster may have to go to court to defend her position if the claimant sues the insurance company for more money.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners and Investigators
- Adjuster License Guides: States That Do Not Require Adjuster License
- National Insurance Producer Registry: Frequently Asked Questions
- Virginia Jobs: Career Guide for Insurance Claims Adjusters, Examiners and Investigators
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."