What Is an Insurance Adjuster

Audrey M. Jones
Insurance adjuster examining property

An insurance adjuster works for an insurance company assessing the level of financial damage after an individual files an insurance claim. Their job is to determine how much the insurance company should pay to make you whole again after an accident or occurrence for which you are insured.

The Job of an Insurance Claims Adjuster

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job of an adjuster is to inspect damage to property to determine how much the company should pay for the loss. There are three types of adjusters: public, private, and self-employed.

  • Public: A public adjuster works for a claimant, trying to obtain as much money from an insurance company as possible. They are hired on a case-by-case basis directly by the claimant. You typically pay a public adjuster a percentage of your settlement.
  • Private: A private adjuster works for an insurance company, trying to save as much money as possible for the insurance company. The insurance company pays private adjusters.
  • Self-employed: Self-employed adjusters work on a case-by-case basis for an insurance company. Their job is the same as a private adjuster: to save an insurance company as much money as possible. The insurance company pays self-employed adjusters.

An Adjuster's Job Tasks

The type of tasks an adjuster performs depends on who they work for.

Private and Self-Employed Adjusters

There are four main tasks in a private or self-employed adjuster's job. A fifth task can arise if a lawsuit ensues after not reaching a settlement agreement with a claimant.

  1. Inspecting damaged property: An adjuster inspects the automobile, home, or other property claimed to have been damaged. They make take photos, statements, or videotape their inspection.
  2. Reviewing the claimant's policy: The inspector next reviews the claimant's policy to determine what types of coverage he or she had at the time the loss occurred. This includes investigating policy deductibles and items covered under the policy.
  3. Writing a report: The adjuster writes a report regarding their findings, stating the exact type and extent of damage. This report may provide recommendations about the amount of payment that should be awarded to the claimant. They may consult with other professionals, such as an accountant, in deciding how much to offer.
  4. Offering and negotiating payment: The adjuster decides how much money to offer a claimant, negotiates that amount if the claimant objects, and directs the insurance company's accounting department to remit payment once an amount is agreed upon.
  5. Appearing in court to settle claims: If no amount can be agreed to, the adjuster will work with the insurance company's legal team to defend the company in court, should the claimant file a lawsuit.

Public Adjusters

There are four main tasks that a public adjuster performs:

  1. Inspecting damaged property: The adjuster inspects damaged property, perhaps taking photos or videotaping their inspection. This is done so that the adjuster has first-hand knowledge of the type of claim their client would like to make.
  2. Reviewing their client's policy: The adjuster researches what coverage types and amounts a policy affords the policy holder. This determines the amount of reimbursement the client should seek, how they should seek reimbursement, and the type of paperwork and documentation that may be required during the claim.
  3. Responding to the insurance company: The adjuster responses to any inquiries or requests for more information the insurance company makes. This ensures that the adjuster knows exactly where the claim stands and what information has been submitted to the company at all times.
  4. Negotiating payment: An adjuster will help determine a fair amount or negotiate the amount of reimbursement with the insurance company. Since private adjusters are normally paid a percentage of the settlement amount, their goal is to obtain the most money for the client.

The exact order and components of each task may differ, depending on the adjuster and type of claim.

Working with an Adjuster

The goal of working with any type of adjuster is the same: to show how much loss you suffered and how your insurance policy covers those losses.

If you are working with a private or self-employed adjuster, don't forget:

  • The adjuster's purpose is to save the insurance company money. This means that an adjuster is seeking ways to overlook, ignore, or otherwise avoid recognition of damage you incurred. You can overcome this inclination by providing as much information about your claim as possible, preferably in tangible forms such as photos or video.
  • The adjuster works for the insurance company. The adjuster is not on your side. This does not mean that you should be hostile toward him or her, but rather that you should not consider them to be working to obtain you as much money as possible.

When working with a public adjuster, don't forget:

  • The adjuster is on your side. Trust them with as much information as possible. This will help them fully represent you and obtain the most money possible for your claim. A public adjuster cannot reveal private information about you or your claim.
  • The adjuster will not lie or work on a fraudulent claim. Despite being hired for you, it is against a private adjuster's ethics and the law to file a fake insurance claim.

The Process

Regardless of type of claim - auto, home, etc., - working with an adjuster requires the same process. Ameriprise Financial provides advice on how to work with an adjuster. This advice includes:

  • Documenting everything: Take as many photos and as much video of the damage as possible to help the adjuster see the exact damage incurred. This may be particularly important where damage may diminish over time, such as flood water receding.
  • Share documents: Provide the adjuster with all requested information, documentation, and other materials you have regarding the damage. Remember, it's illegal to defraud an insurance company by not being honest.
  • Keep in touch: Adjusters often simultaneously work on multiple claims. Keep in frequent contact with the adjuster assigned to your claim to ensure that your claim progresses and that the adjuster has the information he or she needs.

If you disagree on the settlement amount that the adjuster offers, MoneyCrashers.com recommends negotiating the claim. To do so, AutoInsuranceCenter.com encourages:

  • Remaining professional: Turning negotiations nasty or acrimonious doesn't result in their proceeding faster or in your favor. Treat the adjuster with respect and recognize their experience in the field.
  • Calculating the total amount of your loss: Combining the amount of loss you suffered from every area, such as replacing or repairing damaged property or finding alternatives, like a rental car, into one total number can show the adjuster how far off they are in their offer.

Pursuing Your Claim

Filing and completing an insurance claim is a stressful process and the adjuster want to resolve your claim as much as you do. Therefore, it is in your best interest to remain open, honest, and professional with the adjuster assigned to your case.

What Is an Insurance Adjuster