What is an insurance adjuster?
An insurance adjuster, sometimes called a claims adjuster, independent adjuster, or company adjuster, is the person who investigates insurance claims. The investigation may include interviewing witnesses, inspecting property damage, and reviewing police and hospital records.
What does an adjuster do?
When you file an insurance claim, your insurer has a claims adjuster look into the events surrounding the loss. Typically, this means assigning an adjuster to:
- Collect information about the event.
- Assess the damage and liability.
- Ensure your claim isn’t fraudulent.
- Determine if the loss is covered under your policy, and if so, the amount your insurance company should pay.
For small claims, an adjuster may only contact you by phone. But for something more costly, like a fire claim, an adjuster may need to come to your property to survey and record the damage.
Types of insurance adjusters
There are four main types of insurance adjusters that you might encounter during a claim. While all four types do effectively the same thing, they often handle different types and sizes of claims. and some may resolve claims faster than others or come with additional cost.
Field adjusters are insurance adjusters who work “in the field.” These folks may travel to accident sites and client properties after a claim has been filed in order to assess and estimate the value of damage. Field adjusters usually work for insurers, representing their interest and ensuring that payouts on claims are correct and aligned with the company’s interests.
Similar to field adjusters, desk adjusters commonly work for insurers to assess damages and process claims. The biggest difference is that while field adjusters work in the field, desk adjusters work in an office. Desk adjusters typically work on claims that can be handled quickly online or over the phone. That way, field adjusters don’t have to spend time traveling for minor issues.
Independent adjusters are another type of adjuster that, like field and desk adjusters, work for insurance companies and represent their interests. The difference is that independent adjusters are not direct employees of insurance companies. Instead, they work for themselves or for independent adjustment firms. Independent adjusters are regularly called in by insurance companies to help process claims in their area.
Some insurance companies prefer to use independent agents rather than employ field adjusters across the country. One important thing to note about independent adjusters is that they often just document what they observe and may not have much input on analyzing how your coverage applies.
Of the four types of adjusters, public adjusters are the only type that do not work for the insurance company or represent its interests. Instead, public adjusters are hired by individuals when they file a claim in order to work with the insurance company adjusters and negotiate payouts.
One important detail to remember when hiring a public adjuster is that they charge a fee. The amount varies by state but typically ranges between 5% and 20% of the final loss settlement, and it’s up to you, the insured, to pay. Additionally, hiring a public adjuster to negotiate with an insurance company can slow down the claims process.
5 tips for working with an independent adjuster
Below are five tips to help the adjuster promptly review your claim and make a quick coverage decision.
- Document your possessions. Before you experience a loss, spend a little time creating a home inventory. This can help the adjuster verify your losses and speed up the claims process. You can use a written list, but you might also want supporting documentation, like receipts, photographs, video, or warranties. Store these items somewhere secure and accessible during an emergency.
- Review your home insurance. Do this before you experience a loss. Read your policy to see what events are covered, what property is covered, and what your limits are. Most policies also list steps for filing a claim. You may also want to check your declarations page so you know what your deductibles are.
- Make a list of questions. A major loss can be overwhelming. Take a moment to write down the things you want to know before you meet with your claims handler.
- Be honest about the loss. Overstating the extent of the damage can send up red flags. Be straightforward about your loss so the adjuster can evaluate it fairly.
- Avoid altering the condition of your property. Insurance adjusters need to see the scene as is, so do not clean up or fix your damaged property unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to make repairs, take photos of the property, all of the damages, the cause of loss, the repairs and mitigation process, and keep receipts for the materials you use.
You have a better chance of receiving an appropriate settlement when you’ve done your research and can assist the claims adjuster.