Individuals and business owners purchase insurance policies as a means of protecting their assets. In case of a loss, policyholders submit a claim for payment to their insurance company so that they can be compensated for the loss. A Claims adjuster’s job is to handle the claims that policyholders and claimants file with the insurance company. Claims adjusters have the job of thoroughly investigating a claim, determining if payment is warranted, negotiating a financial settlement on the claim, and authorizing payments to the policyholder or claimant.
Once the policyholder makes a claim on their insurance policy, the claims adjuster will first investigate the claim in order to determine if the policy will cover the damages that are being claimed. The adjuster will also investigate the claim in order to determine if the claim is legitimate. This is necessary part of a claims adjuster’s job since many policyholders file fraudulent claims each year as an attempt to get money from the insurance company.
Claims investigation requires interviewing policyholders, claimants and witnesses. In many cases, other members of the community need to be interviewed by the claims adjuster as well. Police officers, physicians, lawyers, accountants and other professionals often have to make statements during the claims investigation process. Other information that a claims adjuster may have to collect include hospital records, photos of property damage, videos of damage occurring and other pertinent information required to fully evaluate a claim.
This type of in depth investigation is especially required if criminal activity or fraud is suspected. If the adjuster determines that the claim on the policy is legitimate, the adjuster will then negotiate a settlement amount. The claims adjuster will finally decide how much money will be paid out to the policyholder or claimant in damages.
Training and Education Requirements
Most insurance companies prefer that claims adjusters have a college degree, but this is not a requirement. Each employer has specific requirements for a claims adjuster positions. Most employers prefer experience in the insurance industry, while others simply require a background in accounting and business. Those with no experience in the industry may qualify for a claim’s adjuster’s job with a degree in business, finance, accounting or law.
Claims adjusters generally have to complete on-the-job training courses prior to handling claims. This training is pretty thorough and may last a few weeks to a few months depending on the insurance company. Training generally covers state laws, county laws, the claims investigation process, determining payment, the various types of insurance policies and a myriad of other topics necessary to perform the job.
Since effective communication is essential for the job, a claims adjuster must also receive training in this area. Claims adjusters work closely with policyholders, claimants, witnesses, local business owners as well as other professionals within the insurance company; it is imperative that a claims adjuster has the ability to communicate effectively. Claims adjusters must also maintain a good driving record and a valid driver’s license since travel is often required for the job.
Claims Adjuster Salary and Wages
The salary of a claims adjuster varies greatly. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average starting salary for a claims adjuster with no experience is 27,000 per year. The average median salary for a claims adjuster is $43,000 per year. The highest ten percent of claims adjusters earn over 71,000. The lowest 10 percent of claims adjusters earn less than $26,000 per year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Along with a regular salary, claims adjusters earn significant bonuses. There is also a significant opportunity for adjusters to earn additional money during natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes since so many experience property damage and flooding of their homes and businesses during these catastrophic times.
Certifications and License Requirements
Claims adjusters are required to maintain a license in their State of employment. The licensing requirements vary for each state. While some states have just a few requirements to obtain an adjusters license, other states require both pre-licensing courses and a passing score on the state licensing exam. Some states even require post-licensing education in order to maintain an adjuster’s license.
Most employers hire claims adjusters prior to them receiving a license. Employees generally receive job training and are required to pass state exams prior to working with policyholders and making decisions on claims. Post licensing courses are required by many employers. The updated knowledge that the adjusters receive will help to make sure that they are extremely effective in handling claims.
There are some states which allow adjusters to practice under the company’s license, meaning that the adjuster will not have to become licensed themselves. These adjusters, however, still have to undergo job training in order to maintain a position as a claims adjuster.
While certification is not required, many claims adjusters choose to pursue professional certifications from private companies so that they are independently recognized for their professional expertise.
The national professional association for claims adjusters is the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters (NAIIA.) This organization currently has over 300 property and casualty claims adjusting companies affiliated with them. The companies affiliated with this organization are all independently owned. The mission of the NAIIA is to serve the needs of independent claims adjusters as they work hard to serve the members of their communities.
National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) is another organization designed to join claims adjusters together in order to promote a specific code of conduct, assist with certification, and to assist adjusters in filing insurance claims when necessary. This is a professional organization with members all across the United States.