Individuals and businesses carry various types of insurance to protect against loss or liability. If an event, such as a fire, storm, or accident results in a loss, the affected party, called the claimant, files a claim with the insurance company. The claim is then turned over to a claims adjuster, also known as a loss adjuster, to investigate and negotiate a settlement. While some insurance companies have adjusters on their staff, many companies choose to use an independent insurance adjuster, who is an independent contractor, to process claims.
The independent insurance adjuster is responsible for investigating the claim, reviewing the terms of the insurance policy, negotiating settlements if the claim is deemed valid and authorizing payments to the claimant. An investigation usually includes interviewing the claimant and any witnesses, reviewing hospital and police reports, and examining any property damage. The adjuster may consult with contractors, physicians, attorneys, or any other professionals in order to determine an appropriate settlement. All of the evidence, including photos, statements and estimates, is submitted in a report to the company.
There is no college degree devoted to insurance claims, adjustments or settlements. Many companies will accept adjusters with high school diplomas and little or no college and then provide on-the-job training. In some instances, past employment may be beneficial in obtaining work as an independent insurance adjuster. For example, a nurse or other medical professional would bring needed expertise in handling medical claims, while a police officer or auto body shop manager might make a great adjuster for vehicle claims. Degrees in accounting, engineering or architecture fields are also beneficial for appraising certain types of claims.
In the US, Canada, Australia, and many other jurisdictions, licensing and continuing education requirements are dictated by regional states or provinces. Some states in the US have few requirements, while others mandate pre-licensing education and minimum scores on standardized proficiency tests. Other areas, such as Florida and Nova Scotia, offer different levels of licenses requiring different levels of expertise. Those jurisdictions which require licensing usually dictate periodic continuing education as well. Whether mandated or not, this is an essential component for keeping the independent insurance adjuster up-to-date on medical and technological changes, as well as legal decisions affecting the way claims must be handled.
There are many advantages to using an independent insurance adjuster. It is difficult for a company to maintain a sufficient number of staff adjusters to assist when major catastrophic events, such as tornadoes, floods or hurricanes, occur. Using in independent insurance adjuster firm also allows an insurance company the ability to choose from a pool of professionals with different specialties. Insurance companies who insure properties or business internationally benefit from using independent contractors who are familiar with local laws and hold licenses in the countries where claims are being investigated.