What Does an Insurance Claims Adjuster Do?

An insurance claims adjuster is responsible for investigating and settling claims.

Written by Elizabeth Rivelli / June 20, 2022

Quick Bites

  • An insurance claims adjuster investigates and settles claims.
  • The most common types of insurance adjusters are public adjusters, company adjusters and independent adjusters.
  • Each state has unique licensing requirements for insurance adjusters, but it usually involves an educational course and exam.

Insurance offers valuable protection for the most important (and often expensive) things you own, like your house or your car. When you experience a loss, your insurance company steps in to save the day—financially speaking. When you file a claim, it’s the job of the insurance claims adjuster to ultimately determine how much money you’re owed.

Inside this article

  1. What does an adjuster do?
  2. Types of adjusters
  3. How adjusters settle claims
  4. How to become a claims adjuster
  5. Benefits of being an adjuster
  6. Working with a claims adjuster

What does an insurance claims adjuster do?

In a nutshell, insurance claims adjusters are responsible for handling insurance losses.

“Adjusters are initially charged with investigating the cause of the loss that generated the insurance claim, and documenting and quantifying the resulting damages,” says Mark Snyder, a claims subject matter expert at Hi Marley, a communication platform for the insurance industry.

So, if you get into a car accident or your house catches fire, you’ll work with an insurance adjuster throughout the claim process until you eventually receive a settlement from your insurance company (assuming the claim is approved).

Types of insurance claims adjusters

There are three main types of insurance claims adjusters—public adjusters, independent adjusters and staff adjusters.

“Public adjusters work for the claimant (the policyholder making the claim),” says Kenny Taylor, a public adjuster at The Greenspan Co./Adjusters International, a Los Angeles-based public adjuster company. “Their role is to advocate for the claimant, optimizing the recovery to ensure they receive exactly what they are entitled to within their policy."

Tip: Hiring a public adjuster can help you get the best settlement and takes the pressure of negotiating for yourself. However, using a public adjuster isn’t free. Usually, they charge 10% to 20% of your total payout, depending on the size of the claim.

Independent adjusters, on the other hand, represent the insurance carrier as a third-party consultant. An independent adjuster might be brought in if the insurance company is overloaded with claims or is dealing with a specialized claim.

Many of the biggest insurance providers employ staff adjusters (also called company adjusters), who work exclusively for one insurance company. Staff adjusters often work on one line of insurance, such as condo claim adjusting or auto claim adjusting.

Both independent and staff adjusters are responsible for “making sure that every penny paid out is earned under the terms of the insurance policy,” says Taylor. In other words, they are there to ensure the insurance company doesn’t give a claimant too much money.

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In addition, some insurance companies differentiate between field adjusters and desk adjusters.

“Field adjusters are different from desk adjusters in that field adjusters investigate claims and inspect and adjust claims in person, while desk adjusters are in the office handling and adjusting claims,” says Snyder.

How adjusters settle claims

Adjusters are tasked with “settling” insurance claims, which means they review the incident and determine how much money the policyholder should receive. Here’s a high-level overview of how they settle claims:

  • Investigate the claim: The adjuster investigates the incident that led to the claim, and determine if the claim is covered and who was at-fault.

  • Review the damages: The adjuster examines the physical damages. Depending on the situation, a field adjuster might look at a home or vehicle in person to better understand the extent of the damage.

  • Calculate a payout: Considering the evidence, the adjuster will then figure out how much it might cost to compensate the policyholder.

  • Settle the claim: The final step is for the adjuster to resolve the claim, based on the claimant’s insurance policy and the insurance companies legal obligations. The policyholder receives the settlement and the claim is closed.

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How to become a claims adjuster

Landing a job as an insurance claims adjuster can be a lucrative gig and you typically aren’t required to have a specific degree. If you’re interested in becoming a claims adjuster, the first thing you should do is learn more about the licensing requirements.

"Both independent adjusters and public adjusters are typically licensed by the states in which they work,” says Taylor. “Staff claims adjusters, however, are not required to be licensed by the insurance companies or the states where they work."

Although a higher education degree is not required, there may be educational requirements you must meet before you can get a license.

“Each state has its own requirements to become a licensed adjuster and many states offer an apprentice adjusters program,” says Taylor. “The program requires adjusters to fulfill a certain number of hours worked as an apprentice before becoming fully licensed.”

Tip: Successful claims adjusters share certain traits and qualities. For instance, it helps to be a good problem solver, a strong decision maker, very detail-oriented and extremely organized. But above all else, you’ll need to be empathetic and a good listener.

Benefits of being a claims adjuster

Being an insurance claims adjuster has a variety of benefits.

The median annual salary for an insurance claims adjuster is $65,080, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).[1] You may earn more as you gain experience. In general, independent claims adjusters have higher earnings potential than public or company adjusters.

Another benefit is that working in the insurance industry provides a certain level of job security that can be difficult to find elsewhere. People will always need insurance and will (unfortunately) always experience losses.

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Insurance claims adjusters also get to help people in times of crisis. Getting into a car accident or having your home broken into can be extremely distressing. As an insurance adjuster, you help make sure the person is fairly compensated so they can recover and move forward.

Working with a claims adjuster

If you experience a loss and need to work with an insurance claims adjuster, there are some things you can do to make the process run more smoothly.

“Keep a clear record of all written communication or emails between yourself and the insurance company, and do not rely on verbal assurances or promises,” says Taylor. If you’re not satisfied with your claim settlement and decide to hire an independent adjuster, having these records will be important.

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You should also keep an open line of communication between you and the adjuster. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the process so you know what to expect. You should also let the adjuster know how and when you prefer to be contacted, which can help you avoid playing phone tag.

Finally, “be realistic in your perception of what constitutes a fair, fast outcome,” says Snyder. “Remember—the purpose of insurance is to make you whole after a loss, not to make you financially better off. Also, the more complex and severe the claim, the longer it usually takes to resolve.”

Article Sources
  1. “Occupational Outlook Handbook, Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. Apr. 18, 2022, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/claims-adjusters-appraisers-examiners-and-investigators.htm#:~:text=%2445%2C760-,The%20median%20annual%20wage%20for%20claims%20adjusters%2C%20examiners%2C%20and%20investigators,amount%20and%20half%20earned%20less.

About the Author

Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth is a freelance writer who covers insurance and personal finance. She is passionate about helping people understand the value of insurance, and making the subject approachable.

Full bio

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