What Does an Insurance Claims Adjuster Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Insurance claims adjusters determine whether or not a party claiming loss due to property damage, bodily injury, or another incident, is owed a payment under an insurance policy. They also decide the payment amount.
Most insurance claims adjusters are employees of insurance companies, but some are independent consultants who represent claimants. Closely allied occupations include insurance claims examiners, insurance appraisers, and insurance investigators. An alternative job title for insurance claims adjuster is insurance loss adjuster.
Claims adjusters can specialize in different fields, such as medical, auto, property, or catastrophic claims.
Insurance Claims Adjuster Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Examine records
- Review policies
- Negotiate settlements
- Maintain knowledge of specialized areas
Medical claims adjusters determine if medical insurance policies cover particular procedures, whether the procedures are elective or necessary, and if they are warranted based on medical histories.
Auto claims adjusters typically are insurance company employees and assigned to claims when accidents occur. They often need to view damaged cars in person, which means working both in the field and in the office to determine the appropriate settlement amount. Settlement processes become more involved when accidents result in personal injury. In those cases, medical bills and records must be reviewed and subjective claims like pain and suffering must be negotiated. Attorneys are often involved.
Property claims adjusters evaluate the damage to homes or businesses caused by many things, including natural disasters such as floods. Working as a catastrophic insurance claims adjuster can be a nomadic experience, requiring travel all over the country in response to ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and major floods. Part of the job is to keep a close eye on the weather in order to be ready to assist wherever needed.
Insurance Claims Adjuster Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks salaries for adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators. Those working for government agencies tend to earn the highest salaries, while those handling auto claims tend to earn the lowest.
- Median Annual Salary: $65,900 ($31.68/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $98,660 ($47.43/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $39,620 ($19.05/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
While there are no specific degree requirements, most potential employers likely will expect candidates to have a bachelor's degree.
- Education: Some entry-level positions require no more than a high school diploma, but most positions require some level of education beyond high school. Some technical schools and community colleges offer programs, for example, to prepare students to estimate damages to automobiles.
- Certification: Whether or not insurance adjusters need to be licensed depends on state laws, so check for specific requirements. In many states, adjusters working for an insurance company are able to work under the firm’s license.
- Experience and training: Many insurance companies have in-house training programs. Previous experience in a related field is taken into consideration during the hiring process. Some companies hire people with legal experience to work as adjusters for liability claims. People with engineering or architectural backgrounds tend to get hired as adjusters for industrial claims, and those with experience with automotive repairs might get hired as adjusters for auto claims.
Insurance Claims Adjuster Skills & Competencies
In addition to the experience and knowledge that goes with handling insurance claims, adjusters need certain soft skills to excel in their careers.
- People skills: While much of the job involves assessing losses or damages to property or vehicles, the job involves dealing with the people suffering those losses. Because of the circumstances, many of those people are going through a difficult time, and insurance adjusters need to do their jobs accurately and with empathy.
- Analytical skills: Attention to detail and being able to assess the entirety of circumstances is vital to being good at the job.
- Computer literacy: Software programs increasingly provide assistance with insurance claims, but for these programs to be effective, claims adjusters need to know how to work with them efficiently.
- Math skills: Handling claims involves understanding the values of certain damages or losses and calculating a total based on all factors.
Employment opportunities for insurance claims adjusters, investigators, appraisers, and examiners are projected to decline by 1% for the decade ending in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is significantly worse than the 7% growth projected for all occupations. Jobs specific to auto insurance claims are projected to increase by 5%, better than the rest of the profession, but still trailing the projections for all occupations.
The decline is expected due to the automation of some elements of the claims process, such as property damage being assessed with computer software. Such software programs also are available for auto claims, but the increase in vehicular travel is projected to increase the number of accidents.
Adjusters split time between office work and field work, and sometimes it is necessary to travel out of town, especially for adjusters to assess damage from natural disasters.
Schedules can vary based on clients' needs and may require working evenings and weekends. They may need to work long hours without warning to handle claims pursuant to a natural disaster or severe weather event. Weeks topping 50 to 60 hours of work are not unusual.
How to Get the Job
Search openings on sites like ihireinsuance.com or check out openings on insurance company websites.
Many insurance companies have programs for budding claims adjusters to get experience.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in working as a claims adjuster also might consider one of the following career paths, listed with median annual salaries:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018