Insurance adjusters may be employed directly by insurance companies or they may be self-employed and work for a variety of companies or the public on a case-by-case basis. They may also work on general insurance claims or they can specialize in specific areas of insurance.
In industry parlance, an adjuster who works directly for an insurance company as a salaried employee is known as a “staff adjuster”. They represent only the interests of the insurance company they are employed by and its clients. When recruiting for staff adjuster positions, insurance companies tend to show preference for those who have completed some university or college education, or for those who have worked their way through the ranks of the company and acquired a detailed knowledge along the way.
An independent adjuster is a self-employed contractor who is typically hired by and adjusting firm who is inturn hired by insurance companies to handle claims on a case-by-case basis. Reasons an independent adjuster might be contracted could include that the volume of work is more than can be handled by the staff adjusters, a claim might require specialized knowledge in a specific area, or they might be located in or able to travel to an area where the insurance company has no staff adjusters available. Independent adjusters are also very much in demand in the period following a natural disaster or catastrophe.
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A public adjuster differs from staff adjusters and independent adjusters in that they represent the rights of the policy holder rather than the insurance company and are much less common. Their duties can range from helping policy holders to fully understand the legal wording of their policy documents to negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of the insured. This can sometimes be an adversarial role where the opponent is a large corporation, but most of the time, public adjusters are used when there is no dispute over the validity of the claim but there is uncertainty over the agreed value.
Specialist adjusters could be employed in any one of the three capacities discussed above. Their key point of difference is that they specialize in a specific type of claim or industry. Areas of specialization might include auto insurance, personal injury, home and contents, marine, or claims requiring special investigation skills, such as those suspected of being fraudulent.
Staff adjusters have far more consistency than do independent adjusters. Staff adjusters usually have an office located at their employer’s premises and service a set geographical area from there. This type of role is better suited to those who need a more regular routine for family or other reasons. On the other hand, independent adjusters could find themselves working from their home office one day and from a hotel room or their vehicle the next. Those choosing to be self-employed as an independent adjuster should be prepared to spend extended periods of time away from home.
Most insurance adjusters are employed as staff adjusters; however, there are other options for those who prefer to be self-employed or would like to specialize in a particular niche. Those wanting to begin a career as an insurance adjuster should consider what employment capacity suits themselves, their families and lifestyle the most.