A property adjuster handles claims filed by insurance policyholders whose property has incurred damage through incidents such as natural disasters, fires, or vandalism. Whether he is working on behalf of the insurance company or the policyholder, his purpose is to determine the amount of compensation that should be paid by the former party to the latter. His job typically involves visiting damaged properties to assess the extent of their destruction, consulting relevant professionals such as architects for additional advice, and compiling the information he has gathered into a report from which a compensation figure can be determined. There is no particular college degree needed for this job, although some states require property adjusters to pass an exam or obtain certification.
When an insured property is damaged, the policyholder must file a claim to receive coverage. Once a claim has been filed, the insurance company usually sends a property adjuster to the property to assess the damage and establish a corresponding coverage amount. In some cases, the insured may instead opt to hire an independent adjuster. The jobs of both types of adjuster are essentially the same, except that the former seeks to protect the insurer, while the latter advocates for the insured.
Normally, the property adjuster begins his work by visiting the policyholder’s property to inspect the damage. He will likely make detailed notes describing the destruction. In addition, he may take photographs and videos, and interview the insured as well as any available witnesses. Depending on the nature of the damage, he may also consult with relevant experts. For instance, if a policyholder has filed a claim stating that his property has sustained fire damage due to a malfunctioning stove, the property adjuster may ask an electrician to verify the stove’s faultiness.
Once an insurer-employed property adjuster has completed his site visit, he assembles the information he has gathered into a file that is then used to process the claim. The insurance company reviews this file to decide whether the claim can be approved. Should the claim be approved, the adjuster then works with his associates to establish an appropriate coverage amount. If the insured accepts the coverage amount, the insurance company issues payment and the claim is considered settled. When the insured contests the proposed coverage amount, the adjuster may refer the claim to his company’s legal department or may perform further on-site investigation.
Like insurer-employed adjusters, an independent adjuster assembles his site visit materials into a file. He then establishes a corresponding compensation amount, which he submits to the policyholder’s insurer. If the figure is not accepted as is, the independent adjuster will usually then negotiate with the insurer to secure the best possible rate of compensation for his client.
There is no specific college program for individuals who wish to become property adjusters, although a knowledge of the basic principles of architecture can prove useful. Many states require potential adjusters to pass an exam or to complete a certification course. As legislative changes can often alter an insurer’s obligations, some states also require adjusters to stay aware of new laws by taking continuing education classes.