Filed Under:Claims, Catastrophe & Restoration

Independent adjusters handle billions in claims annually

Independent claims adjusters handle more than 3.5 billion insurance claims each year. (Photo: iStock)
Independent claims adjusters handle more than 3.5 billion insurance claims each year. (Photo: iStock)

Quantifying the size of the insurance industry is a tall order, but a new survey commissioned by the Association of Claims Professionals (ACP), formerly the American Association of Independent Claims Professionals, provides an interesting look at the role of independent adjusters in the claims process.

The study was conducted by Bickmore, a risk management consultant, and surveyed ACP members, members of the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters (NAIIA), third-party administrators, large independent adjusting firms and staff adjusters at several large insurers. The survey examined the size and scope of the independent adjuster industry, as well as its role within the insurance industry, and the metrics used by independent adjusters.

Related: Evaluating a claim by the numbers

Based on their research, Bickmore estimates there are currently 125,000 claims professionals working across the U.S. The survey only considered adjusters or claims examiners, not management, clerical or ancillary staff, or public adjusters.

Large insurers have the greatest number of staff adjusters and comprise 70 percent of the overall adjuster population. Third-party adjusters account for 23 percent of the industry, and regional adjusting firms cover the remaining 7 percent of the industry.

Independent adjusters handle approximately 3.5 million claims each year valued at an estimated $45 billion. Bickmore extrapolated the industry-wide data and suggested that claims adjusters manage anywhere $450 to $500 billion in insurance claims annually.

Insurance adjuster talking to policyholder

(Photo: iStock)

Who’s adjusting claims?

Based on the survey of large TPAs, the results showed that the average insurance adjuster had almost nine years of professional experience, and 50 percent of the respondents required those interested in obtaining a claims position with the company to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Since independent claims adjusters may be called to work on losses in multiple jurisdictions, the average adjuster holds multiple state licenses with the average being just over nine for each adjuster. The majority of claims are adjusted in California each year, followed by Texas, Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia, and Florida.

Related: Here are the results of the 2016 Claims Salary Survey

A lot has been written about the number of insurance professionals who will be retiring, but Bickmore’s research indicates that claims adjusting continues to be a growing industry. According to an ACP source, “the industry anticipates continued grown in the availability of career opportunities over the next decade. This is due in part to the success of ACP companies and growth of the industry. There is also a recognition that as the current workforce retires, replacing those workers will open up broad opportunities for the next generation workforce.”

Sedgwick Senior Vice President of government relations, Kimberly D. Brown, concurs. “Research has shown that many millennials are seeking opportunities to perform meaningful work and make a difference in the lives of others. We have an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that they can achieve that and so much more with a career in the claims industry.”

Independent claims business growing

There continue to be opportunities for in the industry as the insurance environment changes, especially for independent adjusters. Cari Miller, associate general counsel governmental affairs for Gallagher Bassett says that “the independent claims business is definitely growing, both as a result of more companies self-insuring for lower levels of risk and because there are fewer staff adjusters.”

Independent adjusters bring a wealth of expertise to their clients. “Each claim represents a unique set of facts to which legal, medical and financial expertise must be applied, all while caring for an individual who had something unexpected happen to them,” explains Brown. “This requires an incredible capacity to empathize and communicate with a very diverse group of individuals during a time of significant need.”

Related: Claims adjusting in the 21st Century: What's inside a millennial home?

The adjusters also face a number of challenges that must be addressed on a daily basis. These include 34 different state licensing regimes across the country — many of which are not reciprocal and can waste valuable time and money. A priority of ACP is the enactment of the Claim Act, which will promote “uniformity, reciprocity and consumer protections for claims adjusting across state lines,” according to the association.

Roles & image being redefined

Constant change in the industry also creates some new issues that must be addressed. “While we are beginning to see a shift in the claims industry and a greater focus placed on consumer advocacy, change can present challenges as roles and image are redefined,” says Brown. “Improved claims experience through more effective communications, technology advances, and individual support are helping to alleviate some of the uncertainty and apprehension that had previously surrounded the claims handling process.”

The insurance claims industry is a growing segment of U.S. economy and offers opportunities for those looking to use a wide range of talents and expertise. By providing literally thousands of jobs and handling millions of claims, those who work in this industry have the ability to impact the lives of policyholders in a manner few other professions do.

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