EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been changed to reflect the fact that public adjusters are licensed in 45 states and Washington, D.C.
Independent insurance adjusters play many roles in handling P&C claims.
Retained by carriers to inspect an insured location and appraise damage, independent adjusters may interview witnesses and coordinate with government agencies, experts and contractors hired by the insured to perform repairs. These other sources provide vital information to the adjuster, who may then glean additional estimating insight depending on the nature and scope of the claim.
In most states, independent adjusters are bound by strict licensing requirements and must learn to juggle the needs of the insured and/or claimant in a time of crisis while professionally appraising the damage on behalf of the carrier. Accomplishing all of this, of course, is not without its challenges. Adjusters are indeed a rare breed—who must possess a unique skill set and be flexible enough to deal with an array of stressors and fluctuating landscapes.
This need for a unique skill set leads to the first issue affecting independent adjusters today: attracting, hiring and training new adjusters.
Attract, Hire, Mentor
A qualified independent adjuster has the right combination of personality and aptitude. Potential candidates must be self-starters and able to work independently while remaining connected to a group. They must have the ability to understand varied policy terms and conditions, legal issues and personalities. Proficiency with technology and certain procedures is also necessary.
All of that said, how can employers determine if a candidate is a potential good fit for the organization?
When hiring independent insurance adjusters, an employer should always ask the following question of the candidate:
- Can they think on their feet?
- Do they have the right combination of confidence and empathy to work with the insured, who may be upset, frightened or displaced because of a loss?
- Are they able to succinctly explain and document loss details? Do they understand how to preserve evidence?
- Do they have the ability to problem-solve? Are they respectful? Do they possess prudent logic and judgment?
- Are they able to climb a roof, trudge in water and correctly evaluate the loss?
Timing Is Everything
A second issue affecting independent adjusters today is our cultural propensity to expect instant results.
Typically when a loss has occurred, the insured notifies his or her retail insurance agent. The agent, in turn, submits a loss notice to the carrier. Because the independent adjuster is retained by the carrier, it is the adjuster’s job to contact the insured and schedule an appointment to inspect the risk and assess the damage.
The inspection usually takes place within several days of loss notification. Concurrently with the risk/damage inspection, the independent adjuster must evaluate the damage in correlation to the policy terms and conditions; prepare a written estimate for repair; obtain any necessary documentation such as police and fire reports; prepare a property valuation for co-insurance purposes; and prepare a written report for the carrier.
The insured, on the other hand, often is most interested in quick answers. Additionally, if the insured is unhappy with the claim result, then he or she may then turn to public adjusters, regulatory agencies or even seek counsel in an attempt to collect payment for noncovered losses and/or increase the repair estimates for covered claims. It is important for the independent adjuster and claims professionals in general to recognize these added pressures while appropriately directing and controlling the claims process.
Enter the Public Adjuster
A third issue affecting independent adjusters today involves working with public adjusters.
During the adjustment of claims, the independent adjuster often deals with public adjusters who represent the insured. While some public adjusters serve the insured well, we find that, in most states, public adjusters are not held to the same standards as independent adjusters. This standard variance is a major issue facing independent adjusters today.
Independent adjusters must adhere to certain rules and regulations that pertain to dealing with the public to protect the public’s best interest. Even though public adjusters are licensed in 45 states and Washington, D.C., they still may not have the background, training and experience of independent adjusters (based on my observations in my 30-plus years as a claims professional).
Independent adjusters’ jobs are diverse. No two days are alike, no two claims the same. While the challenges are many, the rewards are great.