DEFINITION of 'Adjuster'

An adjuster is an insurance claims agent. A claims adjuster is charged with evaluating an insurance claim to determine the insurance company's liability under the terms of an owner's policy.

BREAKING DOWN 'Adjuster'

There are different types of adjusters. They may represent the insurance company, they may be hired by the claimant (public adjusters) or they may be independent. The two types of claims most frequently investigated are property claims and liability claims.

Types of Adjusters

Insurer adjusters. Adjusters who work directly for insurers carry out a number of functions, including investigated claims by interviewing the claimant and any witnesses, gathering damage repair estimates, consulting police and hospital records, and inspecting property damage to determine the extent of the company's liability. It's their job to clear the dozens if not hundreds of claims that come across their desks each month, all without spending undue amounts of the insurer's money or shortchanging claimants.

Independent adjusters. They do much the same work as adjusters who are directly employed by insurers but they are typically hired on a freelance or contract basis to handle claims from insurers who have no nearby office or adjuster or who have too many claims to handle, often in the case of a natural disaster.

Public adjusters. These are adjusters who are hired by the claimant. In cases with significant dollar amounts involved they help get the claimant the highest possible settlement from the insurer, typically taking a percentage of the claim amount as a commission.

If you've never filed a significant insurance claim, keep in mind that the company adjuster may not know all that much about your case except having looked over the paperwork for a few minutes. So it's up to you to educate them about your case to get the best settlement. Get the damage recorded in pictures and show them to the adjuster, get estimates from reputable contractors to fix the problem, and make sure they know all the pertinent facts about the case.

If and when the settlement amount offered is significantly short of covering the damage, don't deposit any check you receive from the insurer. First follow their appeals process, then consider hiring a public adjuster.

Public adjusters will make their own assessments of damages to the home, the report of which you can then submit to your insurance company. While in theory, the public adjuster has the best intentions of the policy owner in mind, always be mindful if hiring one. A homeowner’s inexperience and an adjuster’s specialty creates the opportunity for manipulation.  Public adjusters are also hired to assess the work done by the independent adjuster to assure corners have not been cut and that the homeowner is receiving as much as they can.

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