What Is an Independent Insurance Adjuster?
An independent adjuster is considered independent because they might not be employed directly by the company, firm, or agency in question but by a third-party who specializes in homeowners or other types of insurance claims. An independent adjuster adjusts claims on behalf of the insurer, but not directly as an employee of the insurer. When contracted as a third party, the insurer is essentially outsourcing the claim and the adjustment process to a claims-handling company, who then turns it over to one of their adjusters.
- A claims adjuster is a professional tasked with evaluating an insurance claim to determine the insurance company's liability under the terms of an owner's policy.
- An independent adjuster is not directly employed by an insurance company but is hired by an insurer when a claim is made, thus providing third-party objectivity and greater perceived fairness to those filing a claim.
- Public adjusters are also independent but are hired by claimants rather than insurers. In cases where significant dollar amounts are involved, adjusters help the claimant to obtain the highest possible settlement from the insurer.
Understanding Independent Insurance Adjusters
Homeowners insurance will cover you against an array of damages sustained, such as damages as a result of a storm or a break-in. Should you have to file a claim for the insurance policy, a claims adjuster will come to assess the damage and legitimacy of the claim back to the insurance company. Two types of adjusters will typically perform an inspection—either a public or independent adjuster. An independent adjuster would appear to be the most beneficial to the homeowner, but the distinction between the two adjusters is often misunderstood.
Independent adjusters are typically hired because there is a high volume of claims for for statutory reasons.
How Independent Insurance Adjusters Work
Independent adjusters are required to comply with the license requirements of the state in which they perform their work. They can work as 1099 independent contractors or W-2 employees. They are typically hired for one of two main reasons—a high volume of claims and/or statutory reasons. During times of natural disasters, the number of homeowner claims increases substantially. For example, in 2012 Hurricane Sandy destroyed considerable portions of the New Jersey coastline and New York, destroying more than 650,000 homes. As a result, homeowners insurance companies saw a spike in claims.
Insurance companies often do not have the human resources to delegate this type of responsibility and, therefore, will hire independent adjusters to ease their workload. An insurance company can commission a third-party insurance company to negotiate and assess cases on its behalf. The nature of this type of work also highlights the use of independent adjusters in remote or highly specialized areas. Examples of this could be a country home in the mountains or damage caused by a rare animal not often seen in most insurance claims.
In many cases, the rules of a particular state or provision of a specific insurance contract will also mandate the use of an independent adjuster. This is something to consider when buying homeowners' insurance and comparing different insurance companies. Independent insurance adjusters are not your only option, however. Should you want your own adjuster handling the process for you, there are public adjusters. Public adjusters work solely on behalf of the homeowner and do not represent an insurance company in the negotiations.
Independent Insurance Adjuster Example
If you own a home it's helpful to understand when an independent insurance adjuster may be necessary. As an example, let's assume that a severe storm causes a tree that's located on your neighbor's property to fall into your yard, damaging your fence and part of your home's roofing in the process. You file a claim with your homeowners insurance company and your insurer contracts an independent insurance adjuster.
The insurance adjuster will visit your property to assess the extent of the damage and take photos. They may also speak with you and your neighbor to discern what happened. Once they leave your property, the insurance adjuster may consult with fencing or roofing repair professionals to determine how much repairs will cost.
Once they've gathered all the necessary information, they'll compile it into a report and present it to your insurance company. The insurance company can then review the report and determine how much to pay toward your claim, based on the independent insurance adjuster's assessment.
An independent adjuster does not represent the homeowner. If a homeowner requires their own representation, a pubic adjuster might be the best option.
Special Considerations Concerning Public Adjusters
Public adjusters will make their own assessments of damages to the home, and the insured can then submit the report to their 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 create the opportunity for manipulation. The same follows for independent adjusters and the overall insurance company also.
A benefit to homeowners using public adjusters is that, similar to insurance attorneys, public adjusters are paid a commission from the recovery. In other words, they only get paid if you do, which encourages them to work in your best interest. Their payment comes from any money you receive from the insurance payout. 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.
If you still believe your insurance company owes more than what it's willing to pay, it may be necessary to hire an attorney to pursue a civil claim.
Understanding the definition of an independent adjuster is crucial to your claims process. An independent adjuster does not represent the homeowner in any capacity; rather, the independent adjustor represents the insurance company. If you prefer to have your own representation, using a public adjuster might be a good idea.