What is an Independent Adjuster: Part 2
The Four Core Functions of an Independent Adjuster
So, what does a day in the life of an independent adjuster actually look like?
This question can be a little bit harder to pin down than one might think…. Remember, at the end of the day, you are the business owner not me, so your day may not look exactly like my day. Let’s look at what the core functions of an IA are then we may begin to understand what a day in the life of an IA may look like.
The 4 Core Functions of an Adjuster:
There are 4 core functions that an independent auto adjuster, independent property adjuster, and likely any adjuster must handle in some form or capacity. For clarity, I am going to discuss these core functions from an auto adjuster’s standpoint which will allow for some solid examples to help you to fully grip onto these 4 core functions.
Core Function #1: Scheduling
Once a claim has been assigned to you, as an IA, you must then schedule a time with the insured or the person who owns the vehicle to take a look at the damaged vehicle. Depending on the situation, you may end up scheduling a time to walk the owner or insured through taking photos of their own vehicle, or to catch the owner over the phone to get a recorded statement etc., but regardless of the situation, you will need to schedule an appointment of some nature with the owner or insured of the vehicle.
Core Function #2: Inspecting
Once you arrive on scene, you will be putting your eyes directly on the damages of the vehicle. In person inspecting can sometimes be replaced by merely viewing photos taken by the vehicle owner or shop. However, whether you are viewing damages through a photo, a live stream camera, or whether you’re actually laying your hands-on bent metal does not really matter. The core function is the same, you are inspecting the vehicle.
Core Function #3: Estimating
Writing an estimate (or estimating the damages) after you have inspected the damaged vehicle is where we get the dollar amount that the insurance company is initially liable for on this claim. During this process, you will need to create an estimate by following an industry standard format using an estimating software program. In the auto estimating industry, we use either CCC One, Audatex, or Mitchell to complete and compile our estimates into the needed standard format. This part of the job is simply entering the damages observed (Core Function #2) and will detail the work that will have to be performed on the vehicle into the software. The final dollar amount is calculated by the estimating software based on your inputs.
Core Function #4: Communicating
In this list of core functions, last is certainly not least. Information must be communicated, whether it’s through email, phone calls, or in person, it doesn’t matter. Being good at communicating is typically what makes a company want to work with an IA. After all, communication happens during all of the other three stages.
It can be easy to get distracted with focusing on the estimate, but communication cannot just be an afterthought. It is what needs to drive us as an adjuster. Observing damage without being able to properly communicate your observations voids the hard work that you have put in. Even many veterans of the industry admit they should learn how to communicate and deliver better customer service in their job. Focus on communicating first and foremost and the other core functions will fall in line. Remember, you are the business owner and it is up to you to deliver excellent customer service to all involved in a claim.
A Day in the Life of an Independent Adjuster:
Once again, I’ll use the example of an adjuster who is handling auto claims in their hometown (as that is where I started my career). Let’s decide to start work at 9am…
Assume you have five auto claims given to you to complete. Your first step would be to begin reaching out to the vehicle owners to handle scheduling. Let’s say that takes from 9am – 10am Ideally, we reach each owner and get an agreed time to inspect their vehicle.
Once we’ve done that, we now have to drive to each claim to do the inspecting. Depending on how far apart each claim is, the order in which you scheduled them, and how well you mapped your route will determine how long the inspection period will take.
Having assumed that from 9am – 10am you were scheduling, let’s say you leave the house around 11am. Now, arriving at your first inspection at noon, it can take you anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes to inspect the vehicle. There were times I walked around tow yards or auction lots looking for the vehicle I was sent to inspect for over an hour because it was hidden among hundreds of other damaged vehicles. You do not always know how long it will take, but it typically averages out to be around 30 minutes an inspection. With 4 claims remaining to drive to and inspect, you are tied up until about 3pm in the afternoon.
Next, you will be estimating the cost of the damages by using the estimating software we previously talked about. Now, some people choose to write their estimates while standing at the vehicle, and I actually recommend this. During your inspection is where you will have the best access to the vehicle and the damage. When you are writing your estimate in the estimating software and inspecting the vehicle simultaneously, you don’t have to worry about forgetting a special detail or blurry photos. However, many IA’s will simply take notes and photos, so they can enter the information into the software when they get back to the office.
“some people choose to write their estimates while standing at the vehicle, and I actually recommend this”
If you wait until you get back to the office, you will likely have two to two & a half hours’ worth of office work to do once you get home (up to 30 minutes an estimate). So in this scenario, you could finish inspecting at three in the afternoon, drive an hour home, and finally be done entering information at 6:30pm that same evening. 5 auto claims, $60 a claim is $300 for the day. You spent an hour scheduling in the morning, 2 hours driving, 3 hours inspecting damage, and 2.5 hours inputting the claims for a total of 7.5 hours of work. Meaning you would have made $40 an hour. Not too bad for a first day on the job.
There have been stellar days when I’ve inspected 15-20 cars in a day and broke the $1000 mark in a single day, but this isn’t normal. My goal as a daily auto claim IA was to average 25 claims a week (5 claims a day). That would result in an annual revenue of $72,000. The busy times help smooth out the slow times, but it all comes back to how you manage your day.
With independent adjusting, time management becomes really important. If you’re not careful and efficient with your time, you can easily see how five claims could stretch from nine o’clock in the morning to 6:30pm.
Remember, you’ll also be communicating all day long. You’ll be communicating to a variety of people through conversations, emails, texts, phone calls, and through your estimate, notes, and photos.
“You’ll be communicating all day long”
This communicating can also take additional time if you do not do it properly from the beginning. Doing the job right the first time is always the most efficient way to do things. It may feel like cutting corners will save you a little time, but when corner-cutting comes back to bite you later in the day, week, or month, you will find yourself fighting battles that you could have easily avoided.
The Career Options of an Independent Adjuster
Before you fully commit, you are probably thinking, “What’s ahead of me, Chris, if I decide to start handling claims? What are my career options as an IA? Should I focus on a particular type of claim? Will I get stuck in that specialty?” These are all fair questions.
The important thing to remember is that as an independent adjuster (yes, I’m going to say it again), you are the business owner. As a business owner, your options are limitless. Since it is your business, you decide what services to offer and what services you want to perform. There are literally dozens and dozens of different things IA’s can do. With all that being said, I have found that there are four major career options available to an IA: Daily Claims, Catastrophic Claims, Estimator, and Staff Adjuster.
“As a business owner, your options are limitless.”
First, you could perform daily claims. Daily claims can include auto, property, liability, pre-sell inspections, or any other type of claim. These claims are all focused around a single geographical location. You would be handling claims that come into that area for multiple companies. At many points in my career, I covered a large coverage area spanning 2-3 hours in each direction and worked for up to 7 companies in a given day. This allowed me to work full time and stay busy while still sleeping in my bed every night.
Career option number two is catastrophic claims. Many people come into the industry because they’re excited about becoming a catastrophic adjuster and are waiting for a hurricane to hit or tornado to rip through a town. When events like this happen, catastrophic adjusters go in and assist the people who have been devastated.
Catastrophic adjusters help people put their lives back together by inspecting their damages. It is certainly a rewarding endeavor, both emotionally and financially. I’ve focused on catastrophic claims for over five years of my career.
Every catastrophic storm you work is an adventure. You meet new kinds of people, hear their stories, learn their culture, all while earning top dollar for your work. It is a completely different pace and life from all the other types of adjusting that I have done. Working seven days a week is a true test of your mental, physical, and emotional endurance and stamina. Yet, I loved it!
Option number three is to work at a body shop, especially if you are in the auto industry. Potential career options include: writing auto claims, transitioning to something like a body shop, or in the case of property–working for a construction company.
I have a student who recently graduated my Auto Adjuster’s Crash Course and was pursuing becoming an independent auto adjuster. She recently got hired to become a heavy truck estimator at a body shop, and her training on auto claims helped her get hired by the shop.
In another instance, my brother-in-law took a break from doing daily auto claims and got a job at a major body shop. Doing this, he was able to transition out of the body shop and back out to becoming an IA. His ability to move around is due to his skill and experience as an independent auto damage appraiser.
Maybe it’s not what you want, but taking the skill set you have to become an estimator for a construction company or a body shop is definitely a viable career option from independent adjusting.
Lastly, you could become a staff adjuster. This option requires the transition from being an independent adjuster to working for an insurance company. You would be taking the skill sets you learned as an independent adjuster and applying them within a corporate setting. Friends of IA Path, like Keith & Luis, are having thriving careers in independent adjusting after having first starting in staff adjusting. It seems logical, should you want to go the in another direction, the skills learned as an IA are applicable to being a staff adjuster.
Whether you have the desire to go back and work for insurance company after being your own business owner is a completely different question.
“Whether you have the desire to go back and work for insurance company after being your own business owner is a completely different question.”
Career Path Summary
In summary, there are four major career options that most independent adjusters are able to choose from. These four options are:
- Daily Claims
- Catastrophic Claims
- Staff Adjuster
Obviously, there are a lot of other options, but these four major career options are the big ones and there are many sub options to each of them. The skill sets you learn as an IA can be applied in many different areas and industries. Ultimately, the types of claims you can pursue are only limited by you and the scope of what you would like to accomplish.
The Final Question
You now know what an adjuster is. You know how much an IA makes. You understand (maybe a little bit) what a day in the life of an IA looks like. Plus, you see where you could potentially go in your career. So, the question remains, do you want to become an IA?
If you answer yes, then welcome to the industry, welcome to the IA community, and welcome to a new world! Know that as you move forward this is a very rewarding career, but it requires dedication. Just like starting a business in any other industry, becoming an independent adjuster is truly a challenge.
“Do you want to become an independent adjuster?”