What is an Independent Adjuster: Part 1
(an exclusive excerpt from the Independent Adjuster’s Playbook)
What is an adjuster?
What does an adjuster do?
How much does an adjuster make?
What is the career path for independent adjusters?
Should I become an independent adjuster?
Having proper expectations and understanding of this career and industry is important. I can teach you the strategies, the steps, and give you training, but ultimately only you can make yourself successful. The questions this first section will answer will give you the necessary information to be able to answer the question, “Should I become an independent adjuster?”
Now, even if you are already in this industry (and you are here only for the Roadmap), I still highly recommend that you read this first section as well. The first section is the foundation of (and sets the expectations for) the strategy that the Roadmap is built on. As you apply the steps laid out inside of this book, having a complete understanding of all that is involved in the independent adjusting world will greatly benefit you.
Alright! Let’s decide if becoming an independent adjuster is right for you.
What Is an Independent Adjuster?
So, you “think” you want to become an independent adjuster? Well, before you decide to jump headlong into the world of becoming an IA (independent adjuster), you may want to understand what an adjuster is and does.
Here is a good definition of an insurance adjuster from the BusinessDictionary.com:
“A person charged with investigating a claim to establish whether the company is liable and to what extent. The investigation can include interviews of the parties involved, property inspections, and reviewing hospital records or police reports.”
As the definition states, a claims adjuster investigates insurance claims to determine the extent that the insurance company the adjuster represents is liable and the amount they are responsible to pay. Essentially, a claims adjuster is an investigator. This can involve: talking to people, inspecting damages, reviewing photos, and a variety of other things that will be covered in the later chapters of this book.
“A claims adjuster is an investigator.”
Adding the word independent in front of “adjuster” does not change the job’s core functions. It is an indicator of their relationship with the insurance company. IA’s do not work as employees for the insurance companies, but instead, insurance companies hire independent adjusting/staffing firms to find adjusters to handle claims for them. Independent adjusters are usually 1099 subcontractors.
In plain English, an independent adjuster is a contracted or rented adjuster who is not on salary with any insurance company. An IA is a business owner. Therefore, everything we talk about moving forward is about how to be a business owner in the field of independent adjusting.
“An independent adjuster is a contracted or rented adjuster who is not on salary with any insurance company. An IA is a business owner.”
Being an independent adjuster is very different from being an employed staff adjuster at an insurance company. This book gives you a step by step roadmap to establishing your own business as an independent adjuster and some of these principles may assist you in getting hired at an insurance company, but that is not the point of this book.
If, after you read this book, you would like to pursue getting hired by an insurance company, go check out www.INSNerds.com and tell Tony, Nick, and Carly that I said hello and to treat you right. They will help you understand how to get started with an insurance company in more detail, but that isn’t what I do and that isn’t what you will find inside of this book. This book is about starting your own independent adjusting business.
Different Types of Adjusters:
Many IA’s focus on a particular area of expertise in their claims business such as auto, property, liability, personal injury, disability, crop adjusting, etc.
Even within these different types of adjusting, there can be further segmentation and even more specialized roles that an adjuster can play. For example, in auto claims, there are auto damage appraisers, field adjusters, total loss adjusters, and liability adjusters all working auto claims. Even within those certain roles an auto damage appraiser/adjuster may specialize in flood, hail, collision, or even earthquake claims.
How cool is that? There are a lot of different options for you to explore as an adjuster. Which niches and how many you choose is entirely up to you, because it is your business.
What is Required to be an Adjuster
Most states require you to have an adjuster license which will allow you to legally handle claims within that state.
There are multiple types of adjuster licenses as there are many types of adjusters. In this book, when we discuss an adjuster license from here forward, I am referring to what is called an all-lines adjuster license. This is the catch-all license that most states have that will allow you to legally represent and settle insurance claims of almost any kind.
The Pay of an Independent Adjuster
The pay of an IA is a BIG factor to most people interested in this career and pay is definitely something you do need to understand and consider before moving forward in this career. There are many stories on the Internet glorifying the days of adjusters getting licensed and going immediately to work and filling up their bank accounts in a hurry. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and even after the more recent hurricanes, Irma & Harvey, some adjusters brought in six figures of income in a few months.
While these stories are true (I’m not challenging anybody because I’ve known people who made great money working property claims after a hurricane), making six figures in just a few months is very difficult inside our industry, and it is certainly not the normal story. So, although those numbers may be correct, I am not going to over-inflate the success that you will receive. I am going to walk you through exactly what I’ve seen repeated many times instead of telling an exciting story about an enormous quick success that only a small number of people achieved.
I feel compelled to mention this here, if you are pursuing independent adjusting solely in the pursuit of money or to land a big score, I’d caution you to reconsider. If you pursue being an independent adjuster only for money you will be unfulfilled (which goes for any career pursuit). I know because the most miserable time of my career was when I pursued and found more money than I ever thought possible.
Most independent adjusters that thrive are doing it for the FREEDOM that being a business owner in the claims industry offers or because they feel like they are able to help people on a daily basis. I have personally loved being an IA because I have been able to be with my wife and kids more. Whatever your reasons for becoming an IA, make sure your foundation is established on more than a career or a pursuit of money. Faith, family, freedom, and joy are all stronger foundations than any job or career can offer. You are more than your career or your paycheck, never forget that.
“Faith, family, freedom, and joy are all stronger foundations than any job or career can offer. You are more than your career or your paycheck, never forget that.”
Industry Standard (Average) Salaries
Let’s begin with the industry standard averages. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (and every major job website that I have viewed), an insurance adjuster averages about $65,000 dollars a year. This includes people who work as estimators at body shops, staff adjusters, and independent adjusters.
Remember, these figures are averages. As an IA, you are the business owner! As a business owner, your expectation should be to make more money than the industry standard average because you have control of your business and are willing to work harder and smarter.
In my first year I earned $40,000 as an independent auto damage appraiser working local daily auto claims. I earned around $60,000 in year 2, and in year 3, I earned over $80,000 working locally. When I finally expanded my business to include catastrophic claims (see Phase 3 of this book), I had multiple years of earning over six figures!
How did I earn those numbers? Well, there are two different types of ways that IA’s are paid.
The first way that IA’s are paid is on a per claim basis. Using auto claims as an example, a typical independent adjuster starting out makes around $60 dollars a claim. Doing property claims, you are paid per claim based on a fee schedule (sliding scale) depending on the amount of damages. With property, you will earn up to a few hundred dollars per claim (and possibly higher) depending on how severe the claim is.
Keep in mind that auto and property claims are an ‘apples and oranges’ comparison, and each take a completely different amount of time and skill set. Do not be distracted by the figures of a few hundred compared to sixty dollars. As both are on a per claim basis, the question really becomes: how much work you can get assigned to you because this, in the end, will dictate how much you personally can make as an IA.
The second type of pay that you’ll see as an IA is what we call daily pay. This is very common in catastrophe situations where independent adjusting firms send adjusters out to a disaster area and pay a flat per day amount to perform their given duties.
Typical daily pay for catastrophic deployments is $500 a day.
“Typical daily pay for catastrophic deployments is $500 a day”
Now, this book is not going to go super deep into all the different ways flat rates work, but you can just understand that there are other factors that go into setting flat rates that can dictate a lower or higher per day amount. Also, the role which you are being paid to perform greatly changes the amount you’ll earn per day.
Conclusion on Pay
At first glance, it may seem like many factors are far out of your control, but do not fear. That is exactly what this book is about. How you can get some of that control back and succeed as an independent adjuster. I’ve seen many people make $60,000 to $100,000 doing a combination of daily work and going out to do occasional catastrophe work when it was convenient for them. No matter where you want to fall on that pay range scale, you can achieve those numbers. As a business owner, it’s up to you!
And, while yes, that elusive six figure number is available to you if you work hard, play smart, and are tech savvy—but just as reminder—I only earned $40,000 my first year, and it can take a year or two to build up your business to achieve the $80,000 that became my yearly average. As I mentioned, I have earned well over 6 figures and seen people earn multiple 6 figure incomes, but that isn’t what you should expect to earn starting out in this career. The point of this book is to give you the path that has a high success rate. Raising your expectations as high as I could might be good for selling this book or even selling my training courses, but if I want you to succeed (and I do!), I need your expectations to be proper and in the correct place.
To sum up, I found that $80,000 is my industry standard average for an independent adjuster doing steady full-time work.