What is an Independent Insurance Adjuster?

Author: Ethan Peyton
Updated:

Definition

Independent Insurance Adjuster – An Independent Insurance Adjuster is a professional who evaluates and settles insurance claims on behalf of insurance companies.

Unlike staff adjusters, independent adjusters are not employed by insurance companies. Instead, they work as independent contractors or are employed by adjusting firms. 

Their role involves assessing damage, determining the insurance company’s liability, and working with claimants to settle insurance claims.

What Does An Independent Insurance Adjuster Do?

The job of an independent insurance adjusters is ultimately to help settle claims between insurance companies and their insured clients.

Insurance claims can be quite complex. From the time the damage occurs to the time the insurance company settles, there are many stages – and insurance adjusters are involved through most of the process.

As an example, let’s take a look at a simple homeowner’s policy claim:

  1. An insured files a claim with their insurance company.
  2. An independent insurance agent is assigned the claim through their IA firm
  3. The adjuster coordinates with the homeowner to visit the home to asses the damage
  4. The adjuster creates an estimate of the cost to repair the home
  5. The insurance company reviews the estimate and the adjuster issues a check to the homeowner to repair the covered damage

Of course, this is an oversimplified description of an insurance claim and the adjuster’s role within the process, but it paints a good picture of what independent adjusters do.

Independent Field Adjuster vs Independent Desk Adjuster

The role of independent insurance adjuster can be broken down into two types: field adjusting and desk adjusting.

Field adjusters work in the field, meaning they travel to the claim location to personally inspect the damage. They often find themselves up on ladders inspecting roofs, or traveling to impacted areas after a storm.

Desk adjusters, on the other hand, generally work from home. They take inspection reports from field adjusters and work on the paperwork side of the claim. They may also be the main point of contact for both the claimant and the insurance company.

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Independent Adjuster – A Good Career Choice?

A common question we hear is: Is being an independent insurance adjuster a good job or career?

Of course, since our goal is to support insurance adjusters and help them maximize their income, we think that insurance adjusting is a great career!

To properly answer this question for yourself, however, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of the role and see whether a job as an independent adjuster suits your wants and needs.

Independent Adjuster – Pros

  • Flexibility – Independent adjusters often have the freedom to set their own schedules and choose the assignments they want to take on. This flexibility can lead to a better work-life balance compared to traditional 9-to-5 jobs. The flexibility to work from home or in the field is a massive advantage.
  • Variety of Work – Since they work with different insurance companies and handle a range of claims, independent adjusters are exposed to diverse situations and challenges, keeping the work interesting and varied.
  • Potential for High Earnings – Independent adjusters are typically paid per claim, and during times of high demand, such as after natural disasters, there can be the potential for high earnings, especially if they specialize in a particular type of claim that is in high demand.

Independent Adjuster – Cons

  • Income Instability – Unlike salaried employees, independent adjusters may face periods of low work volume, leading to income fluctuations. Their income is directly tied to the number and type of claims they handle, which can vary greatly.
  • Lack of Company Benefits – As independent contractors, they typically do not receive the same benefits (like health insurance, retirement plans, or paid leave) that employees of insurance companies receive.
  • Work Pressure – While the potential for high earnings during disaster events is an advantage, it also means that independent adjusters can face intense work pressure, long hours, and challenging working conditions during peak periods.

Independent Adjuster Salary

Independent insurance adjusters’ salaries vary widely based on experience, location, and workload. 

Those starting out in the field, with little or no experience, can expect to earn between $49,000 and $62,000 annually. 

However, as you gain more experience, build a solid reputation, and handle more complex or numerous claims, your earning potential significantly increases. 

Seasoned adjusters, especially those with specialized skills or who work in high-demand areas, often earn $123,000 or more per year.

The table below shows the progression of the average income of an independent adjuster based on their level of experience.

ExperienceLow RangeHigh RangeMidpoint
0-1 Year$49,000$80,000$62,000
1-3 Years$53,000$85,000$67,000
4-6 Years$57,000$93,000$73,000
7-9 Years$60,000$100,000$77,000
10-14 Years$64,000$111,000$84,000
15+ Years$69,000$123,000$92,000

Check out our Adjuster Salary page to learn more about the different types of adjusters and how much they make.

Independent Catastrophe Adjusters

It’s worth noting that independent adjusters who focus on catastrophe claims can have wildly different yearly income levels depending on the storm load that year.

In 2017, for example, four hurricanes made landfall in the US. Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, and Maria in Puerto Rico. Catastrophe adjusters reported record revenues that year due to the extensive damage from those storms.

In 2023, however, the US has seen fewer major catastrophic storms or hurricanes. This means independent adjusters have had fewer cat deployments – leading some to try their hand at getting a job as a staff adjuster.

With the changing climate, it’s commonly said that weather events will become larger, less predictable, and more common. While this is a problem for the people of the world, insurance adjusters may reap the benefit of more claims to be adjusted.

How to Become an Independent Insurance Adjuster

The process of becoming an independent adjuster is fairly straightforward. You’ll get your license, take some initial training courses, then sign up and network to get your name on the rosters of IA firms.

  1. Adjuster License – Using our Adjuster Licensing Guide, find your state and follow the steps to get your adjuster license.
  2. Skills, Training, and Certifications – To show you’ve got the skills required to work a claim, you’ll need to take a training course or two. There are hundreds of adjuster training courses available, but in the beginning, focus on learning Xactimate (software for creating estimates and sketches).
  3. IA Firm Rosters – Independent adjusters are assigned their contracts through IA firms. These companies have rosters of adjusters to send work to. Find several firms you’d like to work with and follow their processes to get your name on their roster.

These steps will give you the accreditation and basic skills you need to take on your first contract or go on your first deployment with an IA firm. 

Depending on the demand for adjusters, along with the relationships you’ve built with the firms, you could be out adjusting your first claim in just a month or so after getting started.

Read our guide: How to Become an Independent Insurance Adjuster

Different Types of Insurance Adjusters

Along with independent adjusters, there are several other different types of insurance adjusters.

  • Staff Adjuster – An adjuster employed directly by an insurance company with a more fixed salary.
  • Public Adjuster – Hired not by insurance companies or IA firms, but by the policyholder to advocate for their interest in a disputed claim.
  • Daily Adjuster – An independent or staff adjuster working all different types of claims in a specific location. These are generally more experienced adjusters.
  • Catastrophe Adjuster – An adjuster that travels to impacted locations after a storm or catastrophic event. This is the role most inexperienced independent adjusters take at the beginning of their career.

Independent Insurance Adjuster FAQ

What is the meaning of Independent Insurance Adjuster?

An Independent Insurance Adjuster is a professional who evaluates and settles insurance claims on behalf of insurance companies. Unlike staff adjusters, independent adjusters are not employed by insurance companies. Instead, they work as independent contractors or are employed by adjusting firms. Their role involves assessing damage, determining the insurance company’s liability, and working with claimants to settle insurance claims.

How do independent adjusters get clients?

Independent insurance adjusters obtain work primarily by being on the rosters of various Independent Adjuster (IA) firms. These firms contract with insurance companies to provide adjusters for handling claims, especially during high-volume periods like after natural disasters. Being on multiple rosters increases their visibility and chances of being selected for assignments.

Why is a claims adjuster job stressful?

A claims adjuster job can be stressful due to the high volume of cases, tight deadlines, the need to deal with clients in distress, and the complexity of investigating and evaluating claims. Additionally, adjusters often work in the field under varying conditions and may face challenging situations, especially during disaster events.

What is the role of an independent adjuster?

The role of an independent adjuster is to evaluate insurance claims on behalf of insurance companies. They inspect damages, gather evidence, interview claimants and witnesses, and determine the amount the insurance company should pay for the claim, all while working as an independent contractor or through an adjusting firm.