How much insurance claims adjusters can make per annum is the subject of considerable interest and speculation to those interested in a career in claims. As unstable weather continues into the fall, and the Atlantic hurricane season reaches its stride, its important to correctly understand the financial landscape of the adjuster industry.
Some folks have heard from their girlfriend’s brother or an estranged uncle that claims adjusting is a money tree. The money tree sits there blooming Benjamins, apparently just waiting happily to be plucked by any newcomer with the inside scoop. And as an added bonus, you really don’t have to do work. The opposite extreme is my own previous misconception of the monetary compensation for claims adjusters which is that they made next to nothing and it was essentially a dead end job. This is as far from the truth as the money tree concept but, I would hazard to guess, a much more prevalent misunderstanding.
So how much money does an insurance adjuster really make?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, claims adjusters earned an average of $44,220 in 2004. The top ten percent earned more than $72,620. The bottom ten percent earned less than $27,220. This seems like a fairly significant disparity. What type of adjuster is at the bottom and what type at the top?
The answer to this question depends largely upon the type of claims adjuster you are referring to. In general, there are two types of adjusters: staff adjusters who are salaried employees of an insurance carrier, and independent adjusters who are independent contractors working for adjusting firms. This initial difference will make as much of a difference in pay structure as the type of claims actually handled – from worker’s compensation to multi-million dollar commercial properties.
Staff adjusters are typically going to be earning less than independent adjusters and in some cases dramatically less. $25,000-$60,000 is a reasonable salary range for a career staff claim adjuster.
An independent adjuster in a good year, however, especially if he or she works catastrophe claims, can make well in excess of $100,000.
Staff adjusters can make a good stable living. For independent adjusters, the opportunity can be a little more interesting and, I think, exciting. Independent adjusters working catastrophe claims make essentially a percentage of the amount of each claim they settle. This system of payment is known as a fee schedule and is formulated differently for each insurance carrier represented and storm situation confronted. For example, an independent adjuster handling hurricane claims may receive a fee schedule that pays $500 for claims between $3,000 to $5,000, $650 for claims between $5,000 and $7,500, and $750 for claims between $7,500 and $10,000. An adjuster will receive between 60-70% with the other 30-40% going to the adjusting firm they work for. Hurricane adjusters can easily average $10,000 settlement per claim and thus average between $400 and $500 dollars in their pocket per claim. A good adjuster should be closing 2 to 4 claims per day with superb adjuster closing 4 to 7.
Making over $1,000 a day as an independent adjuster working catastrophe claims is common and very attainable. In this way, a good independent adjuster can surpass six figures income in less than six months.
So, is this the money tree after all? Well, not so fast. Remember that catastrophes, especially catastrophes sufficient to employ significant numbers of adjusters, are relatively few and far between. During “dry” spells for independent adjusters, work can be scarce and competition fierce for the claims that do come along. That said, there is a tremendous and exciting opportunity for very real, very lucrative money when disaster does strike.
Whether its operating on staff or as independent contractor, claims adjusting offers potential for solid and, in some cases, spectacular income.
Daniel Kerr has served as a career and training consultant for thousands of experienced and aspiring professionals in the insurance claims adjuster industry. In addition to his work as a catastrophic claims adjuster, Daniel acted as the V.P. of Operations for one of the most successful adjuster licensing companies in the country – helping to grow the business into the most recognized brand in the industry.