Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators
Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.
Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators typically do the following:
- Investigate, evaluate, and settle insurance claims
- Determine whether the insurance policy covers the loss claimed
- Decide the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay
- Ensure that claims are not fraudulent
- Contact claimants’ doctors or employers to get additional information on questionable claims
- Confer with legal counsel on claims when needed
- Keep claims files, such as records of settled claims and an inventory of claims requiring detailed analysis
- Negotiate settlements
- Authorize payments
What insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators do varies by the type of insurance company they work for. They must know a lot about what their company insures. For example, workers in property and casualty insurance must know housing and construction costs to properly evaluate damage from floods or fires. Workers in health insurance must be able to determine which types of treatments are medically necessary and which are questionable.
Some claims adjusters work as self-employed public adjusters.
Often, they are hired by claimants who prefer not to rely on the insurance company’s adjuster. The goal of adjusters working for insurance companies is to save as much money for the company as possible. The goal of a public adjuster working for a claimant is to get the highest possible amount paid to the claimant.
Sometimes, self-employed adjusters are hired by insurance companies in place of hiring adjusters as regular employees. In this case, the self-employed adjusters work in the interest of the insurance company.
Adjusters inspect property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. The property they inspect could be a home, a business, or an automobile.
They interview the claimant and witnesses, inspect the property, and do additional research, such as look at police reports. Adjusters may consult with other workers, such as accountants, architects, construction workers, engineers, lawyers, and physicians, who can offer a more expert evaluation of a claim.
They gather information—including photographs and statements, either written or recorded audio or video—and put it in a report that claims examiners use to evaluate the claim. When the examiner approves policyholder's claim, the claims adjuster negotiates with the claimant and settles the claim.
If the claimant contests the outcome of the claim or the settlement, adjusters work with attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the insurer's position.
Appraisers estimate the cost or value of an insured item. Most appraisers who work for insurance companies and independent adjusting firms are auto damage appraisers. They inspect damaged vehicles after an accident and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then goes to the adjuster, who puts the estimated cost of repairs into the settlement.
Claims examiners review claims after they are submitted to ensure that proper guidelines have been followed by claimants and adjusters. They may assist adjusters with complicated claims or when, for example, a natural disaster occurs and the volume of claims increases.
Most claims examiners work for life or health insurance companies. Examiners who work for health insurance companies review health-related claims to see whether the costs are reasonable, given the diagnosis. After they review the claim, they authorize appropriate payment, deny the claim, or refer the claim to an investigator.
Examiners who work for life insurance companies review the causes of death and pay particular attention to accidents, because most life insurance companies pay additional benefits if a death is accidental. Examiners also may review new applications for life insurance policies to make sure the applicants have no serious illnesses that would make them a high risk to insure.
Insurance investigators handle claims in which the company suspects fraudulent or criminal activity such as arson, staged accidents, or unnecessary medical treatments. The severity of insurance fraud cases varies, from claimants overstating vehicle damage to complicated fraud rings. Investigators often do surveillance work. For example, in the case of a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim, an investigator may covertly watch the claimant to see if he or she does activities that would be ruled out by injuries stated in the claim.
Fire Inspectors and Investigators
Fire inspectors visit and inspect buildings and other structures, such as sports arenas and shopping malls, to search for fire hazards and to ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. They also test and inspect fire protection and fire extinguishing equipment to ensure that it works. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires by searching the surrounding scene and collecting evidence.
Fire inspectors typically do the following:
- Search for fire hazards
- Ensure that buildings comply with fire codes
- Test fire alarms, sprinklers, and other fire protection and extinguishing equipment
- Inspect equipment such as gasoline storage tanks and air compressors
- Review emergency evacuation plans
- Conduct follow-up visits when an infraction is found
- Confer with developers and planners to review plans for residential and commercial buildings
- Conduct fire and life safety education programs
- Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law
Fire investigators typically do the following:
- Collect and analyze evidence
- Interview witnesses
- Determine the origin and cause of a fire
- Process and document evidence, such as photographs and diagrams
- Reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson
- Confer with other specialists, such as chemists, engineers, and attorneys, to analyze information
- Send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or an accelerant
- Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law
- Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings
Unlike fire inspectors, many fire investigators have police powers and carry a weapon.
Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas. They look for issues that pose a wildfire risk and recommend ways to reduce the fire hazard. During patrols, they ensure that the public is following fire regulations and report fire conditions to central command.