Confessions of an insurance claims adjuster

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Ever wonder what it’s like to be an insurance claims adjuster? Bankrate reached out to Scott Congiusti from New York, an assistant vice president of claims at HUB International. He was willing to share his experience as a claims adjuster.

Although you might never be required to work as an insurance claims adjuster in the future, it is helpful to understand how your claim is dealt with from the perspective of an adjuster. You might be able to help the adjuster with your claim by understanding what a claims adjuster needs in order to efficiently handle your claim. This could include a detailed description of the damage and documentation of any out-of-pocket expenses.

Emotions are a major factor in the claims process, and miscommunications can occur. Knowing how insurance adjusters handle claims can help you be more prepared if you have to file a claim.

Cops have a lot in common

My back was broken in an off-duty accident while I was working in New Jersey as a police officer. After my recovery, I began looking into what I could do in private industry and applied for a position with Allstate to handle automobile claims. Because I enjoy solving problems and thrive under stress, it was a great fit for me. I would be apathetic if I had to do a mundane, sedentary job. Surprisingly, many insurance claim adjusters have a criminal justice education. They just may not enjoy shift work or carrying guns.

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The hotline is where every day begins

Every day, you come in and are given a list with automobile claims from the insurer’s 24 hour hotline. If I was fortunate, I might have one or two, but I usually had more. I still had more information than I had from law enforcement. A hotline caller would say “There’s an ongoing fight,” but it was not clear what the cause or how many were involved.

Camera is required; other gear may be optional

A digital camera, tablet or cell phone to take photos is the best tool for claim adjusters. A tape measure, and possibly a moisture meter, are also essential tools for detecting standing water under floors or behind walls. Protective gear and a ladder are essential in case of a disaster. No matter what technology you use, you should still keep a notepad in your pocket. It doesn’t always make sense to have a $2,000 tablet with you everywhere.

Insurance types have different styles for adjusters.

There are some differences between working for an insurance company that is publicly traded and a mutual company owned by policyholders. Because they have many adjusters and are often large, stock-owned companies can be a bit more opaque about procedures. Mutuals are more flexible because the policyholder is also a shareholder. One is not better than the other, but I would not say that one is better. Both get to the same destination, but from slightly different angles.

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Everyone needs to have their car insurance done “now”

What is the perception of customers? You are often the one who answers their call. An automobile claim might require a rental car, or a body-shop estimate. It’s also more immediate. However, with someone’s house, it’s very personal. You will be there. You are seen as someone who will make their lives better.

The more rare the claim, the greater its appeal

Because they are unique, the claims with the lowest frequency are likely to be the most interesting. They are also the most disruptive for policyholders so they can be difficult. House fires, for example, are pretty rare — you don’t get a full house-burns-to-the-ground claim very often. These fires are extremely tragic and very personal. These situations are very personal and can cause a lot of emotional turmoil.

This is the one claim that no adjuster can ever resolve

The auto side has the most severe claims: fatalities. I have dealt with many of these. It doesn’t matter what you do or say to make it better. It doesn’t matter if I buy them a policy, build them a house or give them $10 million. But it won’t replace the person who has died. You can’t fix it and often feel guilty for not doing enough.

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What is the most difficult part of being an adjuster?

What is the hardest part about my job? It’s simple: being on call. My cellphone has been on silent for the past eight years, except when my children were born or whenever I’m flying. It’s on silent, or it just turns on. My wife is used to hearing my phone ring at 2:03 in the morning, and me getting up to go get my laptop. It seems to happen every Christmas Eve.

It’s something I have become accustomed to. My family is also used to it. It can be difficult to adjust for someone who has worked a 9-to-5 job. My compromise is that I no longer work shifts. It’s so much better to be awakened at two a.m. for half an hour than to work midnight to eight a.m., trying to sleep in the sun when everyone else is out.

The key takeaways

Although the claims process can be difficult, adjusters can help you get your life back on track. You may feel more at ease if you understand how the insurance adjuster handles your claim. Although every claim and adjuster is unique, there are certain things that you can do to make your claims process more smooth.

  • Keep in touch with your adjuster. You might receive calls, voicemails or emails from your adjuster. Your adjuster may be able to process your claim quicker if you respond promptly and provide the requested information.
  • Ask questions. Insurance adjusters handle many claims every day. They understand what you don’t know. Ask your adjuster for a step-by-step explanation of how your claim will be handled if you have any questions. It can help to be prepared and know what to expect.
  • Keep detailed records: No matter if you are filing a claim for a home or an auto, keep track of all your damages and any out-of pocket expenses. Also, make a list of any questions you might have. It might be easier to remember what to tell an adjuster or to ask them questions if you keep everything in one place.
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Claims adjusters can be described as the heroes of the insurance industry. Adjusters can help you when you’re at your worst. Understanding how adjusters work and what they require may allow you to build a relationship with your adjuster that will help your claim go faster and more efficiently.