How - and how much - do adjusters get paid?
Well, staff adjusters - that is, adjusters directly employed by insurance companies - get paid on a salary, typically. they can certainly earn money via an hourly wage, but most major corporations will pay an insurance adjuster salary anywhere between $25,000 to start, and up to possibly $100k or more for very high level employees at some companies.
For independent adjusters, we generally get paid either on a fee schedule - which is what I'll be focusing mainly on in this video - hourly, or what's known as T&E - or time and expense.
The main way that cat property IA's get paid is by fee schedule.
Since we as cat property IA's get paid per claim, we have to know what to charge the insurance company for the work we do for them.
So we will turn in a billing invoice for each claim. And the fee schedule tells us what to charge.
The way it breaks down is this:
The fee schedule is essentially a commission-based payment system. A typical fee schedule will be based on the total dollar amount of a claim. And some will have add-ons for other challenging or time-consuming things like accessing two story or steep buildings, interior damage (for cat fee schedules since most storm damage is exterior) - Sometimes contents can be an add-on as well as mileage.
In general, a fee schedule could look something like this:
$0-5000 estimate total can be something like $350-550
$5001-10,000 maybe $700
$10,001-$25,000 it could be $900 or more.
As the adjuster, you will split that invoice with your IA firm - typically 60/40. For example: if your invoice says $700, you're part of that before taxes and expenses will be $420.
There are as many fee schedules as there are carriers and IA firms and they all do this their own way so take this information as a general overview and not as a specific pay expectation.
And yes, you got that right - the higher the estimate, the more the adjuster gets paid. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Aren't we supposed to be finding ways to not pay for stuff? Yeah, no. That's a myth. Our job is to pay the right amount to get the insured to their pre-loss condition, within the constraints of the policy and estimating guidelines.
But how much can you make as an adjuster?
Well, that all depends less on what the fee schedule is and more on how good you can be.
What do I mean by that?
If you take 10 equally skilled adjusters and give them all the exact same claim, you should get ten nearly identical estimates, right? Which according to our fee schedule means that there'll be ten nearly identical invoices that get paid.
The adjusters that do REALLY well, are the ones who've optimized their claims handling workflow to get as many claims closed in a day as possible, without their claim and customer service quality suffering.
By the end of an adjuster's first cat deployment, he or she might be able to comfortably close around 4 claims a day - SHOULD be able to anyway. And assuming an average of $420 their part before taxes and expenses, that's $1680 per day. Pretty good money if you ask me.
The problem is this: the new claims that come in are going to be assigned to the adjusters who have nailed the combination of speed and quality. So if this new adjuster has the exact same quality as another adjuster who is able to easily close 7 claims per day, the new claims are going to mostly go to the faster adjuster. In general - certainly many factors other than this will determine who gets claims - but the way I run claims, I'm going to assume that the fastest adjuster with the highest quality will get the new claims so that's how I roll - and in 20 years of doing this, this expectation has always been met FOR ME. My advice to new folks is to adopt this attitude as well.
So what it really all boils down to is not so much how much the fee schedule is or how much they're paying on T&E or whatever.. the question I'm always asking myself is, "how can I close MORE claims this year?"
Because if you want to take home $100,000 in a year, you're going to have to close a lot of claims.
Let's say your gross payment is $420 from our example above. Let's take 25% off of that for taxes and another, maybe 20% (to be a little pessimistic) for expenses. In this case, your actual take home will be about $231 per claim, right?
If you want to bring home a net of $100,000 in a year, at $231 net take-home per claim you'll need to close 433 claims.
Most experienced, high-earning cat adjusters who work ALL kinds of cat events - not just hurricanes and wildfires - will tell you that they run between 400 and 600 claims a year. Again, as I'm mentioned in previous videos, that's probably also being done in 5-7 months, depending on how fast they can close claims. What's the high end? I've heard of adjusters closing 1300 claims in a year and my personal best is a little over 1100. That was a LONG year, probably about 9 months worth of 7 days-a-week work. There were also zero hurricanes or wildfires that year.
So is there an actual "average" fee bill amount that you can count on?
Not really and here's why:
As a working cat adjuster, you'll likely do a wide variety of storm events through the year. But you might have a year where you're sent to several small storms were there was light damage, or no damage, or.. damage that couldn't be covered. You might get sent to Topeka, KS, for a big hail storm instead of Minneapolis. Why does that matter? Some places have much higher construction prices than others (Minneapolis can be super high, even comparable to Florida or NY).
But you've got to take the claims you're given and you have to make the best of them. And this is why concentrating on building speed so that you can close claims in VOLUME is so key to doing well in this business.
If you can write a high quality file and provide white-glove customer service AND be super fast, you'll never go hungry as a cat IA.
For more information about surviving your first storm, check out the HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FIRST STORM DEPLOYMENTfree webinar at adjustertv.com/thrive
Question of the Day:
Are you ready for conference season?? We've got the holidays coming up but RIGHT after that we've got all the conferences you could ever want. Two of the biggest ones are NACA, which is the National Association of Catastrophe Adjusters.. and Elevate, which is the Xactware User Conference.
And here's the exciting news I mentioned at the start of this video.... in the coming weeks, AdjusterTV will be giving you an opportunity to attend these conferences FREE (registration only) - so you better be sure to stay tuned for that!
AdjusterTV will be at both of those conferences and I hope to see you there!
Check out Jason Heenan’s AdjusterTalk podcast!