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Claims Adjusters: Self-Employment or Working for an Insurer?

By Nathan Guss|6 min|October 2023

Are you a claims adjuster or thinking about becoming one? Read on to learn about the pros and cons of self-employment or working for an insurance company.

Considering a career as a claims adjuster in Canada? With many paths available, each offering its unique challenges and rewards, what’s the right fit for you? This overview breaks down the options—working directly for an insurance company, operating as an independent adjuster or assisting policyholders as a public adjuster—and the benefits and challenges of each role.

Company Men and Women: The Staff Adjuster

Being a staff adjuster (aka company adjuster) for an insurance company is a popular choice for many in the profession. It can be a great way to get to know the field before moving on or an excellent long-term career.

A Staff Claims Adjuster’s Role and Responsibilities

Company claims adjusters play a pivotal role in the claims process. Here are some of their primary responsibilities:

  • Inspecting property damage
  • Reviewing claims and policy terms
  • Estimating the costs of repairs or replacements
  • Negotiating settlements** **with policyholders
  • Liaising with professionals, such as contractors, medical experts or legal counsel

Advantages

  • Stability: As a full-time employee, staff adjusters often enjoy the benefits of a consistent salary, health benefits and sometimes bonuses.
  • Training opportunities: Many insurance companies offer continuing education and training programs, ensuring their adjusters are always up to date with industry standards and practices.

Challenges

  • Less flexibility: You may have limited control over your schedule and the type of claims assignments you accept.
  • Volume: The caseload can be high, especially during peak times or after major events.
  • Company policies: Working for a larger entity means adhering to company-specific guidelines and procedures.

Going Solo: The Independent Adjuster

Choosing the path of an independent adjuster means embracing both freedom and responsibility. These adjusters aren’t tied to a single insurance company but instead work on a contract basis for various insurers. They essentially perform the same core functions as staff adjusters. However, working conditions can be quite different due to the role’s contractual nature.

Advantages

  • Flexibility: Independent adjusters often have the freedom to choose which assignments they take on, allowing for a more flexible schedule.
  • Diverse experience: Working with multiple insurance companies can provide a broader perspective on the industry.
  • Potential for higher earnings: Especially after major events or catastrophes, there can be a surge in demand for independent adjusters, leading to many lucrative assignments.
  • Autonomy: Being your own boss means having the ability to make decisions without the constraints of company bureaucracy.

Challenges

  • Inconsistent work: The flow of assignments can be unpredictable.
  • Self-employment costs and logistics: Independent adjusters are responsible for their own taxes, insurance, business expenses, communications and so on.
  • Networking: Building and maintaining relationships with various insurance companies is crucial for consistent work.
  • Staying updated: Without the structured training programs of larger companies, independent adjusters must take the initiative to stay up on industry trends and regulations.

A Helping Hand for the Insured: The Public Adjuster

A public claims adjuster is a professional who works for policyholders, not an insurance company. Individuals or businesses hire public claims adjusters to guide them through filing a claim. A public adjuster’s primary role is to streamline the claims process for clients. They handle various aspects that insureds would typically be responsible for:

  • Creating an inventory of lost and damaged items
  • Managing all the paperwork related to the claim
  • Keeping the policyholder informed about the status of their claim
  • Helping the policyholder make informed decisions
  • Acting as a mediator between the policyholder, the insurance company, legal representatives, witnesses and others involved in the claim
  • Negotiating with the insurance company

Public claims adjusters are especially valuable when the claim is substantial, such as a total loss of a property.

Advantages

  • Potential for high earnings: Public adjusters can often earn more than salaried staff adjusters or even independent adjusters, especially during peak claim periods following major disasters. Their earnings are typically commission-based, which means they benefit directly from the volume and value of claims they handle.
  • Flexibility: Being self-employed, public adjusters can choose which cases they take on and set their own schedules.
  • Direct impact: Public adjusters play a crucial role in ensuring policyholders understand their rights and their policies’ details. They make a tangible difference in the lives of those they help, especially when clients feel overwhelmed or unsure about the claims process.

Challenges

Marketing: As independent professionals, they often need to invest time and resources in marketing their services.

Inconsistent Income: As self-employed professionals, public adjusters don’t have a guaranteed salary, leading to potential fluctuations in earnings based on their variable workload.

Each of these career paths comes with its unique rewards and challenges. You need to find the one that aligns with your goals. Do you seek adventure or stability? Do you have ambitions of climbing the corporate ladder or starting your own business? With these questions in mind and by considering the pros and cons outlined above, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision.

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