What Is an Insurance Appraiser and What Do They Do?
Updated June 24, 2022
When a policyholder files an insurance claim, their insurance company must assess the reported damage or loss to determine how much they are responsible for paying. Insurance companies often send an insurance appraiser to investigate, evaluate and settle these insurance claims. If you are interested in working for an insurance company, then learning what an insurance appraiser does may benefit you. In this article, we define what an insurance appraiser is, share the average salary for this career path and explore the requirements to become one.
What is an insurance appraiser?
An insurance appraiser is a field representative who works for an insurance firm. They gather information about an insurance claim by assessing the value of a person's property and the amount of property loss or damage. Insurance appraisers who work in health or life insurance may also assess a policyholder's claim to determine if the medical treatments and procedures included are relevant, necessary and covered by the insurance company.
Insurance appraisers can use their assessments to determine if an insurance company needs to pay for a claim and, if so, how much. Most insurance appraisers work full time. Their work environment may change day to day, but they often spend most of their time outside of the office inspecting damaged properties and vehicles, conducting interviews and negotiating claims.
What does an insurance appraiser do?
Insurance appraisers may have a wide range of responsibilities depending on the type of insurance company they work for. For example, an insurance appraiser who works for a health insurance company must have sound knowledge of medical terminology to assess which types of treatments, procedures and medications are necessary. However, an insurance appraiser who works for a property and casualty insurance company must have a good understanding of housing and construction costs to evaluate damage accurately. Some of the categories an insurance appraiser may specialize in include:
Property and casualty insurance
While insurance appraisers may have different responsibilities and require different training based on the industry they work in, most insurance appraisers share some common job duties. Here are some tasks you might be responsible for as an insurance appraiser:
Investigating, evaluating and settling insurance claims
Determining the appropriate amount an insurance company should pay
Contacting policyholders' employers or doctors to verify information on questionable claims
Recording and organizing claims files
Assessing whether an insurance policy covers the loss claimed
Ensuring that claims are genuine
Conferring with legal counsel
Salary and benefits for insurance appraisers
Though there is no available annual salary for insurance appraisers since their salary can vary significantly based on the insurance industry they work in, the national average for all field inspectors is $54,438 per year. Field inspectors may also be eligible for benefits depending on where they work. Some of the most common benefits field inspectors may receive include:
Employee assistance program
How to become an insurance appraiser
Here are some steps you can follow to become an insurance appraiser:
1. Earn a degree
While you can become an insurance appraiser with a high school diploma or a GED, receiving a bachelor's degree may give you an advantage when applying for jobs. Depending on which type of insurance company you plan to work for, you may choose to earn a degree in one of these areas:
Business or accounting: A bachelor's degree in business or accounting can prepare you to work with claims of financial losses by companies due to strikes, merchandise damage or equipment breakdowns.
Architecture or engineering: A degree in architecture or engineering can prepare you to adjust industrial claims from fires or other accidents.
Legal studies: A background in legal studies can prepare you to handle a wide variety of claims, including claims that deal with worker's compensation and product liability.
Medicine: A medical background can help you prepare to assess health or life insurance claims.
You may also gain experience working in different fields outside of your degree program. For example, many auto insurance appraisers gain hands-on experience working for an auto-body repair shop where they learn to recognize and diagnose automotive problems. Similarly, a property insurance appraiser may gain experience working for a construction company to learn how a structure is built and how much materials and labor cost.
2. Obtain an insurance appraiser license
Licensing requirements for insurance appraisers vary by state and the type of insurance you plan to work in. Some states require pre-licensing experience or education, while other states may require you to pass a licensing exam. Use a search engine to research the requirements to become an insurance appraiser in your state and desired specialty. This can help you determine what criteria you need to meet, how much your initial license may cost and if you need to renew your license after a set number of years.
3. Seek an entry-level position
Once you have received your insurance appraiser license, you may apply for entry-level positions with insurance firms in your chosen specialty. Create a well-written resume that highlights your skills and qualifications to impress potential employers. Make sure you include all of your formal education as well as your relevant work experience, certifications and state licenses.
After you've honed your resume, use a search engine to find career opportunities as an insurance appraiser that match your desired location, skill set and qualifications. You can also connect with any professional contacts you made during your undergraduate program or related job roles to see if they know of any insurance firms that are currently hiring entry-level insurance appraisers. If one of your professional contacts refers you to an employer, it can set you apart from other candidates and increase your chances of being hired.
4. Decide to work independently or with a firm
After you've gained three to four years of experience working for an insurance firm in an entry-level position, you may choose to continue working exclusively with one insurance firm or become a 1099 independent contractor. As an independent contractor, you may work with multiple insurance agencies on a freelance basis. This can provide you with a more flexible schedule, the opportunity to earn more income and the ability to work independently without a supervisor.
Tips to become an insurance appraiser
Here are some tips that can help you advance in your career as an insurance appraiser:
Stay informed about changing laws and policies
After receiving your insurance appraiser license, continue to educate yourself about new state and federal laws as well as how the courts handle insurance claims. Many insurance firms offer seminars on current laws and policies to ensure their employees are familiar with the most recent changes. This can help you successfully negotiate with lawyers and legal representatives.
Keep detailed records of each claim
Insurance appraisers must pay close attention to the fine details of each claim to record all information gathered during research and interviews. Organize your files and proofread them carefully to develop accurate assessments that align with each insurance policy. Properly documenting each claim you work on can make it easier for you to share your notes with colleagues and refer back to previous cases when working on similar claims in the future.
Practice your communication skills
Insurance appraisers are often responsible for having challenging conversations with people who have recently experienced a loss, property damage or health issues. You may improve the outcome of these conversations by showing policyholders empathy and actively listening to their concerns. Insurance appraisers may also need to negotiate with legal representatives. Using clear and concise language during these encounters can help you negotiate successfully.
Hone your math and accounting skills
A large part of an insurance appraiser's job is to assess damage, determine how much an insurance company is responsible for and authorize payments. Having excellent math and accounting skills can help you develop accurate estimates. Double-check each claim file you work on before submitting it to ensure your work is correct. You may also ask a colleague to proofread your documents.
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