Insurance appraisers estimate the value of insured items and evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much. Most insurance appraisers work full time. They often work outside the office, inspecting damaged buildings and automobiles.
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What insurance appraisers, 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. Insurance appraisers typically do the following:
Many 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.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically the minimum requirement to work as an appraiser. However, employers sometimes prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor’s degree or some insurance-related work experience or vocational training.
Different backgrounds or college coursework are best for different types of work in this occupation. For example, a business or an accounting background might be best for someone to specialize in claims of financial loss due to strikes, equipment breakdowns, or merchandise damage. College training in architecture or engineering is helpful for adjusting industrial claims, such as those involving damage from fires or other accidents. A legal background is beneficial to someone handling workers' compensation and product liability cases. A medical background is useful for examiners working on medical and life insurance claims.
Auto damage appraisers typically have a two-year postsecondary diploma or experience working in an auto repair shop, identifying and estimating the cost of automotive repair. Although auto damage appraisers are not required to have a college education, most companies prefer to hire people who have formal training, experience, or knowledge and technical skills to identify and estimate the cost of automotive repair. Many vocational colleges offer two-year programs in auto body repair and teach students how to estimate the costs to repair damaged vehicles.
At the beginning of their careers, insurance appraisers work on small claims, under the supervision of an experienced worker. As they learn more about claims investigation and settlement, they are assigned larger, more complex claims. Auto damage appraisers typically get on-the-job training, which may last several months. This training usually involves working under supervision of a more experienced appraiser while estimating damage costs until the employer decides the trainee is ready to do estimates on his or her own.
Their work environments vary. Some appraisers spend time in offices reviewing documents and conducting research. Others work outside more often, inspecting damaged buildings and automobiles and conducting surveillance.
The median annual wage of insurance appraisers of auto damage was $56,230 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $39,550, and the top 10% earned more than $78,950.