Sometime in 1973, I participated on a council recommending a curric- ulum for insurance studies at Mi-ami-Dade Junior College (now Miami
Dade College). Insurance agents, brokers,
risk managers, adjusters and other insurance representatives participated, and we
created a list of what we thought would
be a good background for anyone considering an insurance career. The National
Association of Insurance Women, South
Florida Claims Association, the local
CPCU Chapter, and the Risk & Insurance
Management Society were also present.
Those in marketing (agents and brokers), believed that business courses in
marketing, accounting and statistics would
be helpful. The risk managers strongly
suggested some engineering background.
Clerical skills (including typing) were important (this was before PCs); fewer men
knew how to type beyond the “hunt and
peck” method. And some medical knowledge was deemed a necessity.
Other topics included subjects such as
gemology (Florida was famous for “jewel
thefts”), construction, tort, agency, contract
and statutory law, human relationships and
similar social sciences, and a healthy dose
of economics. Journalism – the ability to
investigate, separate truth from fiction, and
report the findings in a logical format – was
What are the adjuster’s
Now, some 44 years later, one seldom
hears about anyone taking specific
classes to become a claims adjuster. For
many in the field it is “just a job,” some-
thing to do until something better comes
along. When I arrived at our corporate
home office in 1978, one of my assign-
ments was to attend “career day” ses-
sions at local universities. I always ended
up following the brokers, agents and risk
managers who told of big money, being
important people, and how easy it was
because they had a big staff. “Big pay”
enthralled the students. Then I would
get up and tell about the excitement of
claims adjusting, rushing to the scene
of disasters and wrecks, including fires
or death; attending trials and hearings;
working with the police investigating
crimes and accidents; finding the right
engineering expert for a complicated
case; tracking down jewel and art thefts;
and handling aviation and ocean marine
claims. All of these were part of an inde-
pendent, multi-line adjuster’s job.
“Wow!” the group would gasp, “That
sounds like what I’ll like to do, not that
boring stuff that the other speakers did.”
But then came the question: “How much
does that job pay?” Compared to the
salaries and commissions of agents, brokers and risk managers, not a whole lot.
Plus there was the drawback of having
a 24/7 call-out requirement. Getting up
at 3 a.m. to go to the scene of a client’s
truck wreck in the rain or snow quickly
loses its glamour.
Back then most adjusters had at least
an undergraduate degree, and while
many still do today, it seems an adjusting career has lost much of its luster.
Now investigations are “farmed out,”
with insurance medical examiners visiting the injured, obtaining and studying
the medical reports. The “art of negotiating” is a skill that must be learned
gradually – there is no single easy lesson
for mastery. The same is true of other adjusting skills such as investigation and
evaluation, and especially for reporting.
It is now often the insurer’s attorney who
takes command in insurance litigation.
What should the adjuster’s curriculum
be in 2017?
On a personal note: This August marks
this writer’s fiftieth year in the claims and risk
management business. It has been a wonderful and exciting career, and I hope readers will find their own careers as exciting.
Ken Brownlee, CPCU, is a former
adjuster and risk manager based in
Atlanta, Ga. He now authors and edits
claims-adjusting textbooks. Opinions
expressed are the author’s.
for Future Adjusters