Appraiser? Damage Estimator? Adjuster?
There is a huge gap in the training of corporate insurance adjusters when it comes to automobile appraisals.
As an all-lines adjuster, I was employed and trained by multiple large and well known automobile insurance carriers. I’ve handled and settled millions of dollars in claims, from large and complex commercial vehicle claims, to workers’ compensation, subrogation and contribution claims valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I’ve been a damage estimator.
I’ve been an adjuster.
Now I am an appraiser.
All this might seem simple enough, but you can confirm with a minimal amount of research that the title question is an unusually elusive one for people that work for auto insurance carriers. In fact, in nearly 20 years of auto claims experience, I have never met an adjuster or damage estimator that can succinctly and accurately explain the difference.
Of course, most adjusters can distinguish between a damage estimator and an adjuster, but when it comes to the difference in an appraiser and a damage estimator, or an appraiser and an adjuster, the line quickly becomes blurred and corporate adjusters and damage estimators are in the dark as to what an appraiser actually is. It is my opinion that the insurance industry keeps their employees ignorant of formal appraisal standards on purpose.
I’ll get back to the carriers, but let me first answer the title question.
The following definitions are not all inclusive. I could write pages on the subject, but you’d fall asleep, so here’s the summary answer. . .
What is an adjuster?
An adjuster typically sits at a desk, determines coverage, determines liability, decides how much damage is covered. Then they suggest a settlement amount to the insurance carrier for which they work. They are trained by the company that they work for to adjust claims in the manner that the company desires (if they do not, they are fired).
What is a damage estimator?
A damage estimator visually inspects damaged vehicles, identifies damaged parts, then prepares a damage estimate using well known and established crash estimating guides (there are three or four established and accepted methods). Damage estimators are also trained by their employer to estimate damages in the manner that the company desires. The product of a damage estimator is a report reflecting the estimator’s best estimate of how much a repair will cost (according to how the carrier believes the repair can be done).
What is an appraiser?
An appraiser conducts research into the value of property and then produces an appraisal that reflects the results of the research.
You know what’s funny though?
The vast majority of insurance companies DO NOT employ or train appraisers, nor do they distinguish between an appraiser and their staff adjusters and damage estimators. In fact, I have had to explain the differences to more than one Judge.
Unfortunately for accident victims and consumers, insurance companies are powerfully persuasive because they can afford to pay defense attorneys to blur the truth. For me, it’s obvious that the tactic (of withholding the truth from their staff) allows them to maintain a level of control over the amount of damages paid out on claims.
If insurance companies acknowledged and accepted the formal appraisal standards that are utilized in the U.S. (known as the USPAP, or Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice), then they would lose the ability to dictate the value of a vehicle and they would be forced to pay claims based on the findings of proper appraisals.
The motivation for carriers to ignore the auto appraisal industry is based on profit, and is pursued at the expense of accident victims and insurance consumers. Don’t believe it? Google “insurance companies systematically undervalue vehicles” and read up. It’s a big scam that I guess most people are scared to expose. I’m not.
Instead of educating their staff about formal appraisal standards and actually utilizing appraisers, the vast majority of auto carriers train their adjusters that there is no official appraisal standard and that the insurance company is the authority on how a vehicle is valued. Carriers routinely (and fraudulently) lead adjusters and damage estimators to believe that they are also qualified appraisers, so much so that they will outright lie about their knowledge of appraisal standards and disparage true professionals (I sue for negligent misrepresentation and fraud when adjusters call my office and waste my time pretending to be expert appraisers).
If you think I’m not being fair to insurance carriers or their employees, feel free to set me straight in the comments. I make a living by telling the truth about auto claims and appraisals. Company adjusters and damage estimators make a living by not getting fired.