Can an Attorney Use the Title of Adjuster?

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Several instances have occurred in the recent past where members of the bar have chosen to use the title, insurance adjuster. I have actually had just such a person work for me and have interviewed other law school graduates who call themselves adjuster for adjuster positions. Some claim the title of adjuster by virtue of the fact that attorneys are exempt from licensing requirements.

There are others who are exempt from licensing requirements as well.

A.R.S. 20-321.1(b) exempts not only attorneys but salaried employees of an insurer or of a managing general agent and a licensed insurance producer who adjusts or assists in adjustment of losses arising under policies procured through the insurance producer.

Despite the ability to adjust insurance claims without a license, such ability does not grant the title of adjuster. Arizona Revised Statutes 20- 321.01 states:

A. A person shall not act as or claim to be an adjuster unless the person is licensed under this article. B. To obtain a license as an adjuster a person shall apply to the director for the license and use the forms prescribed and provided by the director. The director shall issue the license to qualified persons on payment of the license fee prescribed in section 20167. C. To be licensed as an adjuster the applicant shall meet all of the following qualifications:

  1. Be a person who is at least eighteen years of age.
  2. Be a resident of this state, or a resident of another state that allows residents of this state to act as adjusters in the other state.
  3. Take and pass an examination that is given by or under the supervision of the director and that reasonably tests the applicant’s knowledge of insurance and legal responsibilities as an adjuster and otherwise comply with section 20321.02.

Clearly then, an attorney cannot use the title of adjuster. How then do we explain the fact that some individuals do use the title in what appears to be a clear violation of 20-321.02?

On the ADOI website this comment is placed on the “What is an Adjuster” Page: “A person does not need to be licensed as an adjuster to act as a company adjuster. ARS § 20-321(1)(b) (ii). When performing the services described in ARS § 20-321(1)(a) as salaried employees of an insurer or managing general agent, company adjusters may be referred to and hold themselves out as adjusters.”

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This webpage replaced a previous webpage which used the word, claim representative. We can only assume that the person who placed this current version on the ADOI website misunderstood the difference between being able to adjust claims as opposed to being an adjuster. There is no provision in the law that allows “salaried employees of an insurer or managing general agent, company adjusters to be referred to and hold themselves out as adjusters.” The law states otherwise.

Paralegals can work on legal cases; they just cannot call themselves attorney. Nurses can attend to patients; they just cannot use the title of doctor. Claim handlers can work on the adjustment of claims. They cannot call themselves adjuster if they are not so licensed. Savvy insurers do not allow non-licensed claim personnel to claim the title of adjuster. Some insurers do dole out the title of adjuster. Attorneys who find themselves involved with insurers or claims personnel who are not licensed might challenge this practice of using the adjuster title.

If attorneys can’t use the title of adjuster without adequate licensing, how can claim personnel? Once again, those participating in the adjustment and settlement of insurance claims do not need a license if they are exempted, such as attorneys and salaried employees of insurers. These people cannot claim the title of adjuster.

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The intent of the law is to prevent those who hold themselves out as having the ability to adjust, investigate and negotiate the settlement of insurance claims without having passed the appropriate examinations and licensing requirements.

Arizona Court of Appeals case Blankenbaker v. Germain Marks, (I CA-CV 11-0626) found that the Arizona Department of Insurance has discretion in the enforcement of its rules. If ADOI has chosen to step aside from this issue, plaintiff ‘s counsel is not precluded from alleging fraud in violation of consumer fraud statutes. I have witnessed this in two recent cases, once as a fact witness and once as an expert witness

Recent litigation has shown the hazards of an insurer doling out adjuster titles to their employees without a license who are, in fact, claim representatives. Individuals who claim the title of adjuster without a license also put themselves in peril.

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