The Office of General Counsel issued the following opinion on April 2, 2003, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
Re: Independent Adjuster Licensing Status of a Licensed Attorney
Does an attorney duly licensed to practice in New York need to obtain an independent adjusters license in order to work exclusively as an independent adjuster for a corporate independent adjuster?
No, if the attorney were to act exclusively as an independent adjuster at a company, an independent adjusters license would not be necessary.
ABC Company appears to have hired an individual to fill the position of benefit analyst. This position will include the performing of tasks of an independent insurance adjuster. This individual is licensed as an attorney, but does not currently possess an independent adjusters license.
The New York Insurance law recognizes two broad classifications of insurance adjusters; independent adjusters and public adjusters. In general, independent adjusters are individuals or corporations that, on behalf of an insurer, investigate or adjust claims arising under the policies of that insurer. Public adjusters, by contrast, act for the policyholder to settle certain types of claims relating to the property of the policyholder. With respect to licensing, the law exempts certain individuals from having to obtain an insurance adjusters license by excluding them from either or both of the definitions of "independent adjuster" or "public adjuster." Attorneys are excluded from the definition of "independent adjuster" by N.Y. Ins. Law § 2101(g), which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
(1) The term "independent adjuster" means any person, firm, association or corporation who, or which, for money, commission or any other thing of value, acts in this state on behalf of an insurer in the work of investigating and adjusting claims arising under insurance contracts issued by such insurer and who performs such duties required by such insurer as are incidental to such claims and also includes any person who for compensation or anything of value investigates and adjusts claims on behalf of any independent adjuster, except that such term shall not include:
. . . .
(D) any licensed attorney at law of this state . . . .
N.Y. Ins. Law § 2101(g)(1) (McKinney 2000) (emphasis added).
This definition is in contrast to that of "public adjuster", which is defined as follows:
(2) "Public adjuster" means any person, firm, association or corporation who, or which, for money, commission or any other thing of value, acts or aids in any manner on behalf of an insured in negotiating for, or effecting, the settlement of a claim or claims for loss or damage to property of the insured in this state caused by, or resulting from, any of the risks as enumerated in paragraphs four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten and subparagraphs (B) and (C) of paragraph twenty of subsection (a) of section one thousand one hundred thirteen of this chapter, not including loss or damage to persons under subparagraph (B) of paragraph twenty of subsection (a) of such section or who, or which, advertises for, or solicits employment as an adjuster of such claims, and shall also include any person who, for money, commission or any other thing of value, solicits, investigates, or adjusts such claims on behalf of any such public adjuster, except that such term shall not include:
. . . .
(B) any licensed attorney at law of this state who acts or aids in adjusting insurance claims as an incident to the practice of his profession and who does not advertise himself as a public adjuster . . . .
N.Y. Ins. Law § 2101(g)(2) (McKinney 2000) (emphasis added).
As is evident from the statutes quoted above, the New York Insurance Law treats attorneys differently with respect to the independent adjuster and public adjuster licensing requirements. A licensed attorney is free to operate as an independent adjuster without obtaining an independent adjusters license. However, a licensed attorney may only operate as a public adjuster where doing so is incident to the practice of law. If the attorney wishes to act as a public adjuster outside of his legal practice, he must obtain a public adjusters license. This conclusion has long been the Departments position, see Office of General Counsel Opinion (March 28, 1966) and Office of General Counsel Opinion (May 6, 1966), which interpreted N.Y. Ins. Law § 123(7), the predecessor section to the current N.Y. Ins. Law § 2102(g) (McKinney 2000).
For further information you may contact Supervising Attorney Michael Campanelli at the New York City Office.