Does Your Homeowner’s Insurance Come Up Short?

Homeowner’s Insurance

Your homeowner’s insurance policy is a key piece of your financial safety net. Not only does it cover what is probably your most valuable asset, your home itself, it also covers what’s inside your home—or does it?

 

Here are ways your homeowner’s insurance might come up short:

 

You don’t have enough coverage. If your home is completely destroyed, will your insurance pay to have it rebuilt with similar quality and craftsmanship? What about coverage for your personal belongings? In the event of a claim, would you receive replacement cost or actual cash value? 

 

Also, remember every time you make any significant upgrades to your home, you should notify your Lakewood Financial agent. Certain upgrades, such as a new roof, could net you a discount. Even if no discounts result, you’ll still want your insurance company to know the true value of your home in case you have a claim.

 

You run a business from your home. Homeowners insurance policies offer no liability coverage and limited coverage for business equipment. Home office policies are reasonably priced and offer both liability and contents coverage.

 

You don’t have flood insurance. Standard homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage, and Florida is essentially one big flood plain. Lakewood Financial represents several private companies that write flood insurance at a more competitive rate than those of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These policies also have higher available limits than the NFIP’s standard coverage. Also, private flood companies offer replacement cost coverage on your contents. The NFIP will pay only the actual cash value. (Click here for a flood insurance quote.)

 

Your policy doesn’t have water/sewer backup coverage. A standard homeowners policy usually covers damage from overflow of water from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning as long as it originates on your property. However, if the backup damage comes from outside of your property, such as if heavy rains cause a sewer back up into your home, you may not be covered. This is a scenario all too common in our rainy, hurricane-prone state.

 

You have a special collection of wine, art, jewelry, or other valuable assets. Your personal property is covered up to a percentage (usually 50-70 percent) of your dwelling limit. There are also limit caps on certain categories like firearms, jewelry, silverware, furs, coins, etc. If you have high value items or special collections, you may need a personal floater. You may also need separate floaters for each category of asset—such as jewelry and artwork. Floaters usually have no deductibles, and you may need to have your collection appraised.

 

Lakewood Financial is an independent insurance agency located in the Sarasota/Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch area. We have multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, and the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Give us a call at 941-747-4600 or contact us online.

Insure Your Rig: Commercial Trucking Insurance

Commercial Trucking Insurance

Photo courtesy Chris Sharkman via Pixabay

Whether you’re an independent owner-operator, or you manage a fleet of trucks, Lakewood Financial can provide all your commercial trucking insurance needs. We cover all types of trucks, including tractor trucks, tow trucks, box trucks, and dump trucks.

 

Commercial trucking insurance protects your assets and your business in the event of an accident. Here are the major types of coverage your policy can provide:

 

Liability coverage is mandatory. This pays for any legal liability you have towards others for physical damage as well as injuries caused by the truck in an accident. Liability limit requirements depend on the type of truck, what you’re hauling, and whether or not you operate intrastate (only in Florida) or interstate (crossing into other states). Call Lakewood Financial and we can help you determine what limits you need.

 

Bobtail/deadheading or non-trucking liability coverage protects a driver’s or company’s liability when the truck is traveling without a trailer (“bobtailing”) or with an empty trailer (“deadheading”).

 

Cargo coverage  protects your truck’s load (cargo). Some shipping companies require it. We bundle cargo coverage with liability coverage to save you money.

 

Physical damage coverage covers the truck and/or trailer itself if it’s damaged in an accident, or other covered peril, such as fire or theft.

 

To get an accurate quote, you’ll need a copy of your current insurance policy’s declarations page (“dec” page), the driver’s license numbers of all drivers, vehicle identification numbers of all trucks, and information on any safety features of the trucks. You’ll also need your DOT number and your FEIN number.

 

Commercial trucking insurance isn’t cheap, but there are ways to save money. Some companies offer a three to 10 percent discount up front if you give them access to the information from your truck’s electronic logging device (ELD). Insurance companies periodically check the information from your ELD to evaluate driving habits and number of safety inspections compared to other drivers in the industry. The more safety conscious you and your drivers are, the larger your discount will be—even rising as high as 18 percent of your policy premium.

 

Other factors determining your premium include the type of equipment your truck has, the type and value of the cargo you typically carry, and your route.

 

Protect yourself and your business by buying a commercial trucking policy that best fits your needs. Call Lakewood Financial at 941-747-4600 for a free, no-obligation quote.

Protect Yourself and Your Business From Cyber Security Threats

Cyber Security Threats

You’ve probably read about data breaches at large companies such as Equifax, Target, and Home Depot as well as other types of cyber security breaches. But did you know that small businesses and even individuals are also at risk and can find themselves devastated by a cyber attack? In fact, Florida has the second highest number of victims of cybercrime in the U.S., and ranks third in the nation for frequency of identity theft, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

 

Phishing and Ransomware

Two of the most common cybercrimes are phishing and ransomware. Phishing refers to hackers trying to trick you into sharing your private information through an email or a webpage offer. Popular phishing schemes include emails that purport to be from your bank or credit card company, a friend in need of money, or threatening you for some unnamed illegal action.

 

Ransomware is malicious software (malware) designed to block access to your system and demanding ransom payment to restore access.

 

There are things you can do to protect yourself. These tips apply to individuals, employees, and business owners.

 

To protect yourself

  • Create strong, unique passwords. Passwords are your first line of defense against cyber criminals. DO NOT use the same password for all your login credentials. If you have a hard time remembering your passwords, download an app to store them.
  • Use extreme caution when clicking links or opening email attachments. Don’t click links appearing in emails if you have any doubt at all about their legitimacy, even if the email looks like it’s from someone you know. Be skeptical of any urgent requests for money or bank transfers.
  • Protect your personal information. If you get an email from your bank or credit card company requesting personal information, call the number on your credit card or statement to verify the request.
  • Look for the security lock symbol in the web address of any site that asks for your personal information. Click on the lock to check that it has an up-to-date security certificate.
  • Keep all system software up to date.
  • Install, update and run security software such as anti-virus and malware protection programs.
  • Back up and store data at a secure offsite location. 

 

One more tip, if you have your own business: Consider buying cyber insurance (also known as cyber liability insurance). Business owners policies may provide some coverage for losses related to cyber incidents such as a computer virus or hardware failure. However, to better protect your business, consider buying a stand-alone cyber insurance policy tailored to your specific business needs. Cyber insurance covers several types of risks including, loss or corruption of data, business interruption, liability, identity theft, cyber extortion, and data breach.

 

“Virtually all businesses use information technology (IT) in some way—to communicate via email, to provide information or services through a website, to store and use customer data and more. Your business can be held liable if certain data is compromised….” notes the III.

 

At Lakewood Financial, we take cyber security seriously, taking steps to protect both our business and our clients’ personal information. Please call us at 941-747-4600 if you need to discuss cyber insurance, or any other aspect of commercial or personal lines insurance.

Affordable Car Insurance for Your Teen Driver

Affordable Car Insurance For Your TeenYour teenager just got his driver’s license. How exciting—and how expensive!

 

There’s no way around it. Teen drivers do cause the family’s car insurance premiums to go up, because statistically immature drivers are at higher risk for accidents. Teen drivers aged 16-19 are three times more likely to be in a crash than drivers aged 20 or older. The good news is Lakewood Financial is here to help you protect your financial assets while helping you find affordable car insurance for your teen driver.

 

Here are some ways to make adding your teen driver to your car insurance more affordable while still keeping your financial assets protected:

 

First, if you haven’t already added your teenager as a driver on your car insurance policy, now is the time to do so. If you don’t and he or she is in an accident, you may not be covered.

 

If you’re buying a car for your teen driver, choose wisely to avoid most expensive premiums. Save on premiums by choosing a safe vehicle that’s not too expensive or sporty.

 

It’s almost always more cost effective to add your teen’s car to your family’s car insurance policy so that you benefit from discounts like multi-car and homeowner’s. Another benefit is that your teen will be covered if he or she needs to drive another of the family’s vehicles.

 

Emphasize safety rules with your teen driver. The best way to keep insurance costs down is for everyone to maintain clean driving records. If your teen driver is also a safe driver, your premiums should eventually decrease.

 

Ask your insurance agent about all available discounts, including those for safety features, good student discounts, and for taking a recognized driver’s education course.

 

Make sure you have adequate liability coverage. That may seem counterintuitive, but insurance premiums are never as expensive as being sued! If your teen driver is at fault in an accident where someone is injured and your policy doesn’t have bodily injury coverage, you’ll be required to carry an SR-22. And if you only carry the state minimum, that may not be enough to protect you from a lawsuit. Depending on your assets, once your teen starts driving, you may want to carry higher liability limits, or even an umbrella policy. Your Lakewood Financial agent should be able to help you understand and adjust your needs for liability insurance.

 

Lakewood Financial is an independent insurance agency and we represent more than 40 car insurance companies. Let us find the most cost-effective car insurance policy for you and your teen driver. Call us at 941-747-4600 or email us for a free, no-obligation quote. We’ve been serving Sarasota/Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, and surrounding areas since 2003, and we’d love to serve you!

 

 

If Lightning Strikes, Are You Covered?

Lightning Strike Insurance Coverage

Photo by Svitlana Koshelieva on Unsplash

Even if you’re new to the Bradenton/Sarasota area, you’re probably already familiar with our frequent thunderstorms. After all, the Sunshine State could just as well be called the Lightning State—Florida experiences an average of 3,500 cloud to ground lightning flashes every day—1.2 million per year! The good news is that most standard homeowners insurance policies cover structural damage to your home caused by lightning as well as damage to personal property, such as sensitive electronics affected by a power surge. (Please note: power surges caused by utility work or other non-lightning related causes may not be covered. If you have questions about this, please consult your Lakewood Financial agent.)

 

In addition, your policy will probably also cover additional living expenses if your home is so badly damaged that you can’t live in it while it’s being repaired or rebuilt.

 

If lightning strikes

If lightning strikes, check your home and personal property for damage, and make a list of anything affected. Do remember that your deductible will apply, and the amount you’ll receive for your claim will depend on whether you carry actual cash value or replacement cost coverage. “Replacement cost” covers the amount you would need to replace the item with a new, similar item, and “actual cash value” will cover the cost of replacing the item minus depreciation for that item. We almost always recommend replacement cost coverage.

 

Report the lightning strike to your insurance company, or to your Lakewood Financial agent as soon as possible. Your home inventory will be helpful in filing a claim if expensive electronics or other personal property is damaged.

 

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What if lightning hits your car? If you carry comprehensive insurance on your vehicle, you should also be covered if lightning damages your car. Your deductible will apply.

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Protection from lightning

Surge protectors may help, but often aren’t enough to protect your sensitive electronics from a direct lightning strike. You may want to unplug them before you leave the house, or before the storm hits if there is lightning in the forecast. During the storm, you risk being struck if you try to unplug your electronics, so don’t do it!

 

For whole house protection, consider installing a lightning protection system. These systems help conduct the lightning’s electricity safely to the ground, and should be installed by a certified professional, according to the Lightning Protection Institute.

 

Please consult with your Lakewood Financial agent if you have any questions about what your homeowners insurance policy covers, and whether or not it is adequate to protect your assets. If you’re in the market for a homeowners policy, please call (941) 747-4600, or email us for a free, no obligation quote.

Insurance and Your College Student

Congratulations—your child is going off to college! While you’re packing up your student’s belongings and offering last minute advice, take a few minutes to think about how this new adventure affects your own and your college student’s unique insurance needs.

Unique Insurance Needs

Car Insurance

Is your child taking a car to school? If you’re supporting your student financially, he or she should be covered under your existing family car insurance policy. You will want to notify your Lakewood Financial agent (give us a call at 941-747-4600), especially if the school is outside of Florida.

If your child is not taking a vehicle to school, you should still tell your agent—you may be eligible for a premium discount, especially if your child’s college is 100 miles or more from home. Also remember that you may be eligible for Good Student Discount if your child maintains a certain grade point average, usually a B average or above, whether or not he or she takes a vehicle to school.

Protecting personal property

Another concern for parents of college students is protecting their child’s personal property. About half of all campus crimes involve burglary. While college students need items such as laptop computers, tablets, smart phones, and so on, if at all possible they should leave home any non-essential and expensive items such as electronics, or luxury watches and jewelry. 

If your child lives in an on-campus dorm, his or her personal belongings are covered under your homeowners insurance policy, up to certain limits (check your insurance policy or ask your agent, and remember that your deductible still applies).

However, if your student lives off campus, he or she is not covered by your policy, and should buy a renters insurance policy. These policies are affordable, and also offer liability protection as well coverage for personal property. 

Make a detailed inventory of what your student takes to school, and update it every year. Include copies of receipts and photos. This will help you get a claim paid faster in the event of a theft.

Remind your student to take common sense precautions, including locking dorm rooms and keeping personal items like backpacks, purses, and laptops with them instead of unattended in the library, cafeteria, or common areas.

If you don’t already have one, you might consider adding a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy. This could come in handy if your student is sued for posting something negative on social media!

If you have any questions about what is or is not covered, please give your Lakewood Financial agent a call.

What about health insurance?

Depending on your health insurance policy, your college student may be covered under your policy. If he or she is going away to school, make sure there are in-network doctors and hospitals available in the new area. You’ll pay more for out-of-network medical services, or there may be no out-of-network coverage except for emergencies.

If there are no in-network providers in your college student’s area, most colleges offer student health plans that may be just what you need.

Other insurance concerns

If your income is paying for your child’s college education, do you have enough life insurance coverage in place to complete it if something were to happen to you? In general, you’ll want enough to cover expenses until your youngest child finishes school.

What about an umbrella policy? Umbrella policies cover all household members even when they’re away at school. This provides additional liability protection for both your college student and you as their parent. 

When you wave goodbye to your budding young adult, rest easy knowing your insurance safety net will continue to protect you all. Please give us a call at 941-747-4600 if you have any questions about your insurance needs, limits, or what your policy covers. You may also contact us online by clicking here.

We’re here to help!

Hot Tips for Staying Cool—Don’t Let Summer Heat Make You Sick

We all love to play outdoors during the summer—the kids are out of school, we have more time to enjoy our toys and take vacations. But while you’re having fun in the sun, remember to take some common sense heat precautions during summer’s hot, humid days. 

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service, resulting in hundreds of deaths every year. Here in Florida, we especially need to be mindful of the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is considered along with air temperature. It’s not uncommon for us to have “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees during the summer. And temperatures that high can cause heat-related illness.

summer heat precautions

Anyone can be affected by the heat, but children younger than 2, people over 65, and those suffering from chronic disease or mental illness are most susceptible to heat-related illness. Here are some common-sense reminders to help you and your loved ones stay cooler and avoid heat-related illness this summer:

At home

During times of high heat, stay in air conditioning as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning or it’s not working, find air-conditioned places you can go for relief during the hottest hours of the day, such as a library, theater, or mall.

Keep shades or curtains closed on windows that receive direct sun, or install awnings or window tinting. This will help keep your home cooler.

Provide shade and plenty of cool water for pets outside, and check on them frequently to make sure they’re not suffering from the heat. During the hottest times of the day, bring them inside if possible.

Outside

Even though it’s cooler inside, you probably won’t want to stay there all summer long! Here are some tips for staying safe when you venture outside:

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Schedule most outdoor activity, whether play, exercise, or work, for the cooler morning and evening hours.

Stay in the shade as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. If no shade is available, limit outdoor activity to 15-20 minutes at a time during times of highest heat and humidity.

Take frequent breaks, and use the buddy system when working or exercising outdoors in high heat.

Stay hydrated. Sip cool water or a sports drink every 20 minutes. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

NEVER leave children or pets alone in an enclosed vehicle. It only takes a few minutes for temperatures to reach a dangerous level.

Signs of heat-related illness

Even if you take precautions, you’ll still want to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; and exhaustion. If you or someone you’re with shows these symptoms, move into a cooler environment, remove or loosen as much clothing as possible, and apply cold, wet towels to the skin. Every 15 minutes drink four ounces of a cool sports drink, juice, milk, or water, to replace lost electrolytes. 

Heatstroke is a medical emergency, and occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and begins to stop functioning. Symptoms include very high body temperature, red skin which may be either dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures. If you suspect you or someone else has heatstroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Attempt to cool the body quickly by immersing it up to the neck in cold water if possible. You may also spray the person with cold water, or cover him or her with towels soaked with ice water, changing the towels frequently.

By taking proper heat precautions, you and your family can enjoy all the summer fun the Sarasota/Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch areas have to offer. Remember, Lakewood Financial is here for all your insurance needs. Whether you need to protect your home, car, boat, or business, just give us a call at 941-747-4600 or contact us online.

For more information on heat safety, visit:

The Red Cross 

National Weather Service 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Florida Flood Facts—Is Your Home at Risk?

Home Flood Insurance

If you live in Florida, the answer is probably yes, according to Roy Wright, former director of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 

Florida has the longest seacoast in the continental United States, as well as flat terrain and many rivers. Flooding can be caused by storms (including hurricanes), dams or levees breaking, or even new development that changes the way water flows. You don’t even need to live in an area known to be at high risk for flooding to find the water rising. More than 20 percent of all flood claims come from outside high-risk flood zones.

Here are some additional Florida flood facts:

  • Floods are the most common type of national disaster. Forty percent of all disasters worldwide involve flooding.
  • Just one inch of water in your home can cause more than $25,000 worth of damage.
  • Florida was affected by six of the 10 most significant flood events by NFIP payouts: hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Ivan, Irma and Matthew, and Tropical Storm Allison.
  • Residential properties in Florida have the most potential exposure to hurricane storm surge in the nation.
  • In 2016, just 14 percent of homeowners in the South carried flood insurance. (The national average was 12 percent.)
  • NFIP policies provide coverage of up to $250,000 for your home’s structure, and up to $100,000 for your personal possessions. If you need higher limits, you’ll need a private flood insurance policy.
  • NFIP authority must be renewed by Congress periodically, and is due for renewal by July 31, 2018. If it is not renewed, the NFIP will stop selling and renewing policies, but claims will still be paid.
  • Private insurers have become more comfortable underwriting flood policies because of better models to predict flood risk. In 2017, 33 private companies wrote flood insurance, up from 20 in 2016. Lakewood Financial represents several of these private insurers.
  • In 2016, the average amount of flood coverage was $246,890. Average premium was $656.
  • The average flood claim in 2016 was $62,247.
  • After a flood, most federal assistance comes in the form of low-interest disaster loans which will need to be paid back. FEMA disaster grants don’t need to be paid back, but they are often much less than what you would need to recover. A flood insurance claim should provide the funds you need to get back on your feet.

Flood coverage is excluded under standard homeowners policies, but purchasing a flood insurance policy is more affordable than before. Lakewood Financial represents several private insurance companies that will write home flood insurance at competitive rates. Give us a call at 941-747-4600 or contact us online—let us help you protect your home from the risk of flood damage.

For more information, visit: https://www.floodsmart.gov/

9 Summer Pool Safety Tips for Florida Homeowners

 Homeowner Pool Safety Tips

Who doesn’t love to hear the words, “pool party”?

 

Swimming and playing in a backyard pool is one of the best ways to have fun and stay cool during our hot Florida summers. However, homeowners need to be aware that swimming pools can be dangerous for children, especially young children who don’t know how to swim. Drowning remains the leading cause of preventable death for children ages 1-4 years old. Here are some pool safety tips to help you swim safe all summer.

 

1. Create a barrier around your pool to prevent children from entering it without supervision. Your pool should be fenced or otherwise blocked off on all four sides. Fences should be at least four feet tall with no openings or protrusions that would enable a child to climb over or under them. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, with the latches out of reach of small children. Alarm the doors and windows that face the pool, especially if your house itself provides the fourth side of the barrier. For added protection, install a surface wave or underwater alarm that will alert you when someone goes in the pool.

If you have an above-ground pool, be aware that children leaning against soft sides can fall in. Surround it with a fence just as you would an in-ground pool. Remove the ladder or steps when the pool isn’t in use, and install a safety cover.

 

2. When it’s time to swim, a responsible adult should always supervise children in and around the pool. Stay within arm’s reach of young children. Children should never be left unattended, even if they know how to swim.

 

3. Keep rescue equipment, such as a life preserver and fiberglass shepherd’s hook, on hand. Also have a portable phone nearby when the pool is in use.

 

4. Establish pool rules such as “walk don’t run,” “no diving,” and “never swim alone.” Make sure everyone in the family and all visiting children know and understand the rules, and be sure to enforce them.

 

5. Sign children up for age-appropriate water safety and swimming lessons. Keep in mind that swimming lessons don’t “drown proof” a child.

 

6. Get your CPR certificate. Knowing how to perform CPR could save a life!

 

7. Avoid the drain. Suction from pool drains can catch bathing suits, hair, or jewelry and trap swimmers underwater. Make sure all drain covers are present and in good repair, and remind swimmers to stay clear of drains.

 

8. Maintain the pool water. Pool water can be the source of earaches, rashes, and other more serious afflictions if it’s not maintained properly. Test water on a regular basis, and adjust the chemicals as needed.

 

9. Make sure your homeowner’s policy carries adequate liability coverage in case of accident. Call Lakewood Financial at 941-747-4600 or contact us online if you have any questions about your limits, or for a free, no-obligation quote.

 

Happy swimming!

For more information on pool safety for children, please visit poolsafely.gov

Coverage Options for Uber and Lyft Drivers

 

uber and lyft driversThinking of making a little side income by becoming a rideshare driver* for Uber or Lyft? Before you sign up, make sure you’ve got insurance coverage. Will your personal auto policy be enough? Or do you need a commercial auto policy?

 

A typical personal auto policy only covers you for personal use, not when you’re using your vehicle for commercial purposes, as you would as a rideshare driver. However, since you only occasionally use your vehicle for commercial purposes, you probably don’t want or need a commercial auto policy. The company you work for will likely carry some coverage, but you’ll still need to carry coverage to protect your liability and your vehicle when you’re driving for them. What should you do?

 

We’re happy to say that insurance companies have seen the need for endorsements that reflect the needs of rideshare drivers. Give Lakewood Financial a call at 941-747-4600 to discuss your options.

 

Remember, if you use your vehicle for your job—if you’re a realtor, an outside salesperson, or a professional construction worker, for example—you will need a commercial auto policy. We can help with that, too! Just give us a call, or contact us online for a free, no-obligation quote.

 

*A rideshare driver is an individual who provides taxi-like services to passengers via smart phone app for a Transportation Network Company (TNC), such as Uber or Lyft. Drivers use their own personal vehicles, rather than a limousine or taxi, to carry passengers.