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.

Hurricane Season Is Almost Here–Will You Be Ready?

Hurricane Season

After 2017’s Hurricane Irma impacted nearly the entire state of Florida, most of us in the Bradenton and Sarasota areas are taking hurricane preparations seriously this year. Hurricane experts have already indicated that the 2018 hurricane season should have slightly above-average activity and probability that a major hurricane will make landfall along the continental United States.

Don’t wait until the last minute to be ready. Here are five things to do NOW to prepare before a hurricane blows your way:

  1. Inspect your home and yard. Now is the time to make any necessary repairs to your roof (if you replace your roof, be sure to get a wind mitigation report—it could save you money on your homeowners insurance), cut down dead tree limbs, or buy any necessary storm shutters, plywood, or braces for your garage door. Also make note of any lawn furniture, children’s play equipment, or potted plants that might need to be moved so a hurricane’s high winds don’t turn them into flying hazards.
  1. Check evacuation and flood zones (they aren’t the same). If you live in an evacuation zone, familiarize yourself with the route, and make plans now for where you’ll go. If you don’t have to evacuate, consider offering friends or family who must evacuate a place to stay. Tip: Keep your vehicles gassed up during hurricane season, just in case you need to get out of town quickly.
  1. Create or update your Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure you have plenty of medicines, food, water, batteries, pet supplies, and other crucial items on hand—at least enough for seven days. Include a portable NOAA radio, and if you have a landline, a corded phone (portable cordless phones won’t work if there’s a power outage). Click here for a full description of what your Disaster Supply Kit should contain, or visit Manatee County’s Hurricane Preparedness Page (see link below). Note: Starting June 1, there will be a one-week tax holiday on the purchase of all emergency supplies.
  1. Collect copies of important documents, such as driver’s licenses, and insurance policies, and make sure you have your insurance agent’s contact information.   Take pictures of your home and belongings if you haven’t already done a full home inventory, and store those pictures someplace that won’t be affected by the storm, either online or with a friend or family member outside of Florida.
  1. Review your insurance policies. What is your hurricane deductible? Do you have flood insurance? Standard homeowners policies do not come with flood coverage, but flood insurance is more affordable than ever, so you might want to look into buying it.

Don’t let a hurricane catch you unprepared. Take time now to prepare your home and your family for any coming storms. And remember, Lakewood Financial is here to help you. Please contact us if you have any questions about hurricane or flood coverage.

For more information, please visit:

Manatee County Emergency Management

Printable disaster kit checklists:

http://www.mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/public-safety/emergency-management/are-you-prepared.html#jump5

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Download the FEMA app

 

 

If My Garage Burns Down and My Classic Car Is Destroyed, Am I Covered?

Classic Car Policy

You might think that if your classic car is damaged or destroyed by fire while locked in your garage that your homeowners insurance would cover the loss.

Think again. Your homeowners insurance will not cover your classic car, because it doesn’t provide coverage for motor vehicles. The good news? It’s simple to make sure your classic car is covered in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event by purchasing a classic car insurance policy that includes comprehensive coverage.

Classic car coverage—your best option

You could simply add your classic car to your conventional car insurance, but it likely will not cover the true value of your classic car. Unlike the car you drive every day, classic cars don’t depreciate over time—often they go up in value. Conventional car insurance covers your car up to actual cash value, but classic car insurance covers your vehicle up to a guaranteed amount agreed upon by you and your classic car insurance company. This amount is determined by appraisal, documentation, and/or consultation with a collectible car value guide such as the Old Cars Report Price Guide or the value guide at www.buyclassiccars.com.

What coverage is included in a classic car policy?

While there are a few differences among insurance companies, a basic classic car policy will typically include the same coverage for liability, property damage, comprehensive and collision that a conventional policy does. However, since you don’t drive your classic car every day, you’ll probably pay less for equivalent coverage. Also, classic car policies often include coverage specific to classic cars, such as specialized repair or restoration, or special towing and spare parts. If you don’t plan to drive your classic at all, you may be able to purchase a comprehensive only classic car insurance policy.

While there is no single definition of a “classic car,” vehicles that may qualify for classic status include cars that are at least 25 to 30 years old, certain hotrods or modified vehicles, exotic luxury vehicles, muscle cars, or classic trucks. To be eligible for a classic car policy, your classic car cannot be used as a primary vehicle, and your insurance company may restrict the number of miles you can drive it each year. You must also store your classic car in a locked, covered enclosure, such as a garage or storage unit.

If you need a classic car policy, please give Lakewood Financial a call at 941-747-4600 or contact us online. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about covering your classic vehicle. We’re a locally-owned, independent agency serving Sarasota, Bradenton, Ellenton, Lakewood Ranch, and nearby communities, and our agents are experts in finding you the best coverage at a competitive price.

Should You Carry Dog Bite Liability?

dog bite liability

Most of us consider our dogs members of the family. They share our lives and our homes—but unfortunately, they may also leave us open to lawsuits. Even though it’s unlikely that your family pet will bite someone, it might be a good idea for you to make sure you have dog bite liability coverage, otherwise known as dog or animal liability.

 

In addition to dog bite claims, dog liability will also protect you if your dog knocks someone over, causes them to trip and fall, or damages their property. It will also protect you if your dog hurts another animal.

 

It used to be that your homeowners insurance policy covered you in the event that your dog injured someone. However, because of the rise in claims and litigation surrounding dog bites this is no longer a given. Florida ranks second behind California for the largest number of dog bite claims, and has the highest average cost per claim at $44,700. In fact, in 2017 dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost almost $700 million dollars and accounted for more than one third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some insurance companies exclude certain dog breeds, some exclude all animal liability, and others place limits on the amount they will cover. If you have a dog and are concerned about your liability, you should check with your homeowners insurance company or your Lakewood Financial agent to make sure you have the coverage you need.

 

And it’s not only homeowners who should be aware of the necessity for this coverage. If you’re a renter, some landlords now require dog liability insurance before they will rent to you.

 

Please call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 (or contact us by email) if you have any questions about whether or not your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers dog liability—or if you have any other questions about your insurance needs.

 

If You Need an FR-44, We Can Help

FR-44

If you’re in the difficult position of putting your life back together after a DUI conviction, we can help. 

Since 2008, Florida has required that drivers who’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs carry an FR-44.

 

What is an FR-44?

An FR-44 is a financial responsibility insurance certificate, similar to an SR-22. You’ll need to carry an FR-44 if you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because of this, you’re considered a “high risk” driver and the state of Florida requires you to show financial responsibility by purchasing a car insurance policy with  high limit bodily injury and property damage liability, in this case, limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 bodily injury per person/$300,000 per accident, plus $50,000 property damage). In most cases, you must carry an FR-44 for three years.

As you can imagine, combining high limits with a driver considered high risk can make this type of coverage costly.

We can help

Lakewood Financial is an independent agency, serving Ellenton, Bradenton, Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, and surrounding communities. We have many quality insurance companies to choose from, including companies who can provide you with a car insurance policy with the higher limits required for an FR-44 filing at a competitive rate. Please give us a call at 941-747-4600, or contact us for a free, no-obligation quote. We’d love to help you make a difficult situation a little easier.

 

Buyer Beware—Could That Car Be Flood Damaged?

flood damagedIf you’re in the market for a used car, be aware that hundreds of thousands of flood damaged vehicles were left behind by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. And many of these vehicles may have hit the used car market. These vehicles, often sold at auction, or on Craigslist or via private ad, should be avoided, even if they appear to run fine. Damage from floodwater can be unpredictable and your new-to-you car could prove extremely unreliable.

 

Don’t be sandbagged—watch for these signs of a flood damaged vehicle:

  • Unusually low price compared with similar models. (Check out a vehicle’s fair market value at kbb.com.)
  • A damp, mildew-y smell, or conversely, a strong smell of cleaning products—used to cover up a musty smell
  • Water damage or marks on carpets, upholstery, seat belts, or ceiling fabric
  • Brand new carpets or other fabrics in an older model car
  • Visible water lines on the headlights or taillights
  • Sand or silt under floor mats or under the spare tire
  • Rust on the inside of the car where water would not normally reach
  • Mud or debris in hard-to-clean areas
  • Electrical components that don’t work, such as windows, blinkers, or the radio

 

Your best protection with any used car purchase is still to have a trusted mechanic thoroughly inspect the vehicle. In addition, if you have the vehicle’s VIN, use CARFAX’s free flood check tool, or check its flood history at the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINcheck. Flood history is usually a part of the information you receive in any complete vehicle history report you purchase as well.

 

Be sure to give Lakewood Financial a call at 941-747-4600 (or contact us via email) whenever you buy a new or used car. We’ve been serving the insurance needs of Sarasota/Bradenton, Ellenton, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch, and surrounding areas since 2003. As an independent agency, we specialize in providing quality insurance coverage at competitive prices.

No Welcome Mat for Burglars—Try These Simple Home Security Tips

 home security

While you want your home to be welcoming to your family and friends, you also want it to be unattractive to burglars. A few simple home security measures can decrease the chance that your home will be broken into.

Burglars target homes that look like they’ll be easy to get in and out of quickly without being seen. If it takes a thief more than four or five minutes to break in, he’s likely to move on. In fact, “Time, sound, and visibility” are the three main factors you need to keep in mind when securing your home, according to safehome.org.

Time

Make it hard for a burglar to enter your home. Locks, doors, and windows are your first line of defense against intruders. To help keep a thief from kicking in a door, make sure all exterior doors are solid hardwood or metal, and that your locks are grade 1 or grade 2 deadbolts. Security experts also recommend installing a heavy-duty strike plate—the metal plate attached to the doorjamb that the bolt extends into—with three-inch screws that will penetrate to the doorframe stud.

If you have a sliding glass door, place a wooden dowel, stick, or safety bar in the interior track, or add a floor bolt.

Also be sure you close and lock every door and window when you leave home, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Sound

Burglars don’t want any attention drawn to their presence, so if you have a dog that barks when a stranger is around, you already have one method of deterring intruders. If you don’t have a dog, or the family pet is likely to welcome a burglar as a long-lost friend, you may want to invest in an alarm system. Be sure to display the alarm company’s sign and decals to notify thieves of the presence of an alarm.

(Before you invest in a home security system, call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 about what features your system needs to qualify for a discount on your homeowners insurance.)

Visibility

Trim or remove plants or shrubs that offer a place for a criminal to hide. If you have a two-story home, make sure no tree limbs offer a way for a burglar to break into an upstairs window.

Make sure all entries to your home have good lighting, and consider installing motion-activated lights to illuminate the perimeter of your home.

Don’t leave easily stolen items like bikes or even that expensive grill out in the yard or driveway. And if you’ve recently bought a pricey new item, be discreet about how you dispose of the packaging. If a thief sees the box from a new big screen TV in your trash, he might decide to pay you a visit!

A few more tips

  • Keep your garage door closed unless you’re in the garage or nearby where you can keep an eye on it.
  • Don’t hide a spare house key outside your home. Leave one with a trusted neighbor, or invest in a combination lock box you can put in an out-of-the-way place.
  • If you park on the street or in your driveway, take all valuables inside with you, and lock the doors and roll up the windows. Don’t forget to take your garage door opener inside!
  • Get to know your neighbors. Even if you don’t participate in an official neighborhood watch program, you can still watch out for each other on an informal basis.
  • Walk around the outside of your home looking for possible modes of entry for a thief. Is that window always open a little bit? Does that door look like it could be easily forced? Think like a burglar—then take the home security measures to keep him out!

If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, be sure to give us a call at  941-747-4600 or contact us via email.

 

 

 

Need Car Insurance and Have Personal Injury Protection Claims? Lakewood Financial Has You Covered!

personal injury protection

Let’s say you’ve been hurt in a car accident, and the other driver is at fault. Under current Florida requirements, all drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, and even though you weren’t at fault in the accident, in order to have your injuries covered, you make a claim on your PIP. (PIP pays for your injuries if you’re hurt in an accident, no matter who is at fault.) You make the PIP claim and think no more about it.

 

But then later, you may find yourself in a predicament: your car insurance company non-renews you, and other insurance companies don’t want to insure you. If you have more than one PIP claim, you may find it nearly impossible to get car insurance.

 

Why?

 

Unfortunately, Personal Injury Protection claims are associated with insurance fraud: “While PIP premium represents roughly two percent of Florida’s collected insurance premium, this issue accounts for nearly 50 percent of fraud referrals,” according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Because of the high rate of fraud, many insurance companies now consider clients with PIP claims high risk—even if they were not at fault in an accident. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for clients with PIP claims on their records to buy car insurance.

 

Until recently, clients with one or more PIP claims have been forced to rely on the Florida Auto Joint Underwriters Association (FAJUA). We’re happy to say that Lakewood Financial now has an alternative to the high rates of the FAJUA. If you’ve had one or more PIP claims, please call us at 941-747-4600, or contact us via email for a free, no-obligation quote. We’ve been serving the Sarasota/Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch areas since 2003, and we’re here to help.