Boat Insurance – Boat Safe This Summer

boat insurance

It’s easy to see why Florida is the number one boating destination in the United States—we have thousands of miles of tidal shoreline, Intracoastal Waterways, lakes, and rivers to explore. The waters around Sarasota are especially beautiful, and boaters can go from roaming a secluded beach to pulling up to the dock at one of Sarasota or Bradenton’s waterside restaurants—all in one day!

Unfortunately, Florida also is the national leader in boating fatalities each year. At Lakewood Financial, we want to see you out enjoying the boating life, not coping with a life-threatening emergency. Here are five basics to help you boat safe this summer:

  • If you haven’t already, take a boat safety course. Click here for a free online safe boating course endorsed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  • Inspect your boat each time you get ready to take it out. Among other things, inspect the hull for damage, make sure the boat’s lights work properly, and that you have enough fuel. (Click here for a full pre-departure checklist.)
  • Make sure all safety equipment is in good working order, including life vests (see below), fire extinguishers (make sure yours is U.S. Coast Guard approved), emergency flares, and a carbon monoxide monitor (especially if your boat has an enclosed cabin). If your boat is 16 feet or more, you must also have at least one Type IV throwable flotation device, such as a life ring or flotation cushion. Also make sure you have a first aid kit on board.
  • Have a life vest for every person on board your boat. Make sure the vests fit properly and are in good condition. Most important: make sure everyone actually wears his or her life vest. The main cause of boating fatalities is boaters falling overboard who are not wearing life vests—an average of one person a week. Remember, it’s the unexpected event that poses the most danger—rough water or losing your balance, for example, can land you overboard with no time to find and put on your life vest. 
  • Don’t drink alcohol while boating. It’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol, and your judgment and reaction time decline even faster in a boating environment than on land. The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating deaths, and the penalties for “Boating Under the Influence” can include fines or even jail time.

And, of course, make sure your boat insurance is current before you brave the waves. Give Lakewood Financial a call at 941-747-4600 for a boat insurance quote. Our Sarasota boat insurance policies are designed to fit the needs and budget of today’s boater. Happy boating! 

Five Things to Do Now to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane SeasonThe start of the 2017 hurricane season is just 10 days away. Are you ready? If you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, you know how much havoc a storm can cause. Better to spend an hour or two now to save a lot of stress and worry when a storm is bearing down on you.

Here are five things to do NOW to prepare before a hurricane blows your way:

  • 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 hazard.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 Readiness Center (see link below) for more information.
  • 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.
  • 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 or call us 941-747-4600 if you have any questions about hurricane or flood coverage.

For more information, please visit:

 Manatee County Emergency Management

Printable disaster kit checklists

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Think You Don’t Need Renters Insurance? Think Again!

Renters InsuranceRenting a place rather than buying can make good financial sense for many reasons. But what if a fire damages your apartment, or a leaky roof saturates your furniture? Who would pay for your damaged belongings? If you think it’s your landlord, think again.

A 2016 survey indicated that while 95 percent of homeowners carry homeowners insurance, only 41 percent of renters carry renters insurance. This could be a big financial mistake. Here are four reasons renters insurance is a good idea for most people.

Renters insurance covers your belongings

If you would have a hard time replacing your personal belongings after a loss, you need renters insurance. Your landlord’s insurance policy only covers the dwelling itself. He or she is not responsible for your belongings, so if there’s a fire or flood and your things are damaged or destroyed, you’re out of luck—and out of pocket. Similarly, if your apartment or house is broken into and your belongings are stolen, you’re also out of luck. Renters insurance covers your personal property, including furniture, clothing, and appliances up to your policy limits—usually $10,000, but you can raise your limits for a nominal amount—check with your Lakewood Financial agent for details.

To make sure your policy limits are adequate to replace your belongings, create a home inventory and add up the cost of replacing your major items, then double it. We recommend that you carry replacement cost rather than actual cash value. (Replacement Cost: what it would cost to replace your item with a comparable brand new item. Actual Cash Value: the value of your item, less depreciation.)

Renters insurance protects your liability

What if one of your friends trips and falls and breaks her arm? Or maybe your friend’s iPhone is stolen while he’s at your house for a party? Renters insurance has you covered. Most renters insurance policies come with $100,000 liability coverage. You may want to discuss with your Lakewood Financial agent whether this is enough. Most of the time, it only costs a little more to raise your limits.

Renters insurance is cost effective

Since a renters insurance policy doesn’t cover the structure itself, the actual cost is fairly low. In fact, the average cost of a renters insurance policy is about the same per month as the cost of having a pizza delivered! This is just a fraction of the cost of replacing all your belongings if they’re damaged or stolen, or defending yourself against a lawsuit if someone is injured at your home. Check with your agent about discounts for safety features like a burglar alarm or sprinkler system to further lower your cost.

Renters insurance helps with additional living expenses

If you can’t live in your rental after a covered loss, your policy may help pay reasonable costs of temporary lodging while it is being repaired. Check your policy for financial and duration limits.

Please give us a call at 941-747-4100 if you have any questions about renters insurance, or if you’d like a quote. We’re here to serve you.

So You’re About to Buy Your First Car Insurance Policy…

First Car Insurance PolicyCongratulations! Becoming an independent adult can be both exciting and scary. Finding your first job and apartment are milestones to be proud of. Buying your first car insurance policy? That can be a milestone, too, as it’s one more step in taking responsibility for your life and future financial well-being.

Here are some basics to consider as you shop for your first car insurance policy:

Why carry insurance?

Simply put, you must carry car insurance to drive legally. But insurance is really intended to protect you financially, not just make you “legal.” Think about it: if you’re in an accident, proper insurance coverage pays for injuries, as well as having your vehicle repaired—things that can cost multiple thousands of dollars. You’d never be able to afford this without insurance coverage.

What coverages should you carry?

To tag your car, Florida law only requires that you carry a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PD). If you make car payments, your lender will most likely require that you carry comprehensive and collision. However, unless you absolutely cannot afford it, it makes much better financial sense to add Bodily Injury Liability (BI) to your policy. If you are at fault in an accident, BI will help pay for the victims’ injuries, up to the policy limits. This also allows you to comply with the Florida Financial Responsibility Law, which states that anyone responsible for a crash with injuries must be carrying bodily injury liability limits of at least $10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident, in addition to $10,000 each of PIP and PD. If you don’t have this coverage, you may be required to carry an SR-22 for three years. 

The increase in premium for adding BI coverage is far less than what it would cost you if you were sued following an accident (and statistically speaking, young drivers are more likely to be in an accident). 

How can you afford it?

There are a few ways you keep your car insurance premiums down. The most obvious is to drive safely and keep your record clean!

A second important thing you can do is protect your credit. Credit scores have become a major factor in quoting car insurance rates. The better your credit, the better the price of your car insurance.

If you have been on your parents’ insurance policy, you may be eligible for a discount for having continuous coverage, so let your agent know if this is the case. (Make sure you don’t let your insurance lapse once you buy it, too.)

Ask your agent about any additional discounts available, such as for safety features like airbags or anti-lock brakes.

And finally, shop around to find the best rate. Just be sure when you’re comparing policies that each agent is quoting you the same coverage and limits.

Providing affordable insurance is where an independent agency like Lakewood Financial really shines. We represent more than 40 different quality car insurance companies, including Progressive, Hartford, Infinity, Safeco, Nationwide, Metropolitan, Travelers, Mercury, GMAC, Foremost—and more. Please call us at 941-747-4600 for a free quote today! We’d love to serve you.

Improving Your Home? Don’t Forget to Upgrade Your Insurance

Upgrade Your Insurance

Spring weather has many of us thinking about home and landscape improvements. But It’s a perfect time of year to spruce up our surroundings, and prepare for the coming heat, humidity, and summer storms.If you’re planning renovations or landscaping projects this spring, consider what effect these projects might have on your homeowners insurance and liability. Some projects can make your home safer (thus reducing the chance you’ll have to make a claim on your insurance), some projects will increase the value of your home (so your current homeowners policy might not be adequate), and some projects might even save you money on your insurance. Whichever the case whenever you make any major homestead changes you may forget to upgrade your insurance

Here are five common home improvement projects and how they can affect your insurance coverage:

Tree trimming

Trimming trees not only improves their health and appearance, it can also make your home and yard safer. Proper trimming ensures that dead limbs can’t fall on your car, or be blown into your yard by high winds. You can also protect your roof and pool enclosure by having overhanging limbs cut back. This reduces the likelihood that your home or car—or a guest’s car—will be damaged by falling tree limbs.

Planting trees or shrubs

Before planting anything with invasive roots, find out where your water, sewer or septic lines run. Most homeowners insurance policies don’t contain coverage for water or sewer back-up damage—damage that might be caused by roots that grow into your water, sewer, or septic lines. One way to find out where those lines are is to “call before you dig”.

Roof replacement

Even though it can be an expensive home improvement, having your roof replaced can offer you peace of mind, increase the value of your home, and save you money on your homeowners insurance. (See “A Wind Mitigation Report Can Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Premium” for more information.)

Adding a pool

Having a pool in Florida is almost a must—but it can leave you open to liability claims if someone is hurt while playing in or around your pool. You may want to consider adding an umbrella policy to boost your liability protection. Also, remember to increase the amount of your homeowners coverage to include the value of that new pool. And think twice about adding a slide or a diving board. Most homeowners policies exclude exposure to slides or diving boards. Some only provide $25,000 worth of coverage, and others won’t write your policy at all if you have a slide or diving board.

Significant kitchen or bath upgrades

Installing granite or marble countertops, custom cabinetry, or professional-grade appliances? You may want to upgrade your homeowners insurance coverage at the same time, to be sure you’d receive the increased value should you have to make a claim. If your renovations involve rewiring, you may also be eligible for discounts on your policy.  If the remodeling is extensive, you may need to buy a builder’s risk policy.

 

It’s a great time of year to spruce up your home. Please call us at 941-747-4600 with any questions you have about how your proposed home or landscaping projects might affect your insurance. Happy home improvement!

When Words Can Get You Sued: Protect Yourself From Personal Injury Lawsuits

 

Personal Injury Lawsuit

A few hasty words can cost you—especially if those words are in writing. Many people, especially children and teenagers, don’t realize that posting something negative and potentially damaging about a person, business, or organization can leave them open to a personal injury lawsuit.

Think before you post

Until the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the average person was unlikely to be sued for libel or slander. (Libel is a written defamatory statement; slander is a spoken one.)  All that has changed due to the hyperconnectedness of modern life. Heated online exchanges, cyberbullying, and other forms of negative written expression can get you sued for personal injury.

You say you don’t engage in those types of interactions? What about your kids? Parents are being held liable in court for their children’s social media posts.

Situations that seem innocent enough can still leave you open to a lawsuit. Social media posts a child may consider teasing might be construed as bullying and result in a lawsuit. So can starting a rumor that hurts someone’s reputation, sharing false information, writing a letter to the editor critical of a specific teacher’s performance, and even posting a harsh comment on the message board of your homeowners association.

The personal injury endorsement

Standard homeowners policies do not cover non-bodily injury. One way to protect your assets if you are sued for personal injury is to buy an umbrella policy. A second, less expensive option is to add a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy. If you have a lot of assets to protect, you may want to do both.

A personal injury endorsement will protect you and your family up to the limits of your policy if you’re sued for libel or slander. It also typically covers attorney and court costs incurred in defending yourself in a personal injury lawsuit, as well as situations such as false arrest, wrongful eviction or entry, and invasion or violation of privacy.

Of course, even if you have a personal injury endorsement, there is no coverage for intentional libelous or slanderous acts. You should still use common sense, and you should teach your kids appropriate online behavior. Understand, and help them to see, that words can be damaging, and they have consequences.

At Lakewood Financial, we will be happy to help you review your insurance coverage, and assess your need for a personal injury endorsement. Please contact us at 941-747-4600 if there’s any way we can serve your insurance needs. 

Protect Your Assets With an Umbrella Policy

It only takes a moment for an accident to happen and for your life to change. In today’s litigious world, if you’re responsible for an accident, you could find yourself being sued and your auto or homeowners policy limits aren’t sufficient to meet the damages. For that reason, we recommend that you carry an umbrella policy.

umbrella insurance policy

 

An umbrella policy is excess liability coverage over and above your other insurance, such as your auto or homeowners policies. Umbrella policies will protect your assets—including your home, retirement accounts, savings, investments, and your future earnings—from being taken in a lawsuit. Policies start at $1 million dollars of liability coverage and climb in $1 million dollar increments from there. The goal is to have enough coverage to protect your net worth. (You’ll want to discuss the amount of coverage you need with your Lakewood Financial agent.)

Protecting your assets

Here’s how an umbrella policy works: Let’s say you were judged to be liable in an auto accident, and your auto insurance carries a liability limit of $300,000. Unfortunately, the judgment against you comes down at one million dollars. If you have an umbrella policy, it should pay the remaining $700,000. If you don’t have one, any savings or assets you have will be at risk, you could have a lien placed on your home, or your wages garnished to make up the difference. 

There are many scenarios in which you could find yourself needing an umbrella policy. What if a passenger in your car is injured, you hit a cyclist, or someone trips and falls on your property and is hurt? Do you have teenagers in your household? Do you have a swimming pool, or a trampoline? These items are responsible for many insurance claims. Owning rental property also raises your liability exposure.

Can you afford an umbrella policy?

The good news is that umbrella policies are affordable, with most running just a few hundred dollars a year—a small price to pay when you consider your peace of mind.

Without an umbrella policy, your assets are vulnerable. Accidents do happen, and it makes good financial sense to protect yourself with an umbrella policy. Please contact Lakewood Financial today, and let us help you find the policy that is right for you.

Three Reasons to Choose Lakewood Financial Insurance For Your Insuring Needs

Lakewood Financial InsuranceWe know buying insurance can sometimes be a confusing and frustrating experience. Sorting through coverage, deciding what you need and finding a cost-effective policy can be challenging. That’s where going with an independent agency like Lakewood Financial Insurance can really help you. Here are three reasons to choose Lakewood Financial for all your insurance needs:

Personal service

While it might seem like a good idea to go with an insurance company with national name recognition, that’s not always the best choice, especially if you have a complicated situation, need the best price, or want to develop a relationship of trust with your insurance agent. Lakewood Financial is a local small business. We have an understanding of the area, including its special risks—like floods or hurricanes—since we live and work here, too. You are more than a policy number or email address to us.

In addition, as independent agents, we work for you, not the insurance company. We’re not captive agents of any one insurance company, so we can search for the policy that best fits your needs and budget. If you need car insurance, for example, we represent more than 40 companies instead of just one. We work hard at providing our clients with the best coverage at the lowest cost. And if you have a claim, we stand ready to help you through the process.

Convenience

Wouldn’t it be nice to buy all your insurance in one place? Instead of calling multiple insurance companies for quotes on car, life, or home insurance, save yourself time and hassle by letting us do the shopping for you. Lakewood Financial is a full-service agency. We represent multiple carriers for every type of insurance, including automobile, homeowners/renters, commercial, builder’s risk, life, umbrella, and so on.

Knowledge

All our agents and customer service representatives are knowledgeable in their fields, and are happy to answer your insurance-related questions. We also provide the Lakewood Financial Insurance Blog as a service to our clients and prospective clients. (Please let us know if there’s a subject you’d like to see covered!)

We know you have many choices of who to call for your insurance needs. Contact us today at 941-747-4600 to discuss your insurance needs, or for a free, no-obligation quote. And thank you for giving us the chance to serve you!

Insuring the High Value Home: Are You Underinsured?

home value

We often talk about homes being our clients’ most valuable assets, and advise them to make sure their homeowners insurance is adequate to rebuild the home and fully replace the contents if the home were to be severely damaged or destroyed. For some clients who own higher value homes, this is even more crucial. A standard homeowners policy may not provide enough coverage.

Are you underinsured?

Here are some special areas of concern for owners of homes valued at $500,000 and up:

Replacement cost of structure. If your home is destroyed, what would it cost to rebuild it? High value homes often have costly custom features, and the replacement cost coverage should reflect that.

High value homes often have other structures on the property which are not attached to the home, such as guest homes, gazebos, outdoor kitchens, or boat docks. You’ll want to talk to your agent about coverage for these structures.

Contents coverage. Much of your investment in your home is not just the structure itself, but also in your furnishings, valuables, or special collections. Coverage for personal property is typically 50 percent of the value for which the home is insured. Conduct a home inventory to determine the value of your belongings, and discuss with your agent whether you should increase your contents coverage.

In addition, you’ll want to be sure expensive items or collections—such as furs, jewelry, art, firearms, Persian rugs, or vintage wines—are covered up to their true value. This is especially true of items that may appreciate in value. Most standard homeowners insurance policies cap value for items like this.

Liability. If you have an expensive home, you probably also have other assets you’ll want to protect. Homeowners insurance policy liability limits usually start around $100,000, but recommended coverage is higher—at least $300,000 to $500,000.  If you want more coverage, it’s wise to buy an umbrella or excess liability policy. You’ll receive broader coverage as well as higher liability limits.

Higher coverage, higher cost?

If you’re concerned about the price of higher coverages, you can save money by going with a higher deductible ($2,500 all the way to $10,000 rather than $1,000, for example). Owners of high value homes can usually afford a higher deductible if they have a claim.

At Lakewood Financial, we’ve been serving homeowners with high value homes for 14 years, and we understand their needs. We are independent agents with multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, as well as the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Contact us today for your free, no-obligation quote.

Creating a Home Inventory

Home inventory

Could you tell your insurance company every item you have in your home right now, and how much it’s worth? Probably not—and that could hurt you if your home is burglarized, severely damaged, or destroyed, and you have to make a claim on your homeowner’s insurance. A home inventory can make the process of settling a claim easier.

A home inventory is simply a record of your personal possessions. It’s valuable to have even if you never make a claim since knowing what your belongings are worth can help you purchase the right amount of insurance for your personal property in the first place.

Creating a home inventory may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. If doing the whole house at once feels overwhelming, do a little at a time, say a couple of rooms per week. (Just make sure to finish the project!) There are several different methods to compile your inventory. Choose the one you’ll find easiest—the one you’ll actually do. Who knows, your tech-savvy teenager might even enjoy helping you with this project.

Cameras, phones, or apps

Digital cameras and smartphones have made the task of creating a home inventory easier. It takes just a few minutes to take photos of an entire room. Print the photos and record important information about your items (make, model, price, etc.) on the back, or create a spreadsheet with your inventory information (click here for a free home inventory spreadsheet template). If you don’t want to print them, store your photos digitally in the cloud, burn them to a CD, or store them on a flash drive.

Another simple way to create your home inventory is to use your smartphone to shoot video of your belongings. When you shoot a video, you can also describe the items as you film them. Sometimes a video is all you need to prove you owned an item, but do check with your insurance company to see if you’ll need other documentation as well.

Using a free or paid mobile app is an increasingly popular way to create your home inventory. Most home inventory apps prompt you to list your rooms, the items in them, and other details. You can add photos as well as copies of receipts and other documents. Two free options include the Insurance Information Institute’s “Know Your Stuff” app, or the Encircle home inventory app (both have versions for Apple and Android). 

Inventory tips

When taking photos, start with a wide-angle shot from the room’s entryway. Take photos or video of each wall, as well as the floor and the ceiling. These images record types of flooring, special moldings, ceiling fans and light fixtures.

Get close-up shots of any serial numbers or other identifying tags.

Take group shots of like items, such as books, shoes, or kitchen items (open a cabinet door to record your dishes, for example).

Make sure you get photos of everything in the room.

Describe items pictured: name brand, model, model number, color, special markings or features. Note what you paid for the item and document the receipt if you have it.

Remember to inventory items in your attic, garage, or storage shed.

If you buy a big-ticket item, save the receipt and add the item to your inventory right away.

Once you create your home inventory, be sure to review it now and then and keep it updated.

Make sure your home inventory is stored in a safe place that you can access when you need it. Keep the photos, CD, or flash drive in a safe place, such as with a trusted friend, in a safe deposit box, or in a disaster-proof box in your home. You can also use your email server as a backup if you email yourself a copy of your inventory.

It does take some effort to create a home inventory, but if you lose your belongings and you don’t have one, it may take quite a lot of time and hassle for your insurance company to reimburse you adequately. We hope you’ll never have to make use of your home inventory to make a claim, but if you do, your preparation should help your claim be paid more quickly and fairly. 

For more information on homeowner insurance, call Lakewood Financial at 941.747.4600