Back-to-School Safe-Driving Tips

Florida roads are about to get a little trickier to navigate as many of our children go back to school Aug. 10.  More vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians will be taking to the road during the before- and after-school hours, and Lakewood Financial wants you and your children to stay safe. We offer these back-to-school safe-driving reminders:

School zone zen

“More children are hit by cars near schools than any other location,” according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Extra traffic at drop-off and pick-up times, inexperienced teenage drivers, and children walking and biking, sometimes unpredictably, all add up a situation that requires extra vigilance. (And remember, fines for speeding through a school zone are doubled. If you’re caught going 30 miles over the speed limit in a school zone, for example, your fine will be $555.50.) As frustrating as reduced speeds in school zones can be, they’re there for a reason.

Watch for that bus

How would you like to play chauffeur for 50-plus rowdy grade-schoolers?  Show courtesy for school bus drivers, and yield to buses wanting to merge. If you’re driving behind a bus, allow yourself extra room to brake safely since buses stop often and sometimes unexpectedly. And remember that it’s illegal to pass a school bus from behind—or from either direction on an undivided road—when it’s stopped to load or unload children.

Pedestrian perils

According to the Safe Routes to Schools Organization, 33% of youth pedestrian crashes are due to kids darting out into the road. Be sure to watch for all pedestrians, but take extra care when children are near. Yield to pedestrians crossing at a crosswalk or intersection, and stop for a crossing guard holding a stop sign. Don’t block the crosswalk if you’re stopped at an intersection or waiting to make a turn. This can cause pedestrians to go around you, possibly forcing them into moving traffic. Also, don’t pass a car that’s stopped for a pedestrian.

Ditch the distractions

We know you don’t text while driving, but did you know it only takes about three seconds of taking your eyes off the road to double your chances of crashing? Minimize or completely steer clear of anything that takes your eyes off the road or distracts your mind from your driving. That means things like talking on a cell phone, fiddling with the radio or your iPod, eating, and drinking. And always remember to buckle your seat belt—unbelted drivers are more likely to be distracted drivers than belted ones.

As kids go back to school, remember these few common sense rules to keep both children and drivers safe, and your driving record clean.

Safe drivers not only save lives, they save money. If you have a clean driving record, be sure to check with your Lakewood Financial agent to make sure you’re receiving all available discounts for safe driving.

Assignment of Benefits Abuse: Everyone Pays

Oh no! You’ve just had a leaky pipe flood your bathroom and bedroom. While you’re busy fixing the pipe, mopping up and drying out, along comes a water mitigation company that wants you to sign a contract that allows them to deal directly with your homeowners insurance claim. They make it sound like they’ll handle everything from filing the claim with your insurance company to dealing with all the contractors who will be involved in making repairs to your home—if you sign a contract that contains an Assignment of Benefits clause. This sounds tempting—should you do it?

No, you should not, and here’s why. 

Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is a tool that allows a third party to be paid directly by the insurance company for services performed, rather than by the homeowner after making a claim. Unfortunately, in Florida, unscrupulous trial lawyers and shady contractors (many of them unlicensed) have taken advantage of this tool, inflating repair costs and suing insurance companies if they deny the claim or don’t pay it in full. AOB abuse has become so rampant in Florida that’s it’s costing every homeowner money in the form of higher homeowners insurance premiums. According to the Consumer Protection Coalition, since 2000, there has been a 90,000% increase in AOB lawsuits.

Ultimately, this will cost Florida consumers as much as $1 billion dollars in rate hikes, and those rate hikes have already begun. State-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. asked for a 3.2% increase in rates for all personal lines policyholders in its 2016 rate filing, and CEO and President Barry Gilway told Florida insurance regulators, “I want to be crystal clear on this issue: water losses are the major reason Citizens is seeking rate hikes for the coming year….” (AOB is most commonly used when a homeowner experiences a water-related loss, but the scam is also spreading to the roofing industry.)

Private insurance companies are also raising rates in response, with one large insurer saying it needs a rate increase of 15% statewide to cover the explosion of water loss claims and AOB lawsuits. Private insurers may also begin withdrawing from or eliminating certain zip codes where the abuse is widespread, making homeowners insurance not only more expensive but harder to get.

 In addition, often, AOB abuse also leaves homeowners with poor workmanship or incomplete jobs, and because they’ve signed over the rights to their insurance policy, they have no recourse.

If you have a water damage claim, here’s what you should do:

  1. Call Lakewood Financial or your homeowners insurance company.
  2. Be leery of unsolicited offers from contractors or other vendors who want to take over dealing with your insurance company for your claim.
  3. Carefully read any contracts of service, and look for a clause titled “Assignment of Benefits.” If you see it, don’t sign.

 To learn more, visit www.FightFraud.Today

Is It Time for You to Change Car Insurance Companies?

Florida has some of the highest car insurance rates in the U.S, with policies costing about 25% more than the national average—this according to an study based on the rates from six large carriers including Allstate, State Farm, GEICO, and Nationwide. With costs rising all the time, you should comparison shop your car insurance on a regular basis, especially if your current policy is with one of these carriers.

Many people believe that because they’ve been long-time customers of State Farm, Allstate or another large national carrier, they’re getting a great insurance rate. Often, that’s just not true. Many factors go into determining car insurance rates including type of vehicle, coverage purchased, driving records, where you live, and sometimes even your credit rating. Carriers with name recognition like those listed above spend a lot of money on advertising to make you think they have lower rates when they really don’t. Do you want to subsidize their advertising budget, or find the best rates for you?

As an independent agency, Lakewood Insurance represents more than 40 different car insurance companies—not just one. We are often able to save our clients hundreds of dollars each policy term just by placing them with one of our companies.

Give Lakewood Insurance the chance to save you money. Contact us by phone at (941) 747-4600 or email us for a free, no-obligation quote.

Homeowners Insurance Discounts You Should Know About

Lakewood Financial Homeowner's Insurance

Homeowners Insurance

Your home is probably one of the biggest investments that you’ll make.  As such, protecting your home is one place you don’t want to scrimp on.  Making sure your home is properly covered does not mean that you have to break the bank.  The great part about homeowners insurance is that you don’t have to sacrifice coverage to lower your premiums.  By mitigating losses, you can decrease your homeowners insurance payments while keeping your home properly insured

If you’re in the market for a new house, ask your realtor about the type of roof.  If the new house has a hip roof, you’re in luck.  Hip roofs, while more complicated to build, are more hurricane-resistant which results in a nice discount for you!   

The type of roofing material can also make a huge difference in your premiums.  Not only can having better roofing material lower your homeowner insurance premiums, it could also get you a tax deduction.  You may have to have your roofing material tested by an approved laboratory before you receive the credit but it’s certainly worth the effort.

If you’re buying a home that was built before 2002, ask your inspector to perform a wind mitigation inspection.  Wind mitigation inspectors will assess how your home would fare in the event of a windstorm, hurricanes, etc.  You can see why it is a vital part of homeowners insurance, especially in Florida. 

As you can see, insurance companies (especially in Florida) are very concerned about your roof and what your homes chances are of surviving a storm.  Consider this, if a hurricane blows through the Manasota area and your roof blows off, there will be substantial water damage which to the insurance company translates to substantial claims. 

If you’re looking for a reason to renovate – look no further! For the same reason that they give discounts to new homes, insurance companies will give you credits for renovating!  New homes or newly renovated homes have fewer safety risks.   Rewiring your home can also result in savings since new wiring is safer and less likely to cause fires, shortages, etc.  If rewiring your home sounds like something your home could use, depending on the age of your home, you could quality for a new wiring credit so it’s certainly something worth looking into. Check with your local insurance agent to see if you qualify!

Do you live in a gated community or a community with a guard? That could mean more insurance credits for you and decreased premiums.  The reasoning behind this credit is that would be thieves could be deterred by the extra security and would move on to a different neighborhood.  There’s also a discount for having a monitored burglar and fire alarm.  These additions help to keep you and your home safer while also helping you save money.

These are some of the main discounts you may qualify for when applying for homeowners insurance, but certainly not all.  To make sure that you’re getting the best premiums possible, call Lakewood Insurance and speak with a qualified local agent.   

Traffic Violations that will Increase your Car Insurance

I came across a great article today and wanted to share this information with you, our loyal readers.  At the very top of the list of traffic violations that could increase your car insurance (not surprisingly) was driving under the influence.  According to Quadrant Information Services, a DUI or DWI can increase car insurance premiums by 92.5%.  Driving under the influence is dangerous and carries long term ramifications, so most of us already do our best to avoid putting ourselves in that situation.

However, how often are you running just a couple minutes late to work and you rev up the RPMs on the interstate?  Maybe you’re late to an appointment or just anxious to get home.  Whatever your excuse is, it could cost you so much more than just the speeding ticket you might expect.   On top of the big ticket the local cops will throw at you, your car insurance premiums could increase by as much as 83.3% or more depending on the severity of the ticket.

In general,  there are few things that are in your control to affect your insurance premiums.  You cannot change your gender or make yourself older to help reduce the price of car insurance. You can however, control your driving behavior on the road.  Drive safely and you can minimize your car insurance premiums.  

Check out the full article here.

What You Need to Know About Renters Insurance

In our current economy, pinching pennies is a part of life for most of us: buying store brands instead of name brands, driving out of your way for cheaper gas, eating out less often.  If you’re renting your home, you may be tempted to pass on renter’s insurance. It’s an extra expense and not one you need right now, right? Here’s the skinny on renters insurance.  Sure, you may never use it. And if that’s the case, then you’re lucky and should count your blessings.  However, like all insurance, it’s really great to have it when your luck runs out.

The average person isn’t aware of what renters insurance covers, which may be half of the reason why people don’t bother with it.  Renters insurance covers the contents of your home. Looking around your home, you might think that you don’t need to insure your possessions – that it’s not worth it. But, according to USAA, the average renter has more than $20,000 in possessions.  Inventory your possessions and their worth and your insurance agent can help get you a policy with sufficient coverage for all your electronics, jewelry, furniture, and other valuables. 

Your renters insurance covers more than just your valuables. Did you know that if you couldn’t live in your rented premises, your policy might pay to house you and your family while repairs were being done?  For example, in the event of a fire, the repairs could take weeks. So not only would your renters policy cover your valuables inside the home, it would also cover your living accommodations while the repairs were taking place.  Ask your local agent if you have “loss of use” coverage.  Especially in Florida, making sure you have “loss of use” coverage is almost reason enough to get renters insurance due to hurricanes or floods.  There are also numerous potential discounts.  Talk to your local agent and see which apply to you. Your premiums could be reduced if you have fire alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, and deadbolts.  You can even save money by paying for the entire year upfront. 

Call us at Lakewood Financial to see how much money we can save you on your renters insurance.  Your local agent can help make sure that you’re properly protected without over paying. 

How Your New Pup Could Effect Your Homeowner’s Insurance

German shepherd puppy

Your new puppy is adorable but he may end up increasing your premiums.
(Photo credit by Unomano)

Can you be denied homeowners insurance coverage because of your dog?

Absolutely, and you definitely do not want to lie about having one.

If you’re an avid animal lover you know that animals can be unpredictable. If you’re thinking about getting a pet, that’s something you should know before you commit. No matter how long you’ve had your pet, how cute they are or sweet they are with you, you can never control 100% for their actions. For example, if your neighbor stops by and your dog bites them, your neighbor can sue you. On the one hand, your homeowners insurance should cover that. On the other, if you didn’t tell your homeowners insurance agent about the dog, they may deny the claim. In fact, depending on the breed of dog, they may not give you coverage at all. It’s important to note that this applies to all pets, not just dogs, but dogs are considered the riskiest pet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people suffer dog bites each year, with ~ 900,000 requiring medical treatment.
Forbes magazine recently put together a list of the “11 riskiest dog breeds for homeowners insurance” and here they are:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Doberman Pinschers
  3. Rottweilers
  4. German Shepherds
  5. Chows
  6. Great Danes
  7. Presa Canarios
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malamutes
  10. Siberian Huskies
  11. Wolf-hybrids

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t get these breeds, or that they are inherently ‘dangerous’. But before you purchase your new best friend, call your local insurance agent to see if that breed would be covered and how your homeowner’s policy would be affected.

Umbrella Policies:For Your Rainy Days

It’s hard to watch TV or listen to the radio and not hear an advertisement from 1-800-Ask-Gary or 411-pain.  Our culture has never been more litigious and Florida is one of the worst states for insurance claims.  Let’s say you’re working with your local insurance agent to make sure that your assets are all properly protected.  However, if you get in an accident with serious injuries and you’re at fault, your car insurance coverage probably will not be sufficient.  But at the same time, you don’t want to pay for a crazy comprehensive car insurance policy just in case something happens. So what can you do? If you don’t have sufficient coverage, your future wages can be garnished and your assets can be seized and most of us can’t afford to rebuild our lives after a major setback like that.

The answer: an umbrella policy.  An umbrella policy can be one of the most important forms of liability coverage.  Umbrella policies go above and beyond the coverage and limits of your homeowners insurance, auto insurance, and boat insurance policies.  If you’re in an accident and your liability on your boat insurance has been exhausted, your umbrella policy will kick in.  Your umbrella policy will also cover claims that would not typically be included in your regular policies.  For example, your umbrella policy could pay for your attorney fees and other court costs.  Your umbrella policy should cover your net worth, but you should set up a meeting with your local insurance agent and discuss whether or not an umbrella policy is the right choice for you.

Adding Christmas Gifts to Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s InsuranceThe Gallup poll has estimated that American’s will spend on average $781 this holiday season. This number is up nearly $100 since last year. Since people are planning on spending more this year, you can assume that you’ll also be receiving more this year. The one thing you’re probably not concerned about is adding your Christmas gifts to your insurance policy. You probably already have a homeowners or renters insurance policy (and if you don’t, you should). However, relying on your homeowners insurance to cover all of your new gifts might end up being a tragic mistake.

Your homeowner’s insurance policy might have coverage limits for personal possessions and there may be sub-limits for certain types of property. For example, your policy may have a dollar amount limit on jewelry and if you receive an engagement ring, a tennis bracelet, or a nice watch for Christmas, you may go over that limit, leaving some of your valuables unprotected.

The other factor you’ll want to look into is whether or not your insurance policy limits use actual cash value or replacement cost. The ‘actual cash value’ is the cost to replace the item with a new item that is similar, minus depreciation for that item. The ‘replacement cost’ is the cost to replace the item with a new similar item. The main difference is whether or not depreciation is subtracted from the value of the item. For example, if you purchased a TV a few years ago, an actual cash value coverage policy will reimburse the original cost of the TV, minus depreciation whereas a policy with replacement coverage would reimburse the cost of a new TV.

From Lakewood Financial, we suggest that after the holidays, you call your local insurance agent and review your home insurance policy and adjust it as necessary to make sure that you and your assets are properly protected. Happy holidays!

Homeowner’s Insurance Replacement Cost Value Explained

Lakewood Financial Homeowner's InsuranceHave you ever wondered why the property appraiser has your home valued at ‘X’ and the home is insured for ‘Y’? Or maybe your home’s tax assessment is much lower than your home’s current insurance? The discrepancy between those values can be easily explained if you know how your property is valued. 

There are 3 important values: replacement cost, market value, and tax assessment value.  These values will, more likely than not, not be the same.

The market value, or appraised value, is how much the property is worth to another buyer and includes the value of the land.  The market value is the value used for loan underwriting purposes and is the most likely value of the property if it were to be sold. The market value is probably the value that you think of when you think of the value of your home. The market value can fluctuate wildly depending on market conditions and is nearly irrelevant to insurance companies.

The tax assessment value is the value placed on a property for municipal tax purposes.  The tax assessment value is somewhat tied to the market value, but it is more heavily influenced by the local municipality and generic market conditions. 

The replacement cost of the home is essentially the cost to re-build the home without the cost of the lot or the land. The replacement cost is the only valuation that insurance companies are interested in and it is driven by the cost of materials & the cost of labor in that area. Keep in mind that included in the replacement cost is the assumption that a loss occurred.  In order for the insurance company to have to re-build your house, a ‘loss’ (like a fire) happened. This means that before the insurance company can begin re-constructing the house, they will have to clear the area of debris to prepare it for the rebuilding.  This cost is included in your replacement value cost.

The important thing to remember is that each house is unique and these values cannot be interchanged.  Ultimately, insurance is about protecting yourself. If your coverage is insufficient, it can lead to negative financial consequences.  The best thing that you can do is work with your local insurance agent, who is acting as your advocate.  At Lakewood Financial Services, we are your personal safety net.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding your coverage, we’re always here for you