Start the Year Right With Insurance Savings

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Shopping for insurance is no one’s idea of a good time, but here at Lakewood Financial, we try to make it as simple, painless and cost-effective as possible. We are an all-lines, local independent agency, based in Bradenton, and we: …
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Four Ways You Can Drive More Safely on Florida’s Roads

Drive More SafelyWhile Floridians don’t have to cope with driving in extreme winter weather the way other parts of the country do, just like everywhere else, we do have challenges to safe driving. Challenges like distractions, traffic, construction, and yes, weather (think driving home from work in the pouring rain!). Since one of the best ways to lower your car insurance premiums is to keep your driving record clean, here are four ways you can drive more safely on Florida’s roads.

 

Watch out for weather conditions

We may not get snow, but we do get rain, fog, and even sometimes smoke. Whenever visibility is reduced, slow down and make sure your low beams are on (high beams can reflect back and further impair your ability to see). Unless it’s unsafe, try to drive with the flow of traffic and avoid changing lanes. (Click here for tips on safe driving in the rain.) Don’t drive with your hazard lights on.

 

Don’t stop on the road. If you must stop, after signaling, pull safely as far off the road as possible. Then you may put on your hazard lights.

 

Ditch the distractions

While you’re behind the wheel, put your phone away, turn off the radio if it’s distracting you, and avoid having animated and engrossing conversations—save those for when you’re safely at your destination. Try not to let anything distract you from your driving. It only takes a moment of inattention to cause an accident.

 

Maintain your vehicle

Proper maintenance will help you avoid breakdowns or equipment failures, both of which might cause an accident. Click here for car maintenance tips.

 

Drive defensively

We know you’re a good driver, but what about everyone else on the road? We share the road with other drivers, bicyclists, motorcycles, and even pedestrians, some of whom are distracted or drive recklessly. Drivers who speed, change lanes abruptly, or drive much slower than the flow of traffic create a dangerous environment. Slow down and change lanes to allow reckless drivers to pass, or stay a safe distance away from them. Watch for pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles. Also, be sure to move over a lane when passing emergency vehicles or an accident at the side of the road. 

 

Two areas of special concern are construction zones and areas where there are children. In construction zones, follow posted speed limits, and watch for debris in the road—change lanes if possible to avoid running over it. Also be mindful of workers in the area who may be near traffic or need to cross the road.

 

Where children are present, such as in school  zones or near parks, use extra caution. Children are unpredictable and can be hard to see. Slow down and be prepared to stop. (And click here for back-to-school safe driving tips.)

 

And we don’t need to remind you to use your turn signal when preparing to turn, do we?

 

Follow these tips to drive safely, keep your driving record clean, and reduce your car insurance premium. If you have any questions about car insurance, or you need a quote, please call Lakewood Financial at 941-747-4600, or contact us online.

Protect Your Business With Commercial Auto Insurance

commercial auto insuranceIf you’re in an accident, the last thing you want to hear is, “I’m sorry, this isn’t covered under your personal auto policy.” That’s the risk you take if you don’t purchase a commercial auto policy for any vehicles you or your employees use in your business.

 

Because a business has an increased liability in comparison to an individual, insurance companies exclude most business-related activity from personal auto policies. Commercial auto policies protect your business from financial losses resulting from an accident. They often include a broader range of coverages, such as physical damage (comprehensive and collision coverage), medical payments, uninsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection, loss of use/rental reimbursement coverage, and emergency roadside assistance. They can be tailored to suit your needs—and they don’t always cost more than a personal auto policy would.

 

If you’re not sure if you need a commercial auto policy, think about how and if your vehicles are used in your business. Certain types of activities and situations definitely call for a commercial auto policy, including the following:

  • The vehicle is used for pick up or delivery of goods, or for a taxi or other livery service (Uber or Lyft drivers have special needs—see “Coverage Options for Uber and Lyft Drivers.”
  • The vehicle is owned or registered to a partnership, business, corporation, or some other entity
  • The vehicle is driven on an occasional or regular basis by employees or non-listed drivers
  • The vehicle is leased or rented to someone else
  • The vehicle is outfitted with permanent equipment, such as a ladder rack or permanent tool box used in your business

 

Whether you’ve started a side hustle, you’re an owner/operator of a one-person business, or if you employ multiple people and have a fleet of vehicles, we can help you find a competitive commercial auto policy. Lakewood Financial has been serving the car insurance and commercial auto insurance needs of Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton/Sarasota, and surrounding communities since 2003. Please call us at 941-747-4600 to discuss your situation, and/or to get a free, no-obligation quote, or contact us online.

Have a Happy—and Safe—Holiday Season

holiday safety
The holidays are fast approaching, and with them the fun and excitement of getting together with family, traveling, exchanging gifts, and enjoying special holiday traditions. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be one of increased risks, whether of fire, theft, or accident. Here are some holiday safety reminders from your friends at Lakewood Financial:

Decorate safely

Live trees are beautiful, but they can also be fire hazards. Water your tree regularly so it doesn’t dry out, and keep open flames away from it. Also be sure to check Christmas lights for frayed or exposed wires that could spark and start a fire.

Keep fragile, breakable ornaments securely fastened at the top of the tree and out of reach of children and pets.

If you decorate with candles, snuff them out before you go to bed or leave the house (and turn off flameless candles, too). Don’t leave them burning unattended where children or pets could burn themselves or knock them over.

Be cautious when decorating up high—use a ladder, not a chair or other piece of furniture. You’ll be less likely to fall.

Foil thieves

Don’t give thieves the gift of easy access to your holiday purchases. Help avoid a car break-in by keeping purchases locked in your trunk or where no one can see them. Lock car doors, keep windows rolled up, and park in a well-lighted area.

Be alert when shopping in a crowd. Don’t carry a lot of cash, keep your purse close to your body, or carry your wallet in a front pocket.

If no one is home and you’re expecting delivery of holiday packages, keep them safe from “porch pirates” by seeing if you can have packages delivered to you at work, or by arranging for the post office to hold them.

After the holidays, don’t advertise the new gifts in your home. Dispose of boxes and other packaging discreetly.

(And remember to add your expensive gifts to your home inventory!) 

If you plan to travel, don’t announce your plans beforehand on social media. Stop your mail and newspaper, and set up lights on timers so your home looks occupied. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things.

Drive carefully

Holiday traffic can be busier than usual, and drivers may also be more distracted. Be extra careful, and remind your teen driver to do the same. Remember to buckle seat belts, put aside cell phones, and pay full attention to the road. 

If you plan to drink alcohol at a holiday party, designate a driver beforehand, or use a taxi or car service to bring you safely home.

Remember your pets

Holidays can be stressful for pets. Provide a safe, quiet place for them to retreat if the holiday festivities become too much for them. Also avoid bringing toxic plants such as mistletoe, holly, lilies, or amaryllis into your home. Don’t give them “people food,” and make sure any holiday chocolate is kept out of reach—chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

With a little thought and preparation, you can avoid potential holiday mishaps. We hope you have a very happy—and safe—holiday season!

And remember, we are here to help with any of your insurance needs. Just give us a call at 941-747-4600.

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!