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How to Avoid Roofing Scams

Imagine someone from a roofing company comes to the door and tells you they noticed a hole in your roof. Understandably, many people would suddenly worry about their roof and agree to let them “check it out.” Unfortunately, this can be a costly response. Learning to avoid roofing scams is an important step for homeowners.

Education is a large piece of the Lake Region Insurance Agency ethos. The more you learn about your home and your insurance, the better you can protect your hard work. 

Our team helps you insure everything from your car to your business, and we do it with integrity and clarity. Call or stop by one of our Greater Minnesota offices to get a free insurance quote and review.

Stay on Your Toes to Avoid Roofing Scams 

Unfortunately, not every service provider has the best intentions. Many shady practices exist that prey on a homeowner’s fears. The following are five tactics that some contractors use and how to avoid these scams.

1. “I See Damage”

Some companies train their employees to approach other homeowners in a neighborhood where they are working. These employees may knock on your door and tell you that while working on another roof, they spotted damage on yours.

They will oh-so-kindly offer to do you a favor by going up to take a look. Once this Good Samaritan contractor comes down, they will tell you that there is, in fact, damage. 

Shady roofing companies will tell you they spotted damage on your roof while working on one nearby.

There are two significant problems with this. First, you have no way of knowing if there is damage unless you go up to look, which isn’t safe. Second, they may very well have caused damage themselves while they were up there. 

Their next step is to pressure you into getting your roof fixed ASAP, by their team, of course. The pressure will increase if you decline the contractor or tell them that you need to think about it. 

To protect yourself from this tactic, do not allow anyone onto your roof who shows up unsolicited. Ever. 

Instead, hire a reputable company to do a roof inspection each year or after a storm. With this habit, you will know what shape your roof is in and if there are any potential problems. You also will develop a relationship with a roofer you can trust.

2. “Unforeseen Circumstances”

Another popular scam in the roofing world relies on the dreaded “unforeseen circumstances.” A contractor will begin a job at an agreed-on price, usually a strangely low price, and then the following will happen:

  • They inform you that the damage is worse than they initially thought.
  • They tell you that the amount and cost of materials are going to be significantly more. 

They will present this scenario as urgent and ask you for money, or else their crew will have to stop work on your roof. This scene can strike terror in the hearts of homeowners, and they end up forking over the cash.

Do not agree to new or changed invoices without seeing receipts for materials.

To make sure you don’t end up in this situation, get at least three bids from highly-rated roofers before choosing a contractor. Read through the contract carefully to ensure that it is very detailed and thorough, without vague language.

If a contractor says there is an increased materials cost, ask to see their receipts before paying a new invoice. If they can’t produce receipts, or they don’t match the invoice, don’t pay.

3. “No Deductible”

Watch out for a roofing company that tells you they will pay your deductible or that your roof will be free because insurance covers it. This is a scam. Close the door. Walk away. Do not agree to anything with this company.

Disreputable roofers will lure homeowners with a “no deductible” scheme. They tell the owners that the company will pay the deductible and handle everything with their insurance company. 

Then they give you a lower bill to pay while submitting a second, much higher bill to the insurance company. This situation is fraud, plain and simple. And even though you aren’t trying to be fraudulent, you can get in trouble if this comes to light.

To avoid roofing scams like this one, always talk with your insurance agent for clarity about your policy. 

4. “That Was Quite a Storm!”

Storm chasers are not just thrill-seekers who want to see a tornado up close. Some roofing companies fall under this label, too, and not for good reasons.

A common roofing scam is to canvas a neighborhood after a storm, telling homeowners that their roofs sustained major damage. In a panic, many people agree to have these companies do repairs or replacements. Sadly, many times there is no significant harm, and the homeowner ends up paying for nothing. 

Avoid roofing scams by getting multiple quotes from reputable companies.

Of course, storms often do a lot of damage to homes and roofs. Hail damage alone can account for up to $14 million each year. The trick is knowing how to discern what you really need.

After a storm, or any time you suspect damage to your roof, call your insurance agent first. Then reach out to well-reviewed roofers who are fully licensed and bonded to get at least three estimates.

The truth is that after a significant weather event, reputable roofing companies are hard at work for their clients. They don’t have time to wander through neighborhoods looking for jobs. Again, unsolicited inspections or quotes are a huge red flag.

Protect Your Interests

Here are the best ways to protect your home and wallet from roofing scammers:

  • Never allow any unsolicited contractor into your home or onto your roof.
  • Read reviews and ask for referrals from people you trust.
  • Invest in an annual roof inspection and keep up on necessary maintenance.
  • Call your insurance agent with any questions or if anything doesn’t sound right to you.

Always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, or you have internal alarms sounding, you are probably correct in your instincts. There are plenty of excellent companies who work with integrity, so you should never feel pressured to work with a scam artist.

Lake Region Is on Your Side

Our Lake Region team works hard to find a homeowners policy that meets your needs. We are independent agents who do not have to sell only one company’s insurance plans. We search through all possible options to find the right fit for your home.

With offices located in Willmar, New London, and Cokato, Minnesota, we work in the communities that we serve. Stop by one of our offices today or visit the website to request a free quote

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The Importance of Builders’ Risk Insurance

If you’re in construction, you know how to cover all the bases to ensure a job well done. But you also carry risks that are unique to your work. Make sure you protect yourself with the addition of builders’ risk insurance. 

Seasoned builders understand that strange and unexpected events can occur when building or remodeling for a client. Challenges like extreme weather, stolen materials, and unforeseen delays can kill your timeline and cost money. 

While builders’ risk insurance won’t stop these setbacks, it can offer some peace of mind in a stressful situation. With adequate coverage in place, you have protection when issues arise.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we take pride in working with our area’s builders. It’s an honor and an investment in our community to help protect our neighbors. Contact us today for a free quote and to discuss how you can protect your bottom line

What Is Builders’ Risk Insurance?

Also called “course of construction insurance,” a builders’ risk plan is a specific type of property policy for those in construction. It typically covers materials and property during construction and renovation projects. The policyholder can receive reimbursement for the physical loss of these items due to a covered event.

The construction business is highly variable from contractor to contractor, and no two construction projects are the same. Your insurance agent will help you create a unique policy for your project’s needs. A customized builders’ risk plan gives you the coverage you require without charging you for items that don’t apply to your situation. 

Builders' risk insurance protects your bottom line.

Some of the typical events that can trigger a builders’ risk claim include:

  • Theft 
  • Vandalism
  • Natural Disaster (“Act of God”)
  • Explosion or Fire
  • Material Damage in Transit

Theft is the most likely situation that builders face. Materials and equipment valued at about one billion dollars disappear from construction sites every year. So having as much coverage as possible is crucial for protecting your investment and livelihood.

Besides covering the materials, your policy may cover “soft expenses” such as loss of income and debris removal.

Typically, you will choose between policies that cover ground-up construction, installation, or renovation. Be sure to spend time with your agent going over all of your needs and concerns to get the best policy for your protection.

They will likely discuss several questions with you before setting up your policy: 

  • What types of exposure will your site have at each phase of work?
  • Do you have scaffolding?
  • Will valuable documents, such as blueprints, be on-site?
  • Is the project residential or commercial?

Many variables come into play with this type of insurance. Your agent will help you choose a policy to cover what you need.

Not Just for the Builder

If you have any stake in a construction or remodeling project, you may be eligible to buy builders’ risk insurance. It’s actually not only for the builder, and many people don’t realize that.

Homeowners should consider builders' risk insurance for new construction.

Talk with your insurance agent about this protection if you are in any of the following roles:

  • Builder
  • Architect
  • Homeowner
  • Investor
  • Lender
  • Subcontractor

It is always better to be safe than sorry, and looking into your eligibility for a builders’ risk policy is a smart move. If you are eligible to purchase coverage, you will appreciate the protection and peace of mind.

Why Do Homeowners Need Builders’ Risk Policies?

If you are in the process of watching your new house taking shape, congratulations! New construction is the perfect way to get exactly what you want in a home.

It’s important to know that your homeowner’s insurance likely will not cover the structure until it is complete. During construction, theft, vandalism, or a sudden wind storm could cause damage and loss that has no coverage.

Check with your contractor to find out what level of insurance they carry and what it covers. In most situations, it’s wise for the homeowner to also buy a policy to ensure sufficient protection.

Exclusions In a Builders’ Risk Policy

As with any insurance plan, a builders’ risk insurance policy will have items or events that do not have coverage. You may need to consider separate riders or plans.

Generally, standard builder policies do not cover the following:

  • Machinery and Equipment
  • Injuries 
  • Employee Theft
  • Subcontractors
  • Other People’s Property
  • Earthquake Damage
  • Your Vehicle
  • Workmanship and Professional Liability

Make sure you discuss all of your needs with your insurance agent. In most cases, you likely need liability and workers’ compensation plans in place, too. Construction is too risky of an undertaking to leave yourself unprotected.

Builders' risk insurance doesn't cover injuries. Talk to you agent about workers compensation.

One thing to clarify before buying a policy is whether or not it will cover your tools. Different providers vary in what protection they offer for tools. Some do not include them at all in a builders’ risk insurance plan. Others provide coverage for tools that are on the insured site. 

Talk with your independent insurance agent to make sure you have sufficient protection for your situation.

Let’s See How We Can Serve You

Our Lake Region Insurance Agency clients are our neighbors. It’s an honor to serve the Greater Minnesota community by meeting their insurance needs.

From individuals to businesses, we have policies that fit the bill. We look forward to learning about you as we create a policy that will give you confidence. 

For over 50 years, Lake Region has provided personalized insurance options to our community. As independent agents, we can give our clients service without an agenda. Our team does not have to select policies only from one provider. We can search hundreds of choices to find the right plan for you.

Your home, auto, business, and health deserve all the protection possible. When you work with our agents, you get high-quality service and unparalleled expertise.

With offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we are readily available to meet your insurance needs. Please stop by one of our locations or our website today to get a free quote. We look forward to hearing from you.  

 

 

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How To Avoid Burst Pipes This Winter

Winter can be one of the most fun times of the year in Greater Minnesota, with one exception. Frozen pipes in your house are extraordinarily not fun. They can lead to water damage, plumbing bills, and major inconveniences for the whole family. Learn how to avoid burst pipes this winter so that your home will stay warm and dry.

If disaster does strike, do you have sufficient coverage? Lake Region Insurance Agency is here for you. Contact us today for a free insurance review and quote. We’ll make sure your policies cover all of your treasures.

Why Do Pipes Freeze and Burst?

Do you remember experimenting with ice in grade school? Many school kids have proudly displayed a container misshapen by the water frozen within it. 

Water expands as it freezes, and if that occurs inside your home’s pipes, they could break.

Water in the pipe between the faucet and the ice is under increased pressure as the ice pushes forward. If this force is greater than the integrity of the pipe, the pipe will burst

Burst pipes can also happen without freezing. Tree roots, corrosion, and clogs all have the potential to cause a plumbing failure that leaves you with a gigantic mess. 

What You Can Do To Avoid Burst Pipes

Cover your outdoor faucets to avoid burst pipes.

To avoid burst pipes, make sure you are familiar with the plumbing in your home. Inspect your pipes annually, from where they enter your house to where they disappear behind interior walls. 

Seal any gaps or cracks around pipes coming into your home. Your pipes will stay warmer, and your heating bill will thank you. 

If your plumbing travels through an unheated basement, consider adding an auxiliary heater safe for indoor spaces. You don’t need to create a sauna, but you do need to keep some heat around the pipes. About sixty degrees should be warm enough to keep the water flowing. 

If adding heat isn’t a good option for you, you can use heating tape. This flexible silicone tape wraps around your pipes to keep them warm enough to avoid freezing. It’s important to plug it into a GFCI outlet. Don’t use an extension cord for this.

When it is frigid outside, you can help prevent frozen pipes by leaving a couple of faucets dripping. The constant flow of water, even just a slow drip, can help avoid burst pipes.

For plumbing in a cabinet, such as under the sink, leave the cabinet doors open slightly. The heat from the house will circulate better around the pipes to keep them warm. 

When winter is setting in, and you’re buttoning up outdoors, make sure to disconnect your outside hoses. For extra precaution, add an insulated spigot cover at each exterior faucet. 

How To Identify a Frozen Pipe

Poor water flow can be a sign of frozen pipes.

If you’ve noticed something off-kilter about your plumbing but aren‘t sure if you have a frozen pipe, start investigating. Here are the telltale signs of a problem:

  • You will have little to no water flow when you turn on the faucet. 
  • A frozen pipe is likely to have frost on the outside of it.
  • A strange smell coming from the drain can be an indicator of a problem. Ice can partially block the flow of wastewater out of the house. Gases will build up and create a nasty odor.
  • The pipe may be misshapen due to the increased pressure.

If you have a frozen pipe that hasn’t broken yet, you can take careful steps to thaw it:

  • Turn your hairdryer to the lowest setting and gently heat the pipe. Leave the faucet open, so any steam has a path to escape. 
  • Wrap an electric heating pad around the pipe to warm it. 
  • If the pipe is in a location without access to an outlet, try wrapping it in hot, damp towels or a heated rice pack.
  • If you have doubts, hire a professional.

Do not try to thaw the pipe with an open flame or extreme heat. Regardless of the method you choose, do not leave a heat source unattended. 

What To Do If You Have a Burst Pipe

Document all the damage if you have burst pipes.

A burst pipe will pour water like a wide-open faucet. The first thing to do in this situation is to turn off the home’s main water supply. Every person in the house should be familiar with the main water valve. PRO TIP: Be sure to inspect the valve once a year to make sure it isn’t stuck or damaged. 

Once the water is off, open all the faucets and flush the toilets to drain the remaining water.

If you’re handy, you may be able to replace the damaged pipe on your own. If not, contact your favorite plumber.

Make sure to document all the damage for an insurance claim. If possible and safe to do so, get photos or video of the following:

  • The broken pipe or pipes
  • Standing water
  • Damaged furniture and flooring
  • Water stains on walls or the ceiling – Use a tape measure to show the size of the affected areas.
  • Other belongings that sustained damage, such as electronics

How To Clean Up After Water Damage

Once you have your photos and handle the leak, it’s time to address all of the aftermath. And time is of the essence. Water damage can lead to mold and other issues that are harmful to your health.

In the short term, mop up standing water and dry surfaces with towels. Set up fans and open the windows, if possible, to help dry out personal items. You may also rent an industrial fan to work faster.

Your insurance agent will help you handle your claim.

For significant leaks that do tremendous damage, you probably will need to hire a professional team of experts. They will have the tools and know-how to restore your home to pre-flood condition. Your insurance agent can help you find a reputable business. 

Check with your insurance agent before you discard any destroyed items. They are likely to send a team member to take additional photos and gather information for your claim. 

Your agent will walk you through the process to make sure you pay as little as possible out of pocket. Keep them in the loop and reach out with any questions along the way.

Make Sure Your Insurance Has You Covered

Lake Region Insurance Agency can help you take care of your home and all the items in it. Contact us today for a comprehensive policy review to make sure your plans are sufficient. Our agents in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN, are ready to help. 

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Your Guide to a Safe Home Office

The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of people suddenly to join the work-from-home ranks. And it’s likely that many will continue to do so even after the danger passes. Setting up a safe home office is a top priority for home-based workers, whether they work for themselves or someone else. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know that safety comes partly from your insurance coverage. So we help our customers find the policies they need to protect them at home and elsewhere. Get in touch today for a free insurance review to see how we can assist you.

Safety Considerations in a Home Office

Most people are aware of the health and safety guidelines present in traditional workplace environments. If you work in an office or other business setting, you probably took part in some sort of safety training at one time.  

In your own home, however, it can be easy to take your eye off the ball. The familiar space can allow you to become more comfortable and relaxed, creating a perfect opportunity for an accident. Trips and falls that result in injury are far more common than people often think.

Trips and falls at home are surprisingly common.

Additionally, your employer can have legal repercussions if you are injured, even if the accident takes place in your home. According to OSHA, your employer has a responsibility to ensure your safety by helping you comply with accepted standards. They clarify that this responsibility applies to a workplace “in a designated area in an employee’s home.” 

Ensuring that you are working in a safe home office is not only a benefit for you. It can also be essential for your employer. And if you are self-employed, safety measures are still necessary.

How Can I Set Up a Safe Home Office?

When you prepare your office space, look at your area from the perspective of an employer rather than a homeowner. There are a few crucial areas to consider as you work to ensure a safe home office.

The Environment and Ergonomics

Your workspace needs to be appropriate for your role and the tasks you have to accomplish. If you need to handle any machinery, make sure you have enough room to do so safely. The space should have ample light, be well-ventilated, and provide enough room for you to move around safely.

If you spend hours working at a computer, then a safe home office should include an ergonomic chair and desk. If at all possible, invest in a desk that can raise and lower, as needed. Feet should be flat on the floor when you are sitting, and your arms should be at about a 90-degree angle when typing.

A safe home office includes having an ergonomic chair, desk, and keyboard.

There should also be adequate lighting at your desk so that you can see the screen without needing to squint or strain. Take plenty of breaks from your desk to stretch and move your body. Ideally, you will give yourself a few moments away from the computer about every 30 minutes.

Tripping Hazards

Slips, trips, and falls are surprisingly common causes of injuries suffered in the workplace. This fact holds true even in a home office situation. In fact, your home’s stairs may be one of the biggest hazards to your safety. 

Make sure the floor around your workspace is completely clear and accessible without cords or cables that could cause a fall. Invest in enough storage for products and paperwork so that you do not have things in your way as you walk through your space.

Fire Hazards

A house fire is a significant concern for any homeowner. Fire safety must be a factor when making your plan for a home office. Be sure to include all of these safety tips in your workspace:

  • Keep walkways in your office clear to ensure a quick evacuation.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher in your office. Additional extinguishers should be in the garage and near the kitchen. Learn how to use one.
  • Check that there is a working smoke detector in your office and test it regularly.
  • Know and practice an evacuation plan. This step is critical if your office is not on the ground floor. 
  • Do not smoke or light candles in your home office.

A safe home office should have a functioning fire extinguisher.

Security

Whether you own your own business or work from home for someone else, maintaining a safe home office also includes data security. You must follow best practices for data protection, confidentiality, and customer privacy. It is crucial to have a secure place to store any files and ensure this is only accessible by those with permission.

Your computer will also need protection to maintain the integrity of sensitive data or information. Multi-step authentication and anti-virus software are two vital pieces of home office data safety. 

If you are working for yourself, cyber liability insurance is another critical component to consider. And when working as a remote employee, you still need to adhere to your employer’s requirements and training. Be sure to talk with them about the measures you need to take when working from a home office.

Electrical Hazards

Overloaded electrical circuits can be a major fire risk and could cause an outage that damages your computer or files. Avoid the temptation to use multiple extension cords that could overload your system. If you need to install additional outlets, hire a licensed professional to do the work safely.

A surge protector is essential for protecting your computer equipment. Fuse breakers should have clear labels and be easily accessible. Ensure that you do not have any frayed wires in use and always address electrical concerns right away.

How Can We Help?

The Lake Region independent agents are the friendly experts for your Minnesota insurance needs. We are here to help you find everything you need to protect your home, autos, health, and business. 

With three offices throughout Greater Minnesota, Lake Region Insurance Agency is able to help no matter where you are. Get in touch with the team today for a free insurance review, and make sure that you have sufficient coverage.

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The Importance of a Safety Audit for Your Business

Running and maintaining a business includes the responsibility to keep your employees and workplace safe and secure. A safety audit is an essential process to help you ensure compliance, reduce accidents, and keep everyone safe on-site.

The staff at Lake Region Insurance Agency is here to help you find the right coverage for your business. From liability to workers’ compensation, we offer products that protect you and your company. Call or visit today for a comprehensive insurance review and quote.

What Is a Safety Audit?

A safety audit evaluates your company’s existing safety practices and programs. It systematically assesses the processes you have to determine if there are any gaps in your safety protocols. A safety audit collects data regarding employee training, record-keeping, and workplace processes. 

An audit also can act as a legal buffer if something does go wrong. If you have a workplace accident or injury, proof of consistent safety audits can help mitigate problems. 

An auditor looks at specific areas of a safety program when doing their assessment:

  1. Does it embrace industry best practices and regulatory requirements for compliance?
  2. Is there clear and thorough documentation of safety protocols?
  3. Does employee training happen regularly, and does it empower workers to follow regulations?

A safety audit will look at employee training protocols.

Is This the Same as a Safety Inspection?

A safety audit is not the same as a safety inspection. Facility inspections need to happen more frequently and look for immediate concerns in the workplace. 

A safety inspection focuses on identifying immediate hazards and unsafe practices that may be present in a facility. For example, an inspection may look for dangers such as:

  • Tripping Hazards
  • Fire Safety Concerns
  • Dangerous Substances
  • Incomplete Documentation

So while an audit looks at safety systems for the business as a whole, an inspection looks for immediate and potential concerns.

A Safety Audit Helps Support OSHA Compliance

Fans of the American version of The Office might remember the episode where Michael drives a forklift in the warehouse. He has no training and ends up creating a huge mess and safety problem. 

What is funny on television can put lives in danger in reality. Workplace safety is serious business.

In addition to the impact they have on employees, workplace injuries are also costly to an employer. The private sector has almost three billion non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses each year. This number is staggering, considering how many accidents are preventable.

Office workers need to take safety precautions, too.

Companies must comply with regulations mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Safety audits are a significant part of proving adherence to these rules. Failure to comply can result in fines or even a shutdown of the business.

OSHA compliance officers can show up at a workplace unannounced for an inspection. This may be in response to an employee complaint, repeated insurance claims, or as a follow-up to a previous visit. 

They will look for immediate safety threats, signs of non-compliance, and evidence to support employee concerns. Unless there are catastrophic hazards, the business owner likely will have the opportunity to fix problems before OSHA takes punitive action. 

Consistent safety audits on your part as the owner will help ensure that OSHA doesn’t spot any concerns.

How Often Should I Conduct an Audit?

To truly be useful, a safety audit should happen more than once per year. A regularly-scheduled annual audit may actually be detrimental. 

Knowing that an audit is approaching may cause a sudden escalation in safety measures for that window of time. But then managers relax their standards until the next audit comes around. This behavior does not support workplace safety for employees.

A safety audit helps ensure your staff avoids accidents.

Instead, plan several audits throughout the year so that you can accurately assess your programs and protocols. Depending on the size of your operation, you may want to do a few smaller departmental audits and one business-wide review each year. 

For example, you could do a safety audit on the manufacturing floor at one time. Later you can assess the warehouse and distribution. And at a separate time, review the sales and administrative areas.

How Do I Prepare For A Safety Audit?

First, keep in mind that a safety audit’s purpose is not to penalize you. The goal is to identify the practices and procedures that are working and those that aren’t. Ultimately, an audit serves to keep people safe.

If your staff is following appropriate practices, preparing for an audit shouldn’t be overwhelming. But it may take some time.

Gathering all documentation is one of the most critical pieces. As applicable to your business, the auditor may need to see evidence of:

  • Employee Training
  • Employee Certifications
  • Maintenance of Fire Safety Equipment
  • CPR and First Aid Training
  • Food Handler Training
  • Incident Reports
  • Workers’ Comp Claims

The safety audit team should also review previous audits and any recommended corrections. They need to have access to all regulations at the federal, state, company, and local levels, including documentation and training requirements. 

Safety audits should happen regularly during the year.

Depending on your business, you may have an internal manager who can perform inspections and audits. Or, you might need to hire an outside expert to do the job. And in some instances, you might want to use both options.

In addition to general safety compliance experts, there are also industry-specific people available. For example, the trucking and construction industries may rely on auditors with significant expertise in those sectors.

What Are the Consequences of Skipping an Audit?

Safety audits should be non-negotiable at your workplace. Ignoring this practice makes it far too likely that accidents, illnesses, or injuries will occur. 

And without regular audits, repeat offenses become more common. If your company has too many violations or incidents, you could run the risk of losing your insurance. 

Of course, the most significant consequence of skipping a safety audit is that someone could suffer an injury or even death. There is no way to undo the repercussions of bypassing your audits.

How Can We Help?

Lake Region Insurance Agency has a staff of highly-qualified independent agents. We work hard to protect your hard work.

Your business deserves protection on every level, and we are here to provide it. With team members in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we can serve you and your business confidently and conveniently. Reach out today to get started.

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8 Ways to Protect Yourself Online

Our society certainly revolves around the internet today. Everything from social media to eCommerce to conducting business online is part of our everyday world now. It’s more important than ever to protect yourself online and keep your data secure. 

Just as the world has evolved into the virtual space, so has insurance. At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we work tirelessly to protect your information. And we offer cyber liability insurance for added security for those who need it.

Connect with one of our independent agents today to see how we can serve you and your insurance needs.

Protect Yourself Online in Every Way Possible

Viruses, malware, and hackers lurk everywhere. So it is wise to make use of the most thorough and reputable protection you can. In addition to paid security options, there are plenty of things you can do that don’t cost a dime. Here are eight ways to protect yourself online without spending extra money. 

1. Make It a Family Affair

Learning how to stay safe online requires education. As children are getting online younger and younger, it’s crucial that you teach them how to stay safe. Some of the essential rules for them to learn include:

  • Never tell their passwords to anyone but you. And make sure you know or have all of their passwords.
  • Never tell anyone online their name or location. 
  • Never send photos of themselves to anyone online. 

Keep children safe online by teaching them basic privacy rules.

Scammers, hackers, and other unsavory predators are extremely good at convincing children to break the rules. Try to keep your child within your sight when they are online.

Your children may not be the only ones vulnerable in this digital era. Your parents or grandparents are also likely targets for scammers. Be sure to help them learn how to stay safe online, as well.

2. Manage Your Passwords Carefully

Password management helps protect you and your assets by working to keep the bad guys at bay. Set a reminder on your phone or in your calendar to change your passwords every few months. At the very least, do this for your banking and credit card sites.

There is a surprising amount of easily-accessible data about you online. And hackers and bots will use that data when trying to guess your passwords. In general, create passwords that meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum of eight characters
  • A mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols
  • A combination of lowercase and uppercase letters
  • No version of your name – This includes first, middle, and last names. 
  • No pet names
  • No portion of your user name
  • No birth dates, anniversaries, or phone numbers
  • No social security numbers
  • Unique passwords for each site

If you struggle to create strong passwords, there are password generators available to help. And to keep them all secure, you can consider using a password manager, as well.

3. You’ve Got Mail

Protect yourself online by paying attention to signs of email scams.

Be cautious of emails you receive from an unknown source. Don’t click on links and never reply with personal information or bank account numbers.

Unfortunately, you must be wary of emails that appear to come from legitimate companies, too, such as Amazon or Apple. Many scams trick people into thinking the email is from a real account. And many of these attempts are very convincing.

No business or bank will ever ask you to send information like your SSN or credit card numbers to them by email. Always log into your accounts to handle any business with those institutions.

4. Be a Cautious Social Butterfly

Social media has become ever-present in our society. Millions of people use it to connect with others and to run their businesses.

But you must keep in mind that nothing you share on social media is truly private. No matter how many security measures are set up, that information is out of your hands once you share it. So be cautious about anything you post publicly.

5. Be Careful with Public Wi-Fi 

Avoid using any computer except your own or your company’s. Public devices do not have the same level of protection in place and carry greater risk. Remember to log out of every online account and web browser you use while on any computer but your own.

Similarly, be cautious when using shared, public Wi-Fi, such as at a coffee shop. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts when you are not on your home internet.

Be cautious when working on a public Wi-Fi.

Consider setting up two-step authentication for any account that offers it. Although it makes logging in a slightly longer process, it does give you extra protection. This option can help you protect yourself online no matter where you are.

6. Back It Up

Data breaches happen regularly. In 2019, there were more than 2000 events that exposed millions of people’s information.

Backing up your information to at least one secure location will allow you to retrieve your data. For some people, using an external hard drive might be enough. But most people also use a cloud storage system, such as Google. Many data storage providers have redundant security measures to keep your back-up safe.

7. Don’t Ignore the Operating System Updates

Your operating system often offers updates that may seem time-consuming. And you may not even notice any difference after an update. While this may feel like a waste of time, updating your operating system regularly is vital to your data security.

Updates frequently include measures to boost the capability of your malware and firewall. These systems need to remain up-to-date to protect your data from viruses and other attacks.

8. Pay Attention to Your Business Security

Cyber liability insurance helps you protect your business.

If you own a business, cybersecurity takes on a new level of necessity. Because you are working with other people’s data, you carry additional liability for its safety. Make sure you do everything possible to protect your clients’ and customers’ information.

Talk with your agent about purchasing cyber liability insurance to add more protection to your business. 

Protect Everything Possible

The extra steps you take in our digital world to protect yourself online can spare you heartache and financial catastrophe. Purchasing sufficient insurance coverage is another way to make sure you, your family, and your business have the protection you need. 

Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency at any of our three Greater Minnesota offices for a free review. Our independent agents are here to serve you in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN.

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What Makes Restaurant and Bar Insurance Different?

Insurance is an essential element for any business, and this is especially true for a bar or restaurant. Choosing the best restaurant and bar insurance can be challenging, as there is a range of essential components to consider.

Our skilled Lake Region Insurance Agency team can put together the perfect package for your business. With proper coverage in place, you help keep your bar or restaurant viable and thriving.

Why Is Bar and Restaurant Insurance Different?

Many insurance policies can apply to just about any type of business. Any owner will need to make sure they have liability and property coverage, at a minimum. But by their nature, bars and restaurants have additional needs and requirements. 

They deal with perishable products and thin profit margins. Any disruption in inventory or operations can have disastrous consequences for your revenue. 

And restaurants and bars inherently carry greater risk for the employees, customers, and business owners. Potential hazards include:

  • Food Poisoning
  • Burns and Cuts
  • Drunk Driving Incidents
  • Economic Shutdowns

Specialized insurance policies offer much-needed peace of mind and reassurance. You will be in a position to weather the setbacks that come your way.

Do I Need Bar and Restaurant Insurance?

Any establishment responsible for cooking and serving food or serving alcohol should ensure they have bar and restaurant insurance. These businesses can include any of the following:

  • Cafes
  • Coffee Shops
  • Delis and Sandwich Shops
  • Bars, Pubs, or Taverns
  • Diners
  • Fast-Food Restaurants
  • Food Delivery or Takeout Services
  • Pizzerias

Restaurant and bar insurance gives you peace of mind.

What Does Restaurant And Bar Insurance Include?

Each business has its own needs, depending on how they operate. There are many pieces that can fall under bar and restaurant coverage. Here are the most common and essential items to discuss with your agent.

Property Insurance

As the name suggests, property insurance offers financial protection for the business’s physical building and property. This coverage includes the actual structure and contents. To have a viable claim, you must prove that the damage occurred due to an insurable event such as theft or fire.

Spoilage Coverage

Obviously, spoiled food is a safety issue and cannot go to your customers. But spoilage also represents a significant financial loss when it happens. Restaurant and bar insurance must offer protection for any spoiled goods. 

Power outages or equipment failure can make food unsafe to use. It’s crucial that your insurance covers this type of loss so that you can protect your bottom line.

Equipment Breakdown

Similarly, equipment breakdown protection is a vital aspect of any restaurant and bar insurance. Since properly-working equipment directly ties to customer safety, this type of policy should be non-negotiable. These plans can cover the cost of repairs necessary for critical equipment. Covered items could include refrigerators, ovens, or coolers.

Equipment failure can be catastrophic to your restaurant.

Business owners need to prove that the equipment receives proper maintenance and servicing. Without this documentation, the insurance company may refuse your claim. Be sure to clarify with your agent what you need to do to stay in compliance with this part of your policy.

Employment Practices Liability

Restaurant and bar insurance should offer protection against employee lawsuits for situations such as discrimination. Assuming the employer’s behavior was not intentional, this type of policy provides protection.

Workers Compensation Insurance

This plan is an insurance policy for all businesses that have employees, not only restaurants and bars. Workers compensation helps cover costs if the worker sustains injuries in the workplace while on the job.

Given the presence of stoves, knives, and deep fryers in many commercial kitchens, workers face the risk of injury each day. Workers comp should be non-negotiable, no matter how many employees you have.

Business Continuation Insurance

Business continuation insurance has come to light during the current pandemic and can prove to be a lifeline for businesses. This type of policy will provide income if your business must close temporarily, allowing you to stay afloat. In addition, some policies can cover the cost of needing to relocate your bar or restaurant for a while.

Service industry businesses, such as food and drink establishments, can be particularly at risk during an interruption. They tend to have thin profit margins that disappear quickly. The right insurance policy can help mitigate this problem.

Liquor Liability Insurance

Liquor liability insurance is essential for your bar or restaurant.

Liquor liability insurance protects you against customers’ actions after drinking at your business. If you served someone alcohol who then caused an accident, you could face liability. 

These legal and medical claims can skyrocket, depending on the severity of the accident. Having the right policy in place can help you handle these expenses and protect your business.

So-called ‘Dram Shop’ laws make liquor liability insurance a necessity. These laws originate at the state level, not the federal. Dram laws kick in if a business serves a minor or a visibly intoxicated person who then creates harm due to their drinking. 

In the worst-case scenario in which a death occurs, a restaurant or bar could end up losing everything without coverage in place. Restaurant and bar insurance must include liquor liability if your business serves alcohol.

Business Owners Policy (BOP)

A business owners policy offers a strategy for having sufficient coverage at a more affordable price. This type of plan combines property and liability protection. When you work with a knowledgeable and independent agent, you can find the best option for your needs.

How Can We Help?

Here at Lake Region Insurance Agency, we have a significant advantage over other agencies. We are independent of any particular company, and our independence helps us to work objectively. Our team works to find the best fit for your business and budget. 

Our team of experts has decades of experience in the hospitality industry. We understand the intricacies of bar and restaurant insurance, so we can help you get the right policies. It’s an honor to serve our neighbors as they run their businesses.

Building a business is a tough gig, and we are here to help you protect your hard work and investment. Reach out today for a free insurance review or quote to see how we can help. With offices throughout Greater Minnesota, our agents are close by and ready to go to work for you.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Insurance

As the year draws to a close, many people are already looking forward to the new year.  Whether you see resolutions as a dreaded chore or as an exciting fresh start, they can be helpful. This year, consider fully embracing the world of adulting by making new year’s resolutions for insurance.

Getting your insurance ducks in a row might not be the most glamorous project. But it’s crucial for your long-term financial stability.

Here at Lake Region Insurance Agency, we take insurance seriously and want to help our customers wherever we can. Don’t let anything take you by surprise in 2021. After the craziness of 2020, preparation and planning are more important than ever. 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Insurance Shouldn’t Be That Way

You probably don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about insurance plans and policies. You might prefer to avoid it all together. But the truth is, if you ignore your coverage, you could end up with significant problems.

Get ready for the upcoming year with our top new year’s resolutions for insurance. You’ll be able to rest assured that you have the coverage you need.

New year's resolutions for insurance help you start the year right.

1. Figure Out What You Already Have

For many people, one of the key priorities for next year is to declutter, streamline, and minimize. But you can’t do this until you go through everything you currently have.

Why not extend this idea to your insurance by examining your current policies? Dig out your statements and take an hour or so to clarify what coverage you have in place, making a note of premiums, limits, and deductibles. That way, if you need to shop for a new policy, you can make sure you are getting the very best deal.

Better yet, set a time to meet with your insurance agent to review everything. They will help you find redundancies and gaps so that you can adjust your policies as needed.

2. Inventory and Document

The notion of doing a full, whole-house inventory can be overwhelming. But it is a vital part of your new year’s resolutions for insurance. 

If you are a victim of a fire, flood, storm, or natural disaster, the aftermath will be stressful. The forms and paperwork that come with filing an insurance claim can feel overwhelming when you are reeling from a loss.

With an up-to-date home inventory, you can significantly reduce the stress that comes with this process. Set aside some time, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and power through this job.

Make an inventory of all your household items in case you need to file a claim.

Don’t skimp on your inventory. Include anything that you would want to cover in an insurance claim. Go room by room and create a digital document that lists all pertinent items.

Alternatively, making a video inventory is a great option. It can be a relatively quick project, and you can store a copy off-site or in the cloud. Ideally, you will have an inventory list and a video. 

Make sure you include as much detail as possible. For big-ticket items, note when you purchased them and for how much. The more work you do now, the easier it will be if you need to make a claim.

3. Change Your Habits

Most resolutions involve establishing new habits, and this can also apply to your new year’s resolutions for insurance. Many people have behaviors or practices that boost their chances of needing to make an insurance claim. 

For example, do you tend to leave the kitchen while something is on the stove? Maybe you decide to do a quick chore like moving laundry to the dryer and then get sidetracked folding clothes. Soon, something could be burning. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the top reason for home fires and injuries. Something as simple as supervising the stove could keep you safe and reduce the risk of a fire. 

Avoid kitchen fires by staying close to the stove while cooking.

Some other habits that can lead to insurance claims include:

  • Leaving keys in a vehicle
  • Driving while distracted
  • Driving while impaired
  • Speeding

Working to change these dangerous habits will help you avoid an auto insurance claim or having your rates increase due to a ticket.

4. Increase Your Chances of A Deal

Your credit score can have a significant impact on your eligibility for good insurance deals and policies. With this in mind, improving your credit score should be one of your top new year’s resolutions for insurance. 

Many factors go into your credit score, and they are under your control. Some of the most critical considerations are bankruptcies, debt load, missed payments, and the length of your credit history. 

Make it a new year’s goal to get a copy of your credit report. You legally have the right to claim a report from each major reporting agency once every year. TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian each have a file that contributes to your credit score. 

Take time to examine your file so that you can dispute any errors and identify areas you need to improve. Improving your credit score may have a tremendous impact on your insurance rates.

5. Consider Umbrella Insurance

Once you have taken care of your major policies – life, auto, and home – it can be a good idea to invest in an umbrella policy. This plan is sort of a ‘catch-all’ policy designed to cover a wide range of circumstances. In a sense, it offers an extra layer of protection to your existing policies.

Umbrella policies can be useful for extreme situations that exceed the limits of your other policies. For example, if your dog gets out and bites someone, the medical and legal costs could surpass your homeowners’ policy limits. An umbrella policy can cover the difference, giving you significant protection.

How Can We Help?

The team at Lake Region Insurance Agency has the experience and expertise to help you make and keep your insurance resolutions. As independent agents, we can search for the perfect policy from a variety of providers.

We take time to get to know our clients well so that we can help them find all the coverage they need to protect themselves. If you are ready for this level of service, let’s connect. We have offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN. Give us a call or stop in to get started.

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Your Safety Guide For Older Drivers

Driving is a form of independence, and older drivers usually want to keep that autonomy as long as possible. But, as with all freedoms, there are responsibilities attached. The first week of December brings us Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. So it’s a perfect time to visit this topic.

If your driving habits are changing, contact Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free policy review. Perhaps you are driving less frequently or have eliminated a vehicle. Our team can make sure you aren’t paying more than necessary for your insurance.

Older Drivers Bring Experience and New Challenges

By the time a person reaches their seventies, they have likely been driving for more than half a century. That is a lot of practice and muscle memory built up. Compared to younger motorists, older drivers more often follow safe behaviors on the road, such as:

  • They are more likely to wear a seat belt.
  • They are less likely to drink and drive.
  • They are less likely to drive in bad weather.
  • They are less likely to speed.

These habits certainly help to keep mature drivers safe on the road. But, as people age, other risk factors begin to arise, including:

  • Failing Eyesight
  • Failing Hearing
  • Slower Reflexes
  • Taking Medications
  • Dementia

These issues likely contribute to the fact that older drivers are more likely to die in car crashes than middle-aged motorists. Because of these concerns, many states have different license requirements for mature drivers. The most common change is an increase in vision screenings and more frequent renewals.

Safe Practices for Aging Drivers

Eye exams might be more frequent for older drivers.

To stay safe while driving as you age, here are some health concerns to consider:

Eyesight

Make sure to get your vision checked every year. If you need glasses or contact lenses, always wear them while driving. And consider prescription sunglasses for sunny days if you notice your eyes becoming more sensitive to light as you get older.

If you ever notice fuzzy or double vision, see a doctor right away and do not drive until you get their approval.

Hearing

Many older drivers suffer from hearing loss, leading to unsafe driving situations. See a hearing specialist each year to ensure that you can hear sirens, trains, and horns while driving.

Medications

Any time your doctor prescribes a new medication for you, ask if you can safely drive while taking the prescription. Many medicines can lead to sleepiness or dizziness, making it unsafe for you to operate a vehicle.

Mental Confusion

Forgetfulness frequently increases with age. But if you find that you have a hard time remembering where you are going, it’s time to talk with your doctor. Confusion while you are on the road leads to mistakes that can be deadly.

How To Know When It’s Time To Turn In Your Keys

Most drivers know that they will have to give up their keys someday. But that knowledge doesn’t make it easier to accept the loss of independence.

Older drivers do not want to lose independence.

Recent data shows that more than 8000 traffic-related deaths involve older drivers. And adults age 75 and over are more likely to sustain injuries in a car accident, as well. So, knowing when it’s time to stop driving can be, literally, a matter of life and death.

Here are some signs that it may be time to stop driving:

  • You’ve had several near misses or crashes in a short time.
  • You’re getting lost going to places that are familiar to you.
  • You feel overwhelmed by road signs and the activity around you.
  • You’re accumulating dents from poor parking.
  • You take medications that make you tired.
  • Your doctor or family members express concerns about your driving.

Alternatives to Driving

Many people who don’t drive rely on family and friends for transportation. Of course, this option isn’t the same as driving yourself, but it is probably safer. And the odds are that you have several people who are willing and able to help.

If you do not have someone available to help with driving, taxis and ride-sharing services can be an excellent option. And some communities also have senior buses that take a group of older adults to the grocery store regularly. Some churches offer this option, too.

Online shopping and delivery can be the perfect way to get what you need without relying on others for transportation. Most major retailers offer this service.

How To Talk with Someone About Their Driving

Talking with a loved one about their driving can be difficult.

Many adults have to navigate this change with their parents or other loved ones. They are watching for signs that a person’s driving habits are no longer safe. Situations like the following raise enormous red flags:

  • Your grandfather confuses the brake pedal with the gas pedal and runs into the garage door. 
  • Your mother experiences decreased mobility and ‘helps’ her foot from one pedal to the other by lifting her leg with her hand. She hasn’t caused an accident yet. 
  • Your elderly uncle misjudges the distance between his car and a building and scrapes his door.

Whether it’s the ability to stay focused, to move quickly between pedals, or something else, diminished driving skills result in accidents. And if you are worried, you need to speak up to the person.

Nobody wants to have this conversation. Be gentle and stick to the facts. Explain which actions and behaviors you find worrisome. Talk through the potential consequences with the person and encourage them to make the choice while they are still in control. If they cause an accident, they may have no say in the matter.

Many older drivers are more open to the idea of stopping driving if it comes from their doctor. Ask your loved one to discuss any potential barriers to safe driving with their physician. 

While You’re on the Road, We’ve Got You Covered

Whether you’re ready to hang up your license or plan on driving for years to come, we are here to serve. With auto, home, life, and health insurance plans, our team has something for everyone.

Our offices in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, have friendly agents ready to help. Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free review of all your policy needs. 

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5 Tips for Choosing an Insurance Agent

Ads for large insurance companies dominate TV and social media. It can feel overwhelming to choose an insurance agent for your needs. How do you select the person that will serve you the best? Read on for tips and tricks to help.

The independent agent team at Lake Region Insurance Agency has served Greater Minnesota with integrity for over 40 years. We stand tall on our community values and work tirelessly for our clients, not the big insurance companies.

Call or come in for a free policy review and insurance quote. We’re always excited to find our neighbors the right coverage at a fair price.

Direct vs. Independent Agents: It Pays to Have Choices

Insurance companies like State Farm and American Family have agents who sell their policies directly to clients. These so-called direct or captive agents can only sell plans from their affiliate companies. 

Working with a direct agent is what many people are familiar with, but it significantly limits your options. Direct agents are called “captive” for a reason. They are unable to look elsewhere for policies that will serve you better.

Choosing an independent agent means you are their first focus, not one particular company. They can shop the market for you to discover which policies offer you the highest coverage for the best price.

Policy language can be challenging to sift through when it’s not your full-time job. A good agent takes the guesswork out of researching and buying a plan. 

Tips for Choosing an Insurance Agent You Can Trust

Choosing an insurance agent doesn't have to be difficult.

Whether you decide to use a captive or independent agent, there are certain things to consider as you make your choice. Here are five tips to keep in mind.

1. Determine Your Insurance Needs

Many insurance agencies specialize in specific policy types. While they can have expertise in those plans, they may not have the breadth of knowledge you need.

For example, if you run a small business out of your home, you could need any of the following types of coverage:

  • Home
  • Auto
  • Commercial Auto
  • Professional Liability
  • Cyber Liability
  • Medical
  • Umbrella

Anyone on your list of agent candidates should be able to handle all your coverage needs. Bundling all of your policies with one independent agent simplifies the process and usually saves you money.

It’s crucial for your agent to know about your professional and personal needs. With this information, they can search for policy options that may serve you better as your life changes.

2. Choose Someone Responsive

Insurance agents are people too. As with any collaboration, your personalities will dictate the comfort you feel with your agent. Be sure to find someone that puts you at ease and listens to your input and questions. 

The insurance world can be funny. You may go months or years without requiring any changes in your policies. And then you suddenly can find yourself needing immediate help with your insurance needs.

Be sure to choose someone responsive to your questions and will return calls and emails quickly. When you have life changes, you should be able to get information and help from your agent within a reasonable time.

Choose an agent who is responsive to your needs.

At a minimum, your agent should:

  • Return phone calls within 24 hours or less.
  • Have a pleasant and helpful demeanor.
  • Make a concerted effort to understand your needs, basic history, and life goals.
  • Check in with you to see if you’ve experienced any major life or business changes.

3. Ask Plenty of Questions

Hopefully, you will be building a long-term relationship with the agent you choose. So it’s vital that you get as much information about how they work as possible. Some important things to ask when choosing an insurance agent include:

  • What is their client retention rate? If the number is low or the agent isn’t forthcoming with the information, that should raise a red flag. 
  • Do they have a team of support staff? A solo agent who doesn’t have any help may be an insurance expert. But if they get sick or aren’t available, you could end up stuck without the help you need. 
  • How quickly do they return emails and phone calls?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • How often do they schedule insurance reviews?
  • Do they work nationwide? If you tend to move homes a lot, try to find an agent who can still work with you even if you are not in their state.

4. Check Qualifications and Complaints

Check your agent's certifications.

Make sure your potential insurance agent holds a license to sell policies in your state. Ask an agent about their experience and education before making any policy decisions. Some agents have insurance certifications that are pertinent to your needs. This training could make them better suited for you than others might be.

In addition to checking an agent’s qualifications, find out if there are complaints before choosing an insurance agent. Check with your state’s oversight office to see if the agent or agency has been the subject of lawsuits, complaints, or disciplinary actions.

5. Compare Quotes

Before settling on an agent, compare quotes from several representatives. Look at the deductibles and fine print so that you get a clear picture of what the proposed insurance coverage will include. If an agent doesn’t give you a quote without your promise to work with them, walk away.

Lake Region Insurance Agency: The Independent Team to Trust

We are proud at Lake Region to have a 98% customer retention rate. We work hard to serve our clients with integrity, kindness, and the highest level of expertise. With offices in Willmar, Cokato, and New London, MN, we are ready to go to work for you.

It’s a pleasure to watch our clients thrive and prosper. And it’s an honor to earn their trust as we meet their evolving insurance needs. As independent agents, we always have your best interest in mind as we search for the perfect policies.

Reach out and connect today to see how we can help you and your family have the protection you deserve.