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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.

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Your Guide to Choosing Business Insurance

Choosing business insurance is just one of the thousands of decisions business owners make when establishing themselves. While not as fun as choosing a logo or branding colors, it is still quite vital. When building and running a company, protecting it should be the first step.

Lake Region Insurance Agency understands your need to protect yourself and your business. Whether your company is home-based or has its own site, we are here to ensure that you have sufficient coverage. There are many options to consider, and our staff will help you select exactly what you need.

From liability to workers’ compensation, we find the policies you need. Our independent agents search through countless options to determine the best fit for your needs. We take the guesswork out of choosing your insurance. Give us a call or visit one of our offices in Greater Minnesota for a free quote.

Why Business Insurance is Essential 

Statistically speaking, you have a 40% chance of needing to file a business insurance claim within the next ten years. That is a relatively high possibility of something going wrong for your business. If you are running your company without sufficient protection, you could find yourself paying out-of-pocket if problems arise.

Choosing business insurance gives you protection if there is a fire.

Business insurance helps you to keep going without losing income if something happens to impact your revenue. Whether you sustain damage to your brick-and-mortar operation or have a claim filed against you, protection is critical. If you have business insurance, you have security and can keep moving forward. 

Even if you run your company from home, you should consider a business policy. This type of coverage provides protection that you do not have under a homeowners policy.

No matter what type of company you own, from a restaurant to an IT consulting firm, you need some level of business insurance. And this protection isn’t only for replacing damaged items. When you choose the right plan, it can help with all of the following:

  • Liability claims if someone gets hurt or sick at your business
  • Equipment repair and replacement after vandalism, fire, etc.
  • Making payroll if you are unable to bring in revenue due to a covered issue
  • Commercial vehicle coverage
  • Cyber liability issues

These are just a few of the protections you can have. Be sure to speak with your independent agent to discover the right options for your needs.

Choosing business insurance also gives you peace of mind when you have worked so hard to do what you love.

Choosing Business Insurance that Meets Your Needs

Workers' compensation insurance protects you and your employees.

With about two dozen different types of business insurance policies on the market, it can feel overwhelming to choose the right plan.

Just as with auto, home, and life coverage, no two situations are the same. For that reason, business insurance policies can be as varied as the business owners themselves.

You will be able to eliminate some policy options based on your industry. For example, if you are not running a garage, farm, or winery, you can bypass those choices. But that still leaves many more plans to consider.

When you meet with your agent, they will go over many questions with you about your company. While it can feel a little time-consuming, it’s crucial to make sure you have adequate and appropriate coverage without buying too much.

Some of the topics you will discuss with your agent include:

  • Is your business service-based or product-based?
  • How many employees do you have 
  • What is your gross annual profit? 
  • Is your business run from your home or its own building?
  • What equipment do you use?
  • Do clients or customers come on-site?
  • Do you store client information digitally?

These questions are critical in crafting a policy that protects the business and your assets, capital, and employees. And as your company grows and changes, your insurance will, too. 

Different Types of Business Insurance to Consider

Commercial auto insurance protects your company's vehicles.
Dark colored passenger vans in a parking lot

No matter what type of business you own, it’s likely that you will need one or all of these basic insurance coverages:

  • Liability – Liability insurance protects you if a customer files a claim against you for an injury or illness caused by or at your business. There are sub-categories within this category, such as general, professional, cyber, and product liability.
  • Property – This type of policy is fairly self-explanatory. It covers your structures, assets, and inventory in the case of loss due to covered incidents. If you have a home-based company, be sure to talk with your agent about how far your homeowners insurance will cover you. You likely need a separate policy for adequate protection.
  • Workers’ Compensation – If you have employees, this protection is crucial. Liability insurance does not cover employees while they are on the clock. 
  • Commercial Auto – Many businesses own one or more vehicles that need protection, as well. Don’t mistakenly think that your personal auto insurance will cover your company’s fleet.

Depending on the number of employees you have in your company, you may need to purchase a group health plan, as well. Be sure to talk with your agent about this option.

Come Get to Know Us 

With offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, Minnesota, Lake Region has been serving our community for over 50 years. This vast experience gives us the expertise to provide you with a unique policy perfect for you and your business. 

Our team does not work for any particular insurance company. Instead, we are independent agents who can seek the best plan for your needs. We have no reason to oversell you on coverage because we are not trying to meet a carrier’s quota.

We believe that your business is valuable to the community and deserves the best protection possible. With that in mind, we eagerly serve your unique situation. Choosing business insurance is a painless process with us on your team.

Whether you need auto, health, car, or business insurance, Lake Region Insurance Agency is here for you. Visit us today to get a free quote and see all the options we offer to protect your business. 

 

 

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How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?

Having an employee suffer an injury on the job can be a scary idea. You worry about their recovery and the impact the injury could have on your operations. How does workers’ compensation work when an accident happens? It takes time, but it offers you significant protection.

The Lake Region Insurance Agency team has a wealth of expertise in all insurance types, including workers’ compensation insurance. Our experienced agents have the tools to help you make an informed, educated choice to obtain the protection you need.

Keep your business secure by protecting your operations in the event of an employee injury. Give us a call or stop by one of our Greater Minnesota offices to understand all of your options.

How Does Workers’ Compensation Insurance Work?

As the name suggests, workers’ compensation is a specific type of insurance policy explicitly designed to support workers. Employees who experience a work-related injury or develop an illness due to their work have protection under this sort of plan.

Workers’ compensation insurance can cover the costs of medical care needed due to injury or illness. These bills can be very high and may prohibit the injured employee from accessing the right treatment for their condition on their own. But workers’ comp gives them the coverage to seek medical care.

How does workers' compensation work if your employee gets hurt?

In addition, worker’s compensation insurance can help cover the loss of earnings. The injured worker may be eligible to receive a portion of their wages for the period they are off work. The amount will vary depending on the individual state’s law.

Policies also may offer permanent disability coverage and death benefits. Although no one wants to consider these possibilities, it’s crucial that you have a policy in place that provides the right protection.

In addition to it being a smart business practice, carrying workers’ compensation insurance is a legal requirement in most states. And the states typically set the guidelines for what your policy must cover.

What Happens If There Is a Claim?

Worker’s compensation claims generally have very specific steps and protocols for the employer and employee to follow. Your insurance agent will be able to walk you through the process for your state. 

Filing a claim requires a lot of reports.

Typically, the following things must happen:

  1. Employee Report – Any employee who suffers an on-the-job injury or develops an occupational illness must report the situation to their employer as quickly as possible. Most states have a strict timeline for this step to validate a claim. The report needs to include the time and date of the incident and the names of any witnesses.
  2. File the Claim – Most likely, both you and the employee will have forms to file to initiate the claim with your insurer. The worker will need to submit medical records to substantiate their claim.
  3. Medical Care – The injured worker must seek medical assistance right away. Not only could a delay be detrimental to their health, but it could render the claim invalid. The medical professional will need to provide a report to go with the claim.
  4. Follow All Instructions – Stay on top of any forms or information you need to provide to the insurer while the claim is open. Delays or omissions can cause significant problems for you and the employee. 
  5. Follow Medical Recommendations – The employee’s return to work must be under medical approval. Do not pressure your employee to come back against medical advice. And be realistic about what a return to work will look like for your employee. They may not have medical clearance to return to full-time duties. You may need to offer a reduced schedule or responsibilities. No matter what, only allow your worker to be back on the job when their doctor approves it in writing.

How Many Accommodations Do I Have to Make?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for workers who experience disabilities, whether they are job-related or not. Unless you can prove an unreasonable hardship to your company, you will need to comply with the requested accommodations.

Injured workers may need accommodations.

Some of the most common changes you may need to consider include:

  • Shifting the employee’s job requirements – For example, if a person has a back injury from working in the warehouse, they may need to switch to a desk job.
  • Reducing the employee’s work hours
  • Providing more frequent workday breaks
  • Adding a ramp to enter the building
  • Allowing for remote work

Can My Employee Sue Me Because of a Workers’ Comp Claim?

In most instances, workers’ compensation offers you protection against a lawsuit from the injured employee. Unless you were grossly negligent or intentionally caused the injury, you probably are safe from legal action. Just be sure you follow all the necessary steps in the claims process.

Non-Eligible Injuries

There are situations when an injured or sick employee cannot file a workers’ compensation claim. These instances include:

  • Intentional, self-inflicted injuries
  • Injuries resulting from a fight the employee started
  • Injuries resulting from the employee’s use of drugs or alcohol
  • Injuries resulting from the employee’s commission of a crime

How Worried Should I Be About Fake Claims?

Insurance fraud is a significant concern, and workers’ compensation fraud occurs in about 1-2% of cases. The good news is that most insurers are quite thorough when investigating a claim. After all, they are the ones paying for the medical care and other covered expenses.

Fraudulent claims require investigation.

Investigators are careful to watch for signs of false claims, such as:

  • Late Reports – Employees who file a report about an injury that happened a week or more before are more likely to be lying than those who report promptly.
  • Monday Mornings – Insurance companies are quick to investigate Monday morning reports because there is a chance the injury occurred off the job during the weekend.
  • No Witnesses – The lack of anyone to corroborate an employee’s claim can raise a red flag to insurers.
  • Vague and Unclear Details – If the explanation of what happened doesn’t fit the normal circumstances or job duties, investigators may do more digging.

If you have any concerns about a claim’s validity, talk with your insurer. Let their personnel do the investigation. On your end, be sure to keep clear and detailed notes about what you see and hear from the injured employee and other workers.

Let’s Find You the Right Coverage

The independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency can help you find the right workers’ compensation policy. Protect you, your employees, and your business with this critical insurance plan. 

We are available to serve you from our offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN. We look forward to hearing from you today.

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Prevent Drunk Driving This Holiday Season

As we head into the winter season, thoughts turn to frivolity, festivity, and seeing family and friends. Parties are a significant part of the holidays, but they also can be the prime scene for too much imbibing. Knowing how to prevent drunk driving is the key to celebrating safely.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our job is to help you protect you and your loved ones. Through comprehensive insurance policies, we offer you the coverage you need for peace of mind. And we encourage you to stay safe this holiday season by following these crucial tips.

An Urgent Crisis

Recent statistics show that there are over 10,000 fatalities caused by drunk driving each year. More than 10,000 families each year experience this horrific loss. As well as earning you a criminal record, drunk driving can cause untold heartbreak and devastation. 

What Counts As Drunk Driving?

In the state of Minnesota, as in most other states across America, a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or above constitutes drunk driving. If a driver is younger than 21, there is no tolerance at all. If you are not yet 21 and are driving with any alcohol in your system, it will count as a drunk driving incident.

Blood alcohol content determines drunk driving legal consequences.

Different places use varied terminology to mean the same thing:

  • Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired – DWI
  • Driving Under the Influence – DUI
  • Impaired Driving

No matter what your state calls it, these are all phrases that mean driving drunk. And they all lead to significant trouble.

What Are the Consequences of Driving While Impaired?

With someone dying every 50 minutes as a result of drunk driving, the primary consequences are self-explanatory. When you drink, your cognitive ability and response times become significantly compromised. You become a hazard behind the wheel.

As well as the moral and safety issues, the legal ramifications of drinking and driving can be life-altering. You could lose your license for a while or even permanently. 

This loss will have a significant impact on your daily life since you’ll lose a lot of freedom and flexibility when you can’t drive. Most drivers find themselves with very high insurance rates following a conviction if they can get insurance at all. 

In addition, a conviction will likely come with fines and maybe even a jail sentence. And it could cost you your job and future employment prospects. Professional and personal damage to your reputation is also a likely consequence.

A drunk driving arrest carries significant consequences.

How Do I Know If Someone Is Driving Drunk?

The truth is that you cannot always tell if a driver is impaired. But there are a few warning signs that can alert you to a problem. If you see any of these while on the road, call the police to report it:

  • A driver who is drifting, weaving, or making overly wide turns
  • A driver who narrowly misses another vehicle
  • A driver on the wrong side of the road
  • A driver with very delayed responses at stop signs or stop lights

If you are riding in a car, and your driver is exhibiting any signs of impairment, ask them to pull over. Get out right away to keep yourself safe.

How Can I Prevent Drunk Driving?

Impaired drivers rarely recognize that they shouldn’t be driving. Alcohol naturally reduces inhibitions and hinders decision-making. So to prevent drunk driving, the key is to act and plan before anyone has a drink.

Use taxis or ride-sharing services when drinking.

  • Always name a designated driver. One of the best ways to prevent drunk driving is to plan who will be the sober driver. Do this before heading out on the town. By having a designated driver selected well in advance, you avoid the temptation to drive at the end of the night. Instead, the plan is already in place, and everyone knows their role.
  • Plan to use a ride-sharing service. If you know you plan to imbibe, don’t take your vehicle out at all. Instead, use a ride-sharing service from door to door so that there is no chance for you to consider driving once you are drinking.
  • Protect those around you. If you see someone who was drinking head for their car, you need to take action. Take their keys from them if necessary to help ensure that they do not drive away. They may be angry right then, but it is better than the alternative. Never get into a vehicle with anyone who has been drinking. Refusing to ride with them not only protects you, but it also can make them reconsider their ability to drive.
  • Always report your suspicions. If you suspect there is a drunk driver on the road, call the police. Provide as much information as possible, including location, travel direction, car make and color, and license plate number.
  • Offer alcohol-free options. If you are hosting a party, you can do your part to reduce the risks and help prevent drunk driving. Ensure that there are plenty of alcohol-free options to help your guests make the right decision and stay safe. Have space available for people to sleep if needed.
  • Pay attention to other dangers. Alcohol isn’t the only substance that impairs drivers. Marijuana is legal in many states, and driving under its influence is just as dangerous and illegal.

Lake Region Insurance Agency Works to Keep You Safe

Here at  Lake Region Insurance Agency, we want to help you stay safe on the roads. Drinking and driving can have serious, life-altering consequences, so please be careful this holiday season.

We also want to help protect you by offering a wide range of insurance policies to cover you, your family, and your belongings. Our independent agents work in Cokato, Wilmar, and New London, MN. Call or stop in to see us for a free insurance review.

Enjoy your holiday season safely and securely. No celebration is worth risking your life or someone else’s. Make a plan, pay attention, and get home safe.

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8 Snowmobile Safety Tips for All Riders

You wake up to a fresh coat of snow and can hardly wait to take your sled out and hit the trails. But before you do, it’s essential to be clear on snowmobile safety tips, regardless of how experienced you are as a rider. 

And don’t head out on your machine until you make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage. Contact a friendly team member at Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free review and quote. As independent agents, we search for the best policies to meet your needs.

Seven Crucial Snowmobile Safety Tips 

No matter how many years you’ve been enjoying the thrill of snowmobiling, you should review safety tips every year. Look over these pointers to stay safe on the trails.

1. Do the Pre-Trip Work

Plan your trip by checking weather forecasts, reading up on trail conditions, and letting someone know your itinerary. Never take off to ride the trails without telling someone where you plan to go and when you anticipate coming back. 

Make sure your gear is in good shape and ready to protect you. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends always wearing a DOT helmet and facemask. Do not skip these crucial pieces.

Any time you are out in winter weather, wear multiple clothing layers to keep warm and dry. Choose snowmobile suits (they are named this for a reason), outerwear, and gloves that are wind and water-resistant and ventilated.

Be sure to choose proper gear for snowmobile safety.

Charge your cell phone fully and bring a portable charger with you. Cell phone battery life will drain quickly in the cold, so keep your phone zipped into an inside pocket.

Look over your snowmobile equipment to make sure everything is in working order. Check your headlights, backlights, brakes, and gas supply. Owners should always consult their machine manuals and guides before operating them. 

2. Take Weather Warnings Seriously

Weather is unpredictable, but checking the anticipated conditions will help you plan wisely. High winds after a snowfall can reduce visibility and require lower speeds on your ride. Warming temperatures may cause fog or melting, slippery ice. 

If the weather forecast calls for unsafe conditions, stay home. No ride is worth the risk of getting lost or hurt due to weather issues. Here are some Minnesota DNR resources to check trail conditions and trail maps.

3. No Drugs or Alcohol

One of the most critical snowmobile safety tips is never to use alcohol or drugs when you ride. Never. Sadly, more than 70% of Minnesota snowmobile fatalities involve alcohol, so zero alcohol is the only right choice.

In many states, drunk driving laws apply to those operating snowmobiles. If you drive your snowmobile while impaired, you face significant consequences.

Drinking and snowmobiling is a deadly combination.

4. Watch Your Speed and Your Group

Riding too fast is a major factor in snowmobile accidents. Pay attention to your speed and stay to the right, especially on hills and curves. Don’t go faster than your skills can support. For night riding, don’t exceed 40 mph.

If you’re riding with a group, stay at a pace everyone can handle. If needed, break into beginner and advanced groups to be safe. Also, be sure you all know the correct snowmobile hand signals. Take a safety course or read up at ISMA to help ensure the group’s safety.

Know where your group is at all times. The lead rider should let all the others pass before crossing an intersection and count everyone as they go by.

Plan check-in stops to do a headcount and make sure equipment is performing correctly. Take a break to stretch and allow everyone to feel refreshed and alert. 

5. Know the Rules

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) reminds you to know your riding area’s regulations. Sled registration and use vary in different regions, so be sure you are clear on the rules. 

Consult with local DNR or law enforcement agencies to learn the proper codes, guidelines, and children’s restrictions. Local snowmobile clubs also are a fantastic resource for this information.

5. Be Cautious Around Bodies of Water

Avoid riding your snowmobile on frozen lakes and rivers.

Whenever possible, stay off frozen lakes and rivers. If you choose to go over water, make sure the ice thickness can support snowmobile use. And always wear a life jacket on your outermost layer when crossing a frozen lake or river.

6. Follow Traffic Protocols

When approaching a road, come to a complete stop. Once you are sure there is no oncoming traffic, cross at a right angle. Each sled in your group needs to follow the same practice.

If you encounter other snowmobile traffic on the trail, never drive around a group without them signaling you to do so. A startled driver could turn right into you. And only pass if there is ample room. 

7. Riding in the Mountains

Mountain snowmobiling is vastly different than riding on Minnesota trails. Take the time to educate yourself about avalanche safety, equipment, and practices. The ISMA has an entire section devoted to avalanche awareness.

Consider taking a class to learn about avalanche warnings, best riding practices, and what to do if caught in an avalanche. 

8. After the Ride

Make sure your whole group is in and sleds are off before dismounting. A child hopping off the back while another rider pulls up could be disastrous. Apply this same practice to any stops along the ride.

Check in with whoever knew your itinerary to let them know you are back safely. Look over your snowmobile to assess any damage and store it properly before the next ride.

Snowmobile season is a favorite for many outdoor enthusiasts. Being out in the fresh winter air with family and friends is something sledders think about all summer. Keep those memories untarnished by practicing these crucial snowmobile safety tips.

Insure to Ensure a Peaceful Ride

Lake Region Insurance Agency is proud to be part of the Greater Minnesota community. And we understand the love of hitting the trails. 

We also understand the importance of having adequate coverage to protect you if problems arise. Snowmobile insurance is not only a wise investment. It is required by law in many states. Call or visit one of our offices in Wilmar, New London, or Cokato, MN. Our expert team will help you select the best coverage possible. 

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7 Tips to Stay Safe on Frozen Lakes

In the land of 10,000 lakes, winter’s frozen playground is why many of us choose to live here year-round. Staying safe on frozen lakes, streams, and ponds requires you to take extra precautions. Having sufficient insurance coverage against the unforeseen is crucial when enjoying some winter fun.

Call Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free insurance review and quote. Our friendly agents help you fill the gaps in your coverage so that you can have peace of mind this winter.

Caution: Thin Ice!

Hockey, ice skating, and ice fishing are just a few of the cherished pastimes during a Northern winter. But Minnesota kids grow up knowing they aren’t allowed to touch the lake ice until someone measures the ice with an appropriate tool.

Sadly, vehicles, snowmobiles, and people go through the ice every year. Children and males of all ages are the most likely to fall through the ice and into a frigid lake.

It’s crucial to remember that ice is NEVER completely safe. Recreational activities on frozen lakes always carry some risk. Those enjoying the wintry outdoors can help keep themselves safe with these seven tips.

1. Know the Ice Thickness

Before considering going on the ice, you need to know how thick it is. Augers, tape measures, and ice chisels all work to gauge the thickness. For ultimate safety, check the ice measurements every 150 feet. 

Beware of thin ice on frozen lakes.Here’s a helpful guide to general safety parameters for ice thickness, with the understanding that these are not guarantees that the ice will hold. The following measurements apply to new, clear ice: 

  • Under 4” – The ice is NOT SAFE.
  • 4″ – Activities on foot may be safe, such as ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
  • 5″ to 7” – ATV and snowmobile use is likely safe.
  • 8” to 12″ – The ice can probably safely support a car, ice house, or group game.
  • 12” to 15″ – The ice should now support a medium truck.

It’s essential to remember that these guidelines are for clear ice. Experts recommend doubling the thickness requirements before venturing onto a frozen lake when dealing with white or snow ice.

2. Stay Safe on Frozen Lakes by Sticking with Daylight

Whenever possible, avoid any activity on ice in the dark. A significant part of staying safe on frozen lakes is being able to see how the ice looks. 

In particular, you need to be able to examine the color of the ice. Gray or mottled-colored ice is unsafe. White ice requires double the thickness as blue to be safe. 

It’s also crucial to be able to see the bubblers that protect lake docks. The ice around bubblers is not strong enough to support you.

3. Use the Buddy System

Ice skating on frozen lake

When it comes to winter safety, you learned much of what you need to know in kindergarten: always stick with a friend. Whether you are snowmobiling, playing hockey, or ice fishing, don’t go alone.

Having another person with you when you are on the ice keeps you safer. And it helps ensure someone can get help if there is an accident. If someone falls through the ice, it’s essential that no one try to go in after them to help. Instead, throw a rope or lifesaving device and call for professional rescue help.

4. Car Safety on the Ice

If you determine that the ice is thick enough to support your car or truck, it doesn’t mean you can park and forget about it. The ice can start sinking when cars and trucks are sitting there. Keep vehicles at least 50 feet part and move them every two hours. 

Many experts also suggest cutting a hole near the vehicle. If water starts to come over the top of the hole, then the ice is sinking.

5. Know What to Do If You Fall Through the Ice

When someone falls into frigid winter lakes, time is critical. You have a few minutes before hypothermia takes hold and creates a dangerous situation. The first task is to keep your head above water.

Kick your legs until you can grab onto the ice and pull yourself to a horizontal position. After you get out of the water, roll to thicker ice, and then seek medical treatment immediately. 

Be safe when lakes freeze.

Again, if you’re trying to get someone else out of the water, do not go in after them. Everyone available can lay down on the ice and create a human rescue chain with the lightest person closest to the hole. 

Each person should outstretch their legs and arms to distribute their weight. Reach out something the person can grab to pull them out of the frigid water, such as a:

  • Tree Branch
  • Ski Pole
  • Snowshoe
  • Rope
  • Jacket

6. Consider Your Pet

Although pets are often fairly lightweight, they are not automatically safe. Ice in the spring and fall is particularly unpredictable, so take extra precautions during those months. 

If your pet falls in, get rescue help immediately. Your instinct will be to go after your pet, but if the ice can’t hold them, it can’t hold you. Call for help right away.

7. Wear a Life Jacket

Life jackets are not only for summer lake excursions. Personal flotation devices are critical for water safety, no matter the season. Wearing something that helps you float can make the difference in surviving or not for anyone who falls through the ice. 

And don’t forget a life vest for your pooch, too. Give them the best chance by fitting them with a life jacket.

Get the Right Coverage

Going through a winter hoping you have adequate insurance isn’t the wisest choice. And it could leave you unprotected. 

Instead, reach out to the independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a comprehensive policy review. They will look at all of your plans to see if any uncovered areas leave you at risk. 

With offices in Wilmar, New London, and Cokato, MN, we are available to help all of our Greater Minnesota neighbors. 

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Will a Car Accident Raise My Insurance Rates?

If you’ve been in a fender bender or other collision, you may wonder, “Does a car accident raise my insurance rates?” While it’s possible that a serious accident could increase your costs, not every incident will do so.

Lake Region Insurance Agency is ready to help you secure the best insurance policies at prices that fit your budget. 

Our independent agents in New London, Cokato, and Wilmar, MN, offer high-end service and small-town values. Contact us today to enjoy a free policy review, and we’ll make sure to find the coverage that’s right for you.

How Do Companies Determine Auto Premiums?

As with any coverage, car insurance rates revolve around risk. The more risk an insurance company takes on, the higher the premiums rise. 

Several factors go into setting your auto insurance rates. Some are under your control, and others are not. The top rate influencers include:

  • Value of Your Car The age, condition, make, and model of your car impact its value. And the value helps determine the cost to insure the vehicle. Something with a higher value to replace or repair will carry a higher premium.
  • Policy Type – Every state requires vehicle owners to carry a liability policy. It helps to protect you if there is a car accident where you are at fault. If you add comprehensive coverage, you’ll pay a higher rate. This insurance covers your repairs, property damage, and medical expenses you incur, regardless of who was at fault. It also kicks in if someone steals your car or if it sustains damage due to fire, vandalism, or natural disasters. If you owe on a car loan, your lender will require you to carry comprehensive insurance.

Your type of policy helps determine your premium.

  • Deductible – The deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket before the insurance carrier pays your claim. Lower deductibles lead to higher premiums and vice versa.
  • Location – If you’re insuring a car in a place with high crime rates, hazardous roads, or icy weather, you may have to pay higher premiums. The same is true of densely-populated areas.
  • Driving record – If you’ve had previous accidents or moving violations, you probably will pay higher premiums than someone with a squeaky clean driving record. Speeding tickets can impact your insurance rates if you’ve gotten several within three years.
  • Age A driver’s age is one of the most significant factors in determining auto insurance rates. Young drivers require the highest premiums of any age group. People ages 16 to 25 can pay up to four times as much for insurance than their more mature counterparts.
  • Gender Teenage boys and young men are, statistically, riskier drivers. Because of this fact, insurance companies mitigate their risks by charging these drivers significantly higher premiums. Once a man turns 25, his premiums will drop if he has kept a clean driving record.

With so many factors in the mix, it’s no wonder there is confusion about how much an accident can impact your costs.

Do Car Accidents Raise My Insurance Rates? 

Car accidents don't always make your rates go up.

Not all car accidents are created equal. Obviously, a bumper tap in a parking lot does less costly damage than a head-on collision.

If you bump another car from behind, or you lightly scratch an adjacent vehicle in the parking lot, take a deep breath. You may be in the clear for insurance rate hikes if your accident claim is minor. 

When you know that you’ve damaged another car, make every effort to contact the other driver. You’ll need to exchange insurance information and get repair estimates. If the repair costs come in below your deductible amount, it might make sense to pay for the repairs out-of-pocket rather than filing a claim.

In more severe collisions, the insurance companies will view the police report and any related evidence, like videos, photos, or witness statements. They’ll determine fault, which could include more than one driver, and look at all the costs incurred because of the accident.

The insurance carrier will decide whether your rates will increase after processing your claim.

Your Driving Record Matters

If you are filing your first-ever claim, the carrier may not give you a higher premium. Remember, they set these based on risk. 

If you have a stellar driving record otherwise, a first claim may not impact your rates. Again, the severity of the accident will also be a factor. Any accident claims that you file stay on your record for three years, even if you were not at fault.

Reduce the likelihood of another costly incident by remembering to:

  • Observe the Speed Limit
  • Drive Defensively
  • Always Wear Your Seatbelt
  • Never Drive Distracted

Distracted driving is treacherous.

Accident Forgiveness and No-Fault Insurance

Some insurance providers offer accident forgiveness or no-fault insurance. A no-fault policy covers medical expenses incurred by either party, no matter who is at fault. Your premiums may still increase after an accident, depending on the size and scope of the claim.

You also might be eligible for an accident forgiveness policy for your vehicle. You’ll likely pay a higher premium or extra fee for this coverage. But your rates won’t elevate if you file an accident claim, no matter who’s at fault.

It’s smart to look into all your policy options when insuring your car. If you’ve had a prior accident, you may save money in the long run by purchasing an accident forgiveness policy.

Let’s Save You Some Money

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know that the worst can happen no matter how careful or cautious you are. Trust our independent agents to help you shop the market for the best rates possible. We serve our customers, not the insurance companies.

Our clients are also our neighbors, so we serve Greater Minnesota with pride and care. We’ve been a trusted insurance partner for decades, and our values guide all of our interactions with clients.

Call or stop in for a free coverage review and a quote for the policies that meet your needs. Our team is eager to help.

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Valuable Items Insurance Protects Your Heirlooms

When you buy a house, securing a homeowners policy is one of the first requirements. This policy covers a lot of scenarios and belongings, but it does not cover everything. Homeowners are usually surprised to learn that they may need valuable items insurance for adequate protection.

Many high-end belongings do not fall under the coverage of a typical homeowners policy. If you are concerned that your insurance plan might not be adequate, reach out to the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency

We work to help you protect your car, home, business, and more. Stop in and see us at one of our Greater Minnesota offices for a free insurance review and quote. We will go over your needs to find a plan that fits.

What Is Valuable Items Insurance?

Having a homeowners insurance policy is the first step toward protecting your belongings. But it does not guarantee that you would receive full replacement value for all the items in your home. 

Most plans will only insure individual objects for up to $1500 each. That certainly is not enough to replace expensive items. 

Some insurers may not even include those items in the policy for your home at all. So you would have protection for almost everything in your home except for the most valuable belongings. In this situation, your insurance would not work for you the way you hope it will.

Valuable items insurance, however, is precisely for this purpose. It provides a different level of protection for personal belongings that have a high financial value. Items that fit in this category can include: 

  • Jewelry
  • Musical Instruments 
  • Rare Books
  • Firearms 
  • Fine Art
  • Antique Furniture
  • China and Silverware
  • Furs
  • Coins and Stamps
  • Family Heirlooms

Policies that cover these possessions will protect you from the financial frustration and disappointment that can come with a significant loss. 

Valuable items insurance can protect musical instruments.

How Do I Determine Which Items Qualify as Valuable?

Figuring out which of your belongings require valuable items insurance can feel overwhelming at first. It can be particularly tricky because, unlike everyday things, their value is likely to go up over time, rather than down. 

For example, your great-grandparents’ wedding rings may have cost $100 when they were new. But they are most certainly worth much more than that now. You need to be sure your policy covers its current worth, not merely the purchase price.

Expert Appraisals

The most straightforward way to determine an item’s value and confirm its insurability is to have an expert appraisal. An appraisal sets a valuation of the personal property for insurance, legal, tax, and estate planning purposes.

It’s crucial that you choose an appraiser with expertise in your items. Depending on the variety and age of your belongings, you may need several different experts. For example, if you have fine art and old watches, you probably need two separate appraisers.

One important thing to note is that there are no federal or state licenses for appraisers. If someone tells you they are licensed, be wary. Be sure to choose someone who works in compliance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). In addition, several groups offer certifications for appraisers.

Valuable coin collections need special insurance coverage.

Proof of Purchase

An original receipt or invoice helps confirm ownership and value if a high-end item is lost, stolen, or destroyed. This evidence is particularly helpful for newer possessions that probably haven’t gone up in value yet. Insurance agencies will reference the proof of purchase when paying a claim.

For very old heirlooms, an original receipt and any subsequent bills of sale help the appraiser determine an accurate value. People are often surprised by how often their ancestors kept every single receipt. It was a common practice in previous generations, so you may find an original tucked away somewhere. 

How to Document Your Items

It’s essential to create an inventory of all personal belongings in your home, whether they qualify for valuable items insurance or not. The most efficient way to create this list is to go room by room, following these steps:

  1. Take video, photos, or both of all personal belongings in the room. Open closets and cupboards and get images of those items, too. For highly valuable pieces, get several photos from different angles. These may be necessary in cases of theft to prove an object’s authenticity.
  2. Make an itemized list of each room’s contents in a notebook or a computer document. For any appraised items, include a copy of the professional appraiser’s report.
  3. Keep a copy of the images, videos, and list in your home. But also put copies in a safe deposit box or other secure location outside of your home. 
  4. Provide a copy to your insurance agent, if requested.

Time-stamped photos and videos are vital in protecting all parties involved. The insurer prevents fraudulent claims, and the client can receive the proper payout. 

Even for standard homeowners coverage, this documentation is excellent any time you need to make a claim. Being able to access it will save you time and aggravation in the event of a theft or loss so that you can get replacements as quickly as possible.

We Have Your Back

There really is an insurance policy for every aspect of your life. Investing in valuable items insurance protects belongings that you cherish and that carry a high worth. It is just as important as any other insurance policy you choose to buy. 

Lake Region Insurance Agency has been serving our Minnesota neighbors since 1970, and it is an honor to provide the peace of mind you deserve. With policies to cover your home, car, business, health, and more, we make sure you have sufficient coverage for your needs.

Our agents work independently of any particular company. This autonomy means that we can search for the right policies for your situation without being forced to use a specific provider. 

We welcome you to bring us any questions you have about your insurance coverage. Stop into one of our locations in New London, Willmar, or Cokato, MN, to learn more.

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7 Lawn Mower Safety Tips for Your Summer Yard Care

Getting your garden into tip-top shape is one of the perks of warmer weather. Lawn maintenance is a significant part of keeping your yard in good order, but this can be a risky business. To stay safe, you need to know some lawn mower safety tips.

Owning a home brings both challenges and rewards. But at all times, you need protection as a homeowner. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our job is to offer that protection. Our independent agents are available in Greater Minnesota to help you find the perfect policies for your needs. Give us a call today to get started.

The Best Lawn Mower Safety Tips

This time of year, there are plenty of yard chores to keep you busy. From planting colorful flowers to creating a relaxing area for entertaining, outdoor projects beckon. And mowing your lawn is probably the job you need to do most often.

With that in mind, here are seven tips to consider before firing up the lawn mower.

1. Protect Your Feet

Your footwear may not seem like a priority, but it can have a significant impact on your safety. When the temperature rises, it can be tempting to kick off your shoes or switch to sandals. This habit may be comfortable, but it also can be dangerous during yard work.

Wearing inadequate footwear increases your risk of slips, trips, and falls, which can up the chances of injuries. You may also hurt your foot by stepping on something sharp. Additional hazards include stubbed toes, stings or bites, and burns from bumping against a hot lawn mower. 

 

And let’s not forget the moving blades under the carriage and all the damage they can do. Their sole purpose is to cut, and your toe or foot will not get special consideration. To stay safe, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes while you are operating the lawn mower.

2. Only Move Forward

If you realize you have missed a spot, it can be tempting to pull the mower backward for easy access. This move is hazardous, however. It is far too simple to slip or lose your footing. In that case, the mower could end up on top of your body. 

Fortunately, this is an accident that you can avoid. If you missed a spot while mowing, maneuver the machine to where you want it only by pushing it forward. It may take longer than backing up, but it helps to keep you safe.

3. Never Touch A Moving Part

Never touch any moving blades or parts of the mower. Yes, this may seem obvious. But there are more than 6000 injuries each year due to lawn mowers. So this tip must not be as obvious as it seems. More than 20% of those injuries result in amputations.

When you are in a hurry, it is tempting to reach down and remove an obstruction. The danger here is that one small slip could have catastrophic consequences.

Be overly cautious at all times when operating the lawn mower. If you notice that something is clogged in the blades, don’t touch anything until you shut off the machine. All moving elements must come to a complete stop before you put your fingers anywhere near them.

4. Don’t Forget Your Ears

Another unexpected body part that needs protection during lawn mowing is your ears. Experts recommend ear protection when noise levels exceed 85 decibels, and mowers fall into this category.

Most lawn mowers emit a volume of around 100 decibels. Over time, this can cause discomfort and hearing damage. The risk may seem small, compared to broken bones or amputations. But it is better to be safe in this case. Invest in some quality protection to ensure your long-term hearing health.

5. Prepare Your Lawn

Lawn mower safety does not come solely from the operation of the machine. You also need to check that the grass is free of debris. These items could fly up and hit you or someone else.

Before you get started, take a few minutes to clear away any rocks, pebbles, or clumps of dirt. These could catch in the mower and turn into projectiles. 

6. Read The Manual

It may not be the most exciting read of your life, but your lawn mower manual is essential. It will help you operate safely, and there may be features and buttons which take you by surprise. Understanding your equipment means you can make the most sensible choices.

Chances are, you have used a lawn mower before, so you may try to skip this step. Remember, however, that each machine is different. Take the time to do your research. If the manual is long gone, a quick online search for the model number should give you the info you need.

7. Keep Children Away From Mowers

To young children, anything can seem like a toy, and a lawn mower is no exception. Make sure to store the machine away when not in use. A child could easily pull the lawn mower over onto themselves, tip it over to cause an injury, or cause other damage. 

When operating the lawn mower, make sure that children are well out of the way. Children tend to move impulsively and are at high risk of significant injuries from lawn mowers. Burns, cuts, and amputations are surprisingly common each year.

Riding lawn mowers create a different level of concern. Around 800 children are run over by these machines every year, and the vast majority of these accidents result in amputation.

Safety First With Lake Region

Keeping your yard in beautiful shape is a joy for many American homeowners. These lawn mower safety tips help ensure that your yard looks fantastic while everyone stays safe.

One of the best ways to protect your family and loved ones is to be sure that you have excellent insurance coverage. At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we offer a great variety of policies. 

As independent agents, we can access a wide selection of options. This range allows us to tailor the coverage you purchase to your exact requirements. Get in touch today with one of our agents. We offer a free consultation in our offices in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN.