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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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4 Reasons You Need an Annual Insurance Review

When you think about insurance, it’s unlikely you consider an annual insurance review. Most people choose a policy, set the payments on auto-withdrawal, and then don’t think of it again. But a yearly checkup is quite important for your financial security. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our independent insurance agents are here to serve you. From choosing a plan to fine-tuning your needs each year, our team has you covered. Call today to schedule a free annual review of your policies. 

If you’ve never thought about a yearly check-in with your insurance agent, here are four reasons to schedule it now.

1. Peace of Mind

Worrying and wondering about your coverage isn’t how you want to spend your time. And yet, if you have children, a home, a business, or any valuable assets, you probably worry from time to time. With an annual insurance review, you can go to sleep at night, knowing that you have sufficient protection in place. 

Not only that, but you also will have planned for unexpected trouble in advance. A yearly review can ensure that you have someone ready to work on your behalf if a problem strikes. Trying to put pieces into place once an issue arises or a disaster hits doesn’t serve you. Make sure you have the coverage you require now.

2. Life Changes 

Having a child is a good reason to check your insurance coverage.

So much can happen in a year. You may have had a child or bought a house. Maybe you paid off your vehicles or purchased a business. All of these are reasons to sit down and comb through your insurance policies. 

For example, let’s say you get a better-paying job and move into a bigger home with a higher value and mortgage. And imagine that a new neighbor comes to visit and breaks an ankle when they misstep off your front porch. 

You could face a personal liability claim. You need to look at your insurance policies to make sure they will help you cover and maintain your lifestyle.

Some common reasons you might want to add or change your policies include:

  • Marriage or Divorce
  • Buying or Selling Your House
  • Buying or Selling a Rental Property
  • Buying, Starting, or Selling a Business
  • Having or Adopting a Child
  • Buying, Selling, or Paying off Your Car
  • Making a Large Purchase:
    • Boat
    • Snowmobile
    • Valuable Jewelry
    • Fine Art
    • Second Home

3. Save Money 

Policy prices change depending on the coverage they provide. If you skip an annual insurance review, you could be leaving money on the table. 

For example, if you no longer have a car loan, you may want to adjust the coverage to save money. If you need to add new policies for your situation, you might be eligible for multi-policy discounts. These options can offer excellent premium reductions.

Save money with an annual insurance review.

Saving money on premiums isn’t the only benefit to your yearly review. An annual check-in also looks at your deductibles and coverage limits in each policy. 

You may discover that you have a liability limit that won’t come close to replacing your personal property after a disaster. Or you could find that you have policies with really high deductibles that would be hard to meet. Your agent will examine these different pieces to find the plan that makes the most financial sense for your situation.

4. Fill the Coverage Gaps

Just as an annual physical helps you ward off many medical problems, a yearly policy review helps avoid insurance problems.

Many people mistakenly think that their homeowners policy covers much more than it does. They assume that any trouble that comes up with their house will fall under this plan. Unfortunately, they can be in for a terrible surprise if something happens outside of this coverage.

For example, assets and liabilities related to a home-based business may not fall under the protection of a homeowners plan. But many entrepreneurs don’t realize that.

Creating the habit of reviewing your insurance helps your agent suggest the best policies for you. With regular check-ins, they can advise you when it is a good time to add, combine, or remove coverage.

Preparing for an Annual Insurance Review

Insurance review each year

Even if you have nothing prepared, it’s still worth scheduling time for a yearly insurance checkup. Your agent will walk you through your needs and current coverage to help determine if any gaps exist.

But if you are someone who doesn’t mind a little homework, here are some tips to consider as you get ready for your review:

  • Gather information on your assets. Bring a list of your vehicles’ makes, models, and years. Put together an inventory of the high-value items you own, such as jewelry or a boat. Have a general idea of your home’s worth and remaining mortgage. 
  • Be comfortable asking questions. The insurance industry has a lot of specialized jargon that can be confusing. Never hesitate to ask what something means or how it will serve you. And you’re free to ask a question as many times as needed to feel confident in the answer.
  • Determine a general idea of your monthly budget for premiums. This information can help your agent find policies that align with what you are comfortable spending.
  • Be ready to discuss any significant life changes that have happened or that you anticipate happening in the next year.

Schedule a Review Today

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we have been serving our Greater Minnesota neighbors for 50 years. With offices in Willmar, New London, and Cokato, MN, we offer convenient locations for you to stop by for a review. 

Our independent agents do not have ties to any particular insurance company or product. We search through all available options to find the one that meets your unique needs. Working with your situation and budget in mind, we help you find sufficient coverage.

We offer free reviews and quotes, so don’t hesitate to reach out and get connected. We can’t wait to help you have the peace of mind that your insurance will give you.

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Why Do I Need Life Insurance in My 20s?

Life insurance is something many people prefer not to consider, especially young adults in the prime of their lives. Many think, “Why do I need life insurance in my 20s? I’m not planning to die soon.” If your goal is to be a financially responsible adult, you need to have life insurance coverage. 

Lake Region Insurance Agency can assist you with all of your insurance needs. Our independent agents serve clients throughout Greater Minnesota. Connect with us today for a free life insurance review and quote. We will discuss your best options for your stage of life. 

How Does Life Insurance Work?

Term life insurance is relatively straightforward. You choose a policy term, generally 10, 20, or 30 years. And you choose how much coverage you want, for example, $500,000. Each policy will have annual premiums that you need to pay.

If you die within the plan’s term, your beneficiary or beneficiaries will receive the amount indicated on the policy. For most people, a spouse or child is their beneficiary, but you get to choose who gets the money. 

Whole life insurance carries higher premiums but builds up a cash value that you or your family can access. Your agent can help you determine which policy fits your needs and your lifestyle.

Why Do I Need Life Insurance in My 20s?

Accidents and sudden illness happen, whether we want to acknowledge the fact or not. Your family’s protection under a life insurance policy is significant, whether you are in your 20s or your 60s.

Here are a few of the primary reasons to consider buying life insurance as a young adult.

Cover Expenses

If you have a spouse, children, a business, or a house, a life insurance policy is crucial. Accidents and sudden illness happen, whether we want to acknowledge the fact or not. Having coverage for your family’s expenses is the top reason young people should have life insurance.

A life insurance policy can help your loved ones cover:

  • Mortgage Payments
  • Childcare Expenses
  • Credit Card Debt
  • Student Loans
  • Funeral Expenses

Having an influx of cash during a difficult time can bring tremendous relief to your family. Even young adults need to think about this. As soon as you have anyone who depends on you for financial support, it is essential to have a sufficient life insurance policy in place.

Work-based life insurance policies are a great perk of your job, but they generally do not offer sufficient coverage. And if you leave that job, you lose the coverage. So it’s essential to have your own policy, too.

Lower Premiums

Insurance becomes costlier as you get older, so it makes sense to buy a policy in your 20s. Premiums go up about 8-10% for each year you wait to get coverage.

Even if you do not yet have dependents, having this protection in place is wise. You can lock in lower premiums, and if you do get married or have children, you can change the beneficiary to indicate that.

Easy to Qualify

Healthy young adults may qualify for life insurance easier.

As you get older, insurance carriers may put more medical stipulations on your ability to qualify for life insurance. Young adults, however, often qualify for coverage by simply answering some screening questions. 

But if you wait, and your health changes, you will find that your ability to qualify is challenging. And your rates will be significantly higher. 

For example, a healthy 25-year-old will find it simple to purchase a life insurance policy. But if that person receives a cancer diagnosis at age 29, they are in a difficult situation and may not be able to obtain a policy at that point.

When you buy a policy as a young adult, you won’t lose it unless you cancel it or stop paying the premiums. Securing a life insurance plan in your 20s is one of the best financial decisions you can make.

Peace of Mind

Life is unpredictable, and no one is immortal. Buying life insurance doesn’t make you morbid. Instead, it shows that you are responsible and thoughtful.

When you secure a policy in your 20s, you are setting up your family for success. Of course, no dollar amount can ever replace a person. But life insurance for young adults helps protect their loved ones just in case a tragedy strikes.

Life insurance provides tremendous peace of mind for your family. And if the worst were to happen, your forethought will make the situation more comfortable for them to bear.

Whether you choose a whole or term life option, you will be able to provide for your family even after you’re gone.

Young parents need life insurance.

How Do You Buy Life Insurance?

There are many, many options on the market. It can feel overwhelming to understand and choose the right policy for your needs. 

It is best to work with an independent agent who can help you find the right fit for your needs. An independent insurance agent is not limited in the policies they can offer. They can shop from multiple carriers to help you choose a plan that works for you.

This is a serious purchase that can affect your loved ones’ future. Work with a trusted individual who will answer your questions and walk you through the process carefully. 

Even if you can’t afford a large policy right now in your 20s, purchase what you can. You are likely to find options that cost less than $20 per month. And talk with your agent about riders that will allow you to increase your coverage as your income goes up.

The Coverage You Need

The team at Lake Region Insurance Agency understands that life insurance is not an easy thing to discuss. This means too many young people ignore it, unfortunately. But in a few short steps, your Lake Region agent can help you secure a policy that will protect your future.

Stop by one of our offices in New London, Willmar, or Cokato, MN. We offer free insurance reviews and quotes and can walk you through the whole process with ease.

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Do I Need Home-Based Business Insurance?

Times have changed, and our world is shifting to a more digital approach to business. Many people are now teleworking from home or running their own business. For the latter situation, it’s essential to consider home-based business insurance.

Make sure you have the protection you and your business deserve. Check in with the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a complimentary policy review and quote. We are here to serve our Greater Minnesota neighbors.

What Counts as a Home-Based Business?

What do Purex, Apple Computer, Hallmark, and Baskin-Robbins have in common? They all began in someone’s home, basement, or garage. So if you have a home-based business, you are in good company. 

And you aren’t alone, since roughly two-thirds of all companies begin in a house somewhere.

Running a home business has tax, liability, and insurance implications, so it’s critical to know if you fall into this category. Some examples of home-based businesses include:

  • Daycare
  • Pet Sitting
  • Dog Grooming
  • Hairdresser
  • Freelance Writer
  • Tutor
  • Professional Consultant
  • Web Designer
  • Online Clothing Boutique

As more and more owners shift to the virtual business model, the list of work-from-home companies continues to grow. If you fall into the category of a home-based business, you need to investigate your insurance requirements.

Daycare is a home-based business

Isn’t My Homeowners Policy Good Enough?

Many people who run a business from their house mistakenly assume that their homeowners insurance provides sufficient coverage. Unfortunately, this is rarely true.

For businesses with minimal equipment and no client foot traffic, a homeowners plan might be enough. But this is a rare situation and still warrants a chat with your agent to clarify your coverage.

If you regularly receive clients in your home or store inventory on-site, you likely need home-based business insurance. Your standard homeowners plan probably doesn’t adequately protect your business.

Be sure to talk with your independent agent to determine what supplemental or separate protection you need to protect your hard work. From property to liability insurance, you need to make sure you have sufficient coverage.

When you rent rather than own your home, you also need to verify your coverage. Just like a homeowners policy, a renters policy will not fully protect your home-based business.

Limitations of Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Most homeowners insurance policies have limits and exclusions that could leave you and your business unprotected. Typically, homeowners and renters insurance policies lack the following:

  • Protection for business documents and records
  • Sufficient coverage for loss of files and data
  • Liability coverage if an employee or client sustains an injury in your home
  • Adequate replacement protection for business equipment
  • Coverage for lost revenue if something prevents you from running your business from your house

There are many common scenarios when a business owner may run into one of these limitations. 

For example, let’s say that you are the victim of a home robbery, and they steal your business laptop, desktop, and monitor. Most homeowners policies will limit this business coverage to $2500. Anything beyond that will have no protection without a home-based business insurance policy.

Or imagine that a client is at your house for a meeting, and they trip and fall, breaking their arm. If this were a neighbor visiting for fun, your homeowners policy would kick in. But because this is a business relationship, you are out of luck.

Business liability insurance

You’ve worked too hard to leave your business unprotected. Make sure you get a sufficient policy in place.

You probably need a business insurance policy if:

  • You conduct business in your house, including receiving clients.
  • You have employees.
  • You store inventory in your house.
  • You have business-related equipment, such as computers or cell phones.
  • Your company owns one or more vehicles.
  • You store sensitive data.
  • You rely on your business income to pay your bills.

What Should a Home-Based Business Insurance Policy Cover?

When speaking with your independent insurance agent, you should discuss coverage for all of the following needs.

Business Property

As mentioned, most renters and homeowners plans have strict limits on what they will replace from a home-based business. Typically, business equipment far surpasses that amount. 

Additionally, a homeowners policy only covers equipment if it’s in the home. If your business laptop is lost, stolen, or damaged while you’re working in a coffee shop, you won’t have coverage. 

Company Vehicle

Do you use your vehicle for business activities? Your car insurance policy may not cover you if something happens while you’re conducting business. Business auto insurance is a crucial component of your coverage.

Liability

General liability coverage protects you if a client or employee gets hurt in your home office or on your property. It can also cover an employee who sustains an injury off-site while conducting company business.

Product liability is necessary if you sell physical products. This plan protects you if an item doesn’t work correctly or harms a person or their property.

Professional liability insurance offers protection for service-based businesses. This coverage can kick in if someone claims damages stemming from your services or advice.

Since legal and medical bills can escalate quickly, adequate liability coverage is crucial for your business.

Cyber Liability

Cyber liability coverage

Cyber liability insurance is critical for most businesses today. Unless you operate solely with paper and pencil, you should consider this type of policy. It protects you against losses stemming from hackers and data breaches.

Any business that relies on electronic storage or transmission of client and company information should have this coverage in place. 

Consider an Endorsement

In some situations, you may not require a stand-alone home-based business insurance policy. Talk with your agent to see if an endorsement makes more sense for your needs.

For example, for a small additional fee, you may be able to raise your homeowners policy limits for business coverage. Typically, an endorsement is only available to businesses that have few or no on-site visitors. 

Get the Perfect Policy 

Do you have any questions about your homeowners insurance policy and how you can protect your home-based business? The independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to help.

With offices in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, we can meet your personal and professional insurance needs. Reach out today to get started.

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How Do I Purchase Private Health Insurance For My Family?

Right now, millions of Americans are without medical coverage. This situation is leading many to wonder how they can purchase private health insurance for themselves. 

Medical debt can be devastating and is a significant contributor to people needing to file for bankruptcy. One hospitalization can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. If tests or procedures are necessary, the bill can skyrocket. Even outpatient costs can be shockingly high if there is no medical insurance in place.

Lake Region Insurance Agency is proud to serve its neighbors in Greater Minnesota. Our independent brokers are not tied to one company or product to find the right fit for you.  

Our health insurance products cover individuals, families, and businesses. Let us assist you in making a sound and informed decision about your health insurance needs. Call today for an insurance review or quote. 

Purchase Private Health Insurance on the Marketplace

Private health insurance is medical coverage that does not come through an employer. Job-based insurance only remains while you work for that employer. If your job ends, you are no longer eligible for their group health insurance plans.

To buy your own policy, it is best to work with an independent insurance broker to find the right option. Most people who need private insurance go through the health insurance marketplace. It has information about the available options and how to buy insurance. In Minnesota, the marketplace used to purchase private health insurance is MNSure

Need to buy private medical insurance

By using the marketplace, also known as the health insurance exchange, you may receive credits to lower your private health insurance premiums. Brokers help find the plan that will cover your needs and give you the full assistance for which you qualify. 

Typically, you need to provide documentation of your household’s income. So the exchange may ask for pay stubs and tax returns to verify your eligibility for the marketplace policies.

If you qualify for low-income or free health insurance, you will not purchase coverage from the marketplace. In this case, insurance options will be available through a government-sponsored program such as Medical Assistance or Minnesota Care. The Department of Human Services manages these programs. 

Affordable Care Act

All plans offered on the health insurance marketplace meet the Affordable Care Act (ACA) baseline for benefit standards. The ACA is the legislation that provides financial help in the form of tax credits or subsidies when buying insurance. 

Individuals and families have to fall within specified income ranges to qualify, and it can be quite confusing to understand all the intricacies. Though you can shop and compare plans yourself, many people prefer to work with an independent broker. This step can bring significant peace of mind.

Open Enrollment Periods for Private Health Insurance 

Every year, the health insurance exchange has a designated open enrollment period when you can purchase new coverage. In most states, this period runs from the beginning of November through mid-December, but be sure to check with your broker for specific dates.

Open enrollment dates for medical insurance

You could be eligible for a special enrollment period if you experience a qualifying life event. These events include:

  • Job Loss – Even if you leave a job voluntarily, if it causes you to lose insurance, you likely will be eligible for a special enrollment period.
  • Finishing College – Many students are on their parent’s medical plan. But once they are no longer in school, they must get their own coverage.
  • Divorce – If you had insurance under a spouse’s plan, you might be able to enroll in a new policy outside of open enrollment.
  • Moving Towns – Some insurance plans only cover specific areas. If you move outside your insurer’s service area, you should be eligible for special enrollment.
  • Family Size Changes – A special enrollment period begins if you have a child, adopt a child, or a child moves out of your household. 

Typically, you have 60 days from the qualifying life event to purchase a new plan. Your broker will be able to help with this.

Private Health Insurance Company Options

You also can purchase your medical coverage directly from an insurance company rather than through the exchange. If you don’t qualify for subsidies or don’t want to take advantage of them, this can be a simpler path.

Your independent agent will work with you to determine the right fit. They will look at your preferred doctors and hospitals and any medications you need to cover. Then they show you the options available and help you choose one and enroll.

How To Choose the Right Private Health Insurance Plan

There is a lot to consider when selecting a plan. For most people, they will have the policy for at least a year due to enrollment restrictions. So, you want to find the best option for your needs.

It is helpful to estimate your current healthcare costs before you purchase private health insurance for your family. Having a clear picture of ongoing medications and treatments will guide you as you select a coverage plan.

Using an Insurance Broker

The health insurance world is confusing. Whether you use the marketplace or not, it is challenging for non-experts to know all of the intricacies of different options. 

An independent broker will help remove the confusion. They do this all day long and understand all the jargon and terminology. And they can look at all available plans quickly to give you the best information possible.

When working with an agent, be ready to provide the following information:

  • Preferred Providers
  • Preferred Hospitals or Facilities
  • List of Prescription Drug Needs
  • List of Ongoing Therapies – physical, speech, occupational, etc.

Your health insurance broker will be able to save you time and money while they search for the perfect product to meet your needs

Let Us Help You with This Critical Piece

Do not risk financial devastation by going without health insurance. Let the Lake Region Insurance Agency team find the right fit for your circumstances. 

Our friendly staff has been caring for our neighbors in Willmar, Cokato, and New London, MN, for years. Stop in or give us a call today to get started on finding your next medical policy.

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How to Avoid Chimney Fires and Protect Your Home

There’s nothing like a warm fire on a chilly winter night. But did you know that your fireplace ambiance comes with a maintenance requirement? The effort of maintaining your fireplace chimney is a small price to pay to avoid chimney fires.

You love your home and take good care of it. But sometimes problems happen anyway. Part of caring for your home is being ready to handle damages when they occur. Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free insurance review and policy quote.

How Can a Chimney Catch Fire? 

Your chimney removes smoke from your home while providing fresh air to feed the fire in the fireplace. Hot, smoky air rises through the center of the chimney, the flue, and out of your house. 

The hot air rising through the chimney flue creates a draft, which is like a vacuum that draws the smoke up the chimney. 

A strong draft will carry the airborne debris to the outside. A weaker one will deposit soot and creosote on your chimney’s walls. This happens when the fire isn’t hot enough, or your chimney is too short, 

Creosote is a thick, flaky residue that can coat the walls of the chimney. It’s highly combustible, so if the temperature inside your chimney gets high enough, the creosote will catch fire. 

Preventing Chimney Fires

chimney safety

A chimney fire occurs about 22,000 times a year in the United States, so homeowners need to monitor this. To avoid a disaster in your house, keep the following tips in mind.

Keep It Clean

Your chimney won’t catch fire if it’s clean. Creosote is fuel for chimney fires, and if it ignites, the heat may be much higher than your chimney can withstand.

Have your chimney serviced by a certified chimney sweep once a year. They’ll check the flue walls and identify and address any potential problems. 

Chimney maintenance is always less expensive than repair. It is much more straightforward to repair cracks in mortar joints or masonry than to replace a warped flue. So stay on top of your chimney’s servicing needs to keep your home safe and avoid costly repairs.

Put a Damper on It

The damper is a metal plate in the chimney that controls the air supply to your fireplace. It closes off the fireplace when you don’t have a fire going, and swings up to open the flue when needed.

Make sure to open the damper when you light a fire. You want the maximum draft to pull airborne particles up and out of your house. 

When you aren’t using the fireplace, keep the damper closed. This habit will help to insulate your home from outside temperatures. It can even deter the occasional bird or bat that might find a way into your chimney. 

Pay Attention to What You Burn

chimney safety

The wood you choose can affect the amount of creosote buildup on your chimney walls. Hardwoods like oak, ash, and elm are excellent firewood choices because they burn hotter and longer than softwoods.

Avoid softwoods like fir, pine, and cypress. These wood species are fine for a bonfire outdoors, but they burn up quickly and leave excess creosote on your chimney walls. 

Your wood needs to be dry throughout before you add it to your fire. Wet wood equals more smoke and less heat. The high water content also makes for a thicker, stickier smoke compound. This substance can coat the glass on your fireplace and stick to your chimney flue’s walls.

Freshly-cut trees or branches contain sap, and it takes 6-12 months for logs to dry out completely. Season your firewood by stacking it outside and letting it sit for at least six months. 

Split the wood to speed the drying process, and stack it off the ground in a single row to increase airflow. Keep your wood stack in a sheltered area or cover it in wet weather. 

If you’re just starting, look for wood that is already seasoned. Get enough seasoned wood to last through this winter. 

At the same time, get unseasoned wood for the following winter. By the time you need it next year, your wood will be ready. Keep stocking your lumber a year ahead to continue the cycle.

If you aren’t sure whether your wood is dry enough to use, measure it with a moisture meter. You can find this simple tool for around $20 at your hardware store or online. 

Don’t Go Overboard

It’s so tempting to poke, prod, and add more wood to your crackling fire. But adding too much wood at one time can create a blanket over the flames. This situation creates a cooler, dirtier fire. 

Overfilling your firebox, known as over-firing, can create a more massive fire than your structure can contain. The heat can transfer through the fireplace to the surrounding, non-fireproof parts of your home.

What Should I Do If I Have a Chimney Fire?

chimney fires

A fast-burning fire will be apparent.

  • You’ll hear a sound like a large bonfire coming from the chimney. Some people have described a sound like a plane taking off.
  • Thick, dense smoke may push down the chimney and into the house. 
  • You will see flames and burning pieces of creosote erupting from the top of the chimney. 

Slow-burning chimney fires are common. They occur when the creosote is hot enough to burn, but there isn’t enough to cause a big blaze. Sometimes these fires burn themselves out, but they still can damage the chimney. 

Consider keeping a chimney fire extinguishing product on hand. Chimfex and Fire-Ex are products that work by quickly reducing the available oxygen in the flue to starve the fire. 

If you think you had or have a chimney fire, even a small one, always call 911. A firefighter can make sure your home is safe. And then be sure to have a certified professional do a chimney inspection to check for damage.

Let’s Make Sure You’re Covered

Accidents happen even with chimney safety protocols in place. So it’s essential to be sure you have adequate coverage. Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency for a free review of your homeowners or other policies. 

As independent agents, we access plans from many providers so that you can choose from the best options out there. Visit us in Cokato, Willmar, or New London, MN, to get a quote today.