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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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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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A Guide to Choosing Group Health Insurance Plans

When it comes to choosing a group health insurance plan, the array of options can be overwhelming. Insurance is a crowded market with plenty of options on the table. As an employer, your responsibility is to your workers, and you want to offer them the best coverage.

Note that not all group health insurance plans are created equal. Some may be a better fit for your team than others. Engaging the services of an independent broker, such as Lake Region Insurance Agency, narrows down the search. Reach out today to talk with a team member.

Why Should I Consider Group Health Insurance Plans?

If your company’s workforce includes 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you are likely required to offer them medical coverage. The Affordable Care Act lays out guidelines and requirements

But even companies that do not have to provide insurance coverage often choose to do so as an employee perk. It is an excellent way to find and retain highly-qualified talent for your team.

Opting for group coverage offers a range of benefits for both the employee and employer, including:

  • Greater Choice – As an employer, you can shop from many insurance companies to find the best offering for your workers and yourself. And employees generally can choose from several plans that they otherwise would not be able to access. 
  • Affordability – The larger number of subscribers in group plans spreads the risk for the insurer. A lower risk for the underwriters translates into a lower premium for all of the people on the plan. 
  • Better Coverage – Group health insurance plans often cover more services than individual coverage. They may offer lower copays or more visits to specialists, such as physical therapists.
  • Tax Benefits – As the employer, you may qualify for tax credits when you offer group coverage and pay part of the premiums. 
  • Benefits For The Job Market – Offering health insurance is a sure-fire way to make your workplace more appealing to employees. It demonstrates that you have their interests at heart and value your staff. In addition, providing health insurance coverage can cut down on sick days and reduced productivity.

Doctor's visit covered under group health plans

Consider Voluntary Plans

If you are a small or microbusiness, a voluntary plan might be the best fit. This option allows employees to contribute a specific amount to a group plan while saving money on the total cost. This option carries little to no cost for employers. Premiums come from the worker’s paycheck pre-tax, so there is a tax saving for them, too.

How to Choose a Compliant Plan

Choosing a group health plan can be tricky, and it’s crucial that it is compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. In addition to the rules regarding the number of employees, group health insurance plans must also meet the following criteria:

Must Cover Essential Health Benefits

Any group plan you offer to your workforce must include coverage for the ten essential health benefits (EHBs):

  1. Hospitalization Services
  2. Ambulatory Care – This includes doctor visits and outpatient care.
  3. Emergency Services 
  4. Maternity and Newborn Care
  5. Mental Health Care and Substance Abuse Treatment
  6. Lab Tests  
  7. Prescription Drugs
  8. Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services – These can include things such as speech therapy or occupational therapy.
  9. Pediatric Services for Children – This section must include vision and dental care under most circumstances.
  10. Preventive Care, “Well Check” Visits, and Chronic Disease Management

To be compliant, a group plan must not place a dollar limit on EHBs. It may, however, set a limit on the number of visits in some categories, such as rehabilitative services. 

Physical therapy under group health plans

Must Qualify as Affordable 

In 2020, requirements state that the lowest coverage option must have premiums costing less than 9.78% of your employee’s overall income.

Must Provide Minimum Value

The plan must cover at least 60% of the expected total cost of services.

Making the Decision

Whether you have a legal obligation to provide insurance or not, having a group health plan is valuable. As you work with your independent insurance broker, here are some things to consider.

Make Sure It Fits Your Budget

If your staff has fewer than 50 employees, you are exempt from the ACA’s shared responsibility provision. As a result, you legally do not have to pay a percentage of the premiums. You will be able to choose to pay 100% of your employee’s premiums, pay a smaller portion, or have your employees pay the full cost.

It is essential to do your research in advance. You want a plan that balances the needs of your employees with the company budget.

Consider Health Spending Accounts

A health spending account can allow you to offer the flexibility employees need, at a price your business can afford. Employers and employees may contribute to these accounts, and then employees can use the funds for qualified health expenses. 

Group health plans and HSAs for medications

Work with an Expert

Trying to navigate this decision on your own is frustrating at best and costly, at worst. You will have hundreds of plans from insurance companies to consider. And finding the right fit is overwhelming for most business owners.

Companies may bombard you with options ranging from PPOs to HMOs. You will see lists of percentages and copayments. Comparing these plans as you try to decide which one to choose is enough to give business owners nightmares.

Instead, find an independent agent to help you make the right choice for your workers. An independent broker is not limited to a particular plan or company. They help you select what you need without stress.

How Can We Help?

Choosing your group insurance policy is time-consuming on your own because there are so many factors to take into account. Here at Lake Region, we have the autonomy to access the very best deals. 

We work hard to make sure you have a clear view of your options. And we help you understand the health insurance marketplace.

As an independent agency, we do not have ties to a particular firm, group, or policy. This objectivity means that we will be able to build the perfect plan for your business. Get in touch today to see how we can help. Our team members in New London, Cokato, and Willmar, MN, are here to serve.

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The Ins and Outs of Car Insurance for Teen Drivers

Your teenager is learning to drive. It’s both exciting and scary because you want to give them freedom while also keeping them safe. And on the practical side, you now need to think about car insurance for teen drivers. 

Start your new driver’s journey the right way. Call Lake Region Insurance Agency for a free policy review and quote. Our agents in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, are happy to partner with you on this exciting next step.

How to Choose Car Insurance for Teen Drivers

Insuring new drivers can be expensive. They haven’t proven themselves yet, so insurance companies see them as a higher risk. As a result, they charge more to insure teenagers than experienced drivers. 

But rates vary from one company to the next. How do you decide which policy to buy? 

You could search online for hours, comparing policies, and landing on numerous spam email lists. This plan is a time-consuming and potentially frustrating way to get protection.

The better option is to talk with your independent insurance agent. Independent agents can search from a variety of plans and policies. They do the comparing for you, weed out the poor choices, and bring you the best options.

Your agent will help you choose the policy limits that are right for your family. Depending on your budget, you might consider increasing your deductible to lower the monthly premium. Be sure to discuss all of the possible options with your agent. In an accident, if damages exceed the value of your policy, you may be held responsible for the difference. 

You can also think about adding an umbrella insurance policy. Umbrella insurance is an all-purpose, rainy day policy. It could help cover you in the case of a lawsuit for damages beyond what your other insurance policies cover. 

It’s also an excellent idea to include your teenager in conversations with your insurance agent.  They will start to learn about the financial responsibility that goes along with driving and the repercussions for things like speeding tickets.

How to Reduce Teen Driver Insurance Rates for Your Family

There is no shortcut for gaining driving experience. It must come with time. But there are a few things you can do to reduce the expense of new driver insurance.

  • Utilize driver education. An experienced professional instructor can reduce new driver stress for your teen and you. And a certificate from a state driver education program may qualify them for a discount on their insurance. 
  • Add them to your insurance instead of getting a separate policy. Some parents want their child to have their own policies. But it is usually less expensive to add your teen to an existing plan instead.
  • Get them a safe car. Does your teen want the newest, fastest car? Of course they do! But combining a new driver with a fast car is both dangerous and expensive. Get them a safe car to drive to save your dollars.
  • Ask your insurance agent about discounts for good grades. Students who focus and learn well tend to be better drivers. And most insurance policies reward good grades with lower rates.
  • Consider some tracking. There are several devices available that will inform you if your teen starts driving dangerously. There is no need to be sneaky, so make sure to tell them about it. Knowing that someone is paying attention might keep them from driving recklessly. 
  • Make sure the policy assigns your teen to the right car. Some vehicles cost more to cover than others. If your insurance policy adds your teen to your most expensive car, your rates will be higher. But, keep in mind that your teen can only drive that specific vehicle. If they have an accident while driving a different car, your insurer might assign penalties and increase your premiums. 

Talk With Your Teen About Safe Driving.

The best insurance plan will take care of damages when they happen, but it’s better to avoid them altogether. 

Talk to your teen driver about these critical safety rules:

  • Don’t text and drive. They’ve heard it before, but keep telling them. Texting while driving causes deadly accidents. Set a good example by tucking your phone away when you’re behind the wheel.
  • Don’t drive tired. People who drive with too little sleep perform a lot like people who drive drunk. Slower reactions from sleep-deprived brains cause many accidents every year.
  • Don’t drink or use other drugs while driving. Of course, you hope your teen isn’t drinking alcohol yet. But the fact remains that many teams do. Create a plan with them to get home safely. Talk to them about choosing a designated driver. Make sure they know that you will come to pick them up at any time to keep them safe.
  • Don’t speed. Speeding is a factor in over 22% of all fatal car crashes. It accounts for more deaths than impaired driving.

Remind your teen about the common sense things they need to do each time they are behind the wheel. Safe habits might be second nature for you. But your new driver may need several reminders before crucial actions become habits. 

  • Slow down in adverse conditions. You know that feeling when your tires lose traction? Your new driver may not have experienced that yet. Talk to them about taking it easy on icy roads and what to do if they start to slide. 
  • Wear your seatbelt. Just do it. Every. Single. Time. 
  • Let faster drivers pass. Remind your teen to avoid engaging with reckless drivers. They should know to let speeders get past them and never try to race another driver.
  • Recognize when conditions are too bad for driving. Winter in Greater Minnesota can be vicious. Have you ever gone through the type of storm that makes you turn off your radio? Then you know that sometimes you just need to stay put until the clouds clear.

Remember, the best way to teach your new driver good habits is to follow them yourself. Make a contract with your teen and be clear about the consequences of breaking it.

Your child is on the road to independence, so let’s keep them covered on their journey. Make sure to call Lake Region Insurance Agency for a comprehensive review. We are experts at helping parents understand car insurance for teen drivers.

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Your Guide to HVAC Air Purification Systems

Many homeowners wonder how to keep their household air as clean and germ-free as possible in our current times. Installing HVAC air purification systems is one way some families drastically improve the air quality in their homes. 

Some people experience seasonal allergies, asthma, or a compromised immune system. Others are in a high-risk demographic for COVID-19, a whole-house purification system may help you enjoy cleaner air in your home.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we love sharing tips and tools to increase your home’s value and function. We also take great pride in providing dedicated and reliable service when it comes to your insurance policies.

Reviewing your choices each year can help you ensure proper coverage for upgrades like whole-house air purification systems. Give us a call today for a free insurance review. Our independent agents are on your side in Cokato, New London, and Wilmar, MN.

Why Consider HVAC Air Purification Systems?

The Environmental Protection Agency states that indoor air quality is typically more polluted than the air outside. And most people spend as much as 90% of their time inside. Let that sink in for a minute.

In businesses, schools, and homes, people may be breathing in irritants such as:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Germs
  • Pet Dander
  • Mold
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Chemicals

And going off the EPA’s statistics, many people are doing this for over 21 hours per day.

Of course, keeping your house clean and well ventilated goes a long way toward ensuring healthier air inside your home. But cleaning may not be enough if you have bad allergies or symptoms triggered by air pollution. In these cases, you might want to install an HVAC air purification system.

From Basic to State-of-the-Art

With any forced-air HVAC unit, you’ll have a built-in rudimentary filter. This piece is the flat screen that you should change each month. You can pick them up at a neighborhood hardware store, and they slide right into a panel on your furnace. Just be sure to check the size required for your system.

You have a wide variety of options when it comes to media filters.

Essentially, the more material in the filter, the better the air quality it delivers. A flat filter costs less to purchase, but an accordion-type screen provides superior air filtration. It’s best to choose the highest quality filter you can to improve your indoor air quality.

Replacing these filters on your furnace should be a well-traveled habit each month. And there’s nothing wrong with changing them more often to ensure minimum dust and dirt buildup on the filter. 

Choosing HEPA filters can provide an improved air quality rating as well. These filters can block 99.97 percent of all particles that measure a minimum of .3 microns.

Go the extra mile in creating a healthy home and select an electrostatically charged variety of furnace filters. These panels trap different particles like pet dander and pollen. The standard filters only block dust. 

You can leave the electrostatic filters in place for two or three months, but don’t forget about them! Write a note on a calendar or set a reminder on your phone to be sure you don’t ignore this crucial part of home maintenance.

Step Up Your Purification Game

If you want to upgrade your home’s filtration structure to ensure ever-cleaner air, there are two heavy-duty options available. 

  1. Extended Media Filters – These filtration tools appear like a stack of media filters in a drawer. Remember, more filtration material equals cleaner air. It costs about $400-$600 to integrate these into your ductwork. Replacement is straightforward but more expensive than it is for a single filter. You’ll need to buy a new one each year for about $50.
  2. Electronic Filters – If filtering smoke is a concern in your home, an electronic filter could be the best choice. These high-powered systems pass air through your ductwork and apply an electrical charge. At the end of your channel, a metal plate collects the charged particles. Though there are no paper filters to replace in this system, the metal “catch” plates need a washing with soapy water every couple of months. Prepare to spend up to $1000 on the equipment and installation. But your air will be spic and span as long as you regularly clean the aluminum filter plates.

Go Nearly Germ-Free with an Ultra-Violet Filter

This heavy hitter of a filter knocks out pathogens at a high rate. These whole-house air purification systems integrate with your HVAC equipment for an add-on price of $400-$800.

The ultraviolet light practically vaporizes pathogens that hit the filter. 

An ultraviolet system works well for overall germ reduction in your home. In fact, hospitals use this type of filtration in wards housing highly contagious patients. However, you still need to wash your hands and cover your cough to help keep those around you from getting sick.

When HVAC Isn’t an Option, Go Portable

You can still create cleaner air in your home even if your furnace doesn’t support an HVAC air purification system. Portable filters can also be effective at “spot cleaning” areas of your home’s airflow.

Many portable filter systems use HEPA filters as their primary mode of function. Though these units effectively scrub the air in a room, they can be noisy and require frequent replacement of the HEPA filter.

For less noise, try an ion portable filter system. These units use electrostatic filtration methods and hum quietly wherever you place them.

Lake Region Cares About Your Home and Health

We’re your neighbors here at Lake Region Insurance Agency. We care deeply about our communities in Greater Minnesota and want the best for you and your family. 

Our independent agents can shop the insurance market for the best policies to fit your coverage needs and your budget. We work for you. We offer excellent rates and quick claim processing and payout. Our agents have your best interests at heart. 

Call us today for a free quote on your home, auto, life, or health insurance policies. Take advantage of our hometown know-how.  We’ve proudly served the Wilmar, New London, and Cokato, MN, communities for over 50 years. We’re committed to your satisfaction and peace of mind.

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How Does Flood Insurance Work, and Do I Need It?

When it comes to protecting your house, you probably have coverage for the home’s structure and contents. Many homeowners believe that this gives them full financial protection in the event of any disaster. But it’s also important to consider a few questions. Do I need flood insurance? And how does flood insurance work? 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know the damage flooding can cause here in Greater Minnesota. If you feel unsure about your coverage, reach out to one of our agents today. With offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we are here to serve you.

How Does Flood Insurance Work?

As the name suggests, flood insurance is a specialized form of coverage that kicks in if a flood damages your home. This type of policy is for flooding due to natural causes. Some examples of events that might trigger a claim include:

  • Heavy Rain
  • Rapid Snowmelt
  • Levee Failure
  • Storm Surge

Flooding from burst pipes or a malfunctioning washing machine falls under a homeowners policy. That’s a whole different event.

Only a small minority of homeowners have flood insurance, even in high-risk areas. This lack of coverage can result in a significant eye-opener if disaster strikes.

But I Already Have Homeowners Insurance. Isn’t That Enough?

Too often, people believe they have coverage for flood damage under their homeowners insurance. But this is not the case. Flood insurance, like earthquake coverage, is a separate policy that you purchase. Unfortunately, many owners do not realize this until it is too late.

In some situations, buying flood insurance may be a requirement to secure a mortgage. This necessity is especially true if you are in a high-risk area.

For commercial properties, the same concerns apply. Your business insurance policy likely doesn’t protect you against flood damage and loss.

How Do I Decide If I Should Buy Flood Insurance?

You may assume that you do not need flood insurance, especially if you have never experienced a disaster. Many people think if they don’t live in a high-risk area, they don’t need to worry about it.

However, flood maps tend to change over time. These alterations happen according to shifts in local infrastructure, weather patterns, or nearby building work. 

For example, the construction of a new neighborhood on a local floodplain could mean there is no longer an escape for excess water. As a result, your property may have inadvertently slipped into the high-risk category without you realizing it. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains the Flood Map Service Center to help determine risk. They update the data annually, and you can check it to see how your home fares. Mortgage companies use this information to decide whether or not to require flood insurance on a property. 

Even if the data place your home in a low-risk category, that doesn’t mean flooding can’t happen. And home could be at risk. 

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The NFIP is a program that FEMA manages, and it is available only in communities that choose to participate. There are two types of coverage: structural property and personal property.

A policy for the building itself is ‘replacement cost value’ coverage. That is, it pays for your home’s repair and replacement costs, up to the limits of the policy. To purchase coverage through NFIP, you must also have full homeowners coverage.

Replacement cost value protection typically covers:

  • The foundation of your home and the physical structure 
  • Built-in kitchen appliances such as stoves and refrigerators
  • Electrical and plumbing
  • Furnaces and air conditioners
  • Heaters
  • Flooring
  • Wallboard and paneling
  • Window blinds
  • Permanent bookcases and cabinets
  • Detached garages
  • Removal of debris

Personal property or contents coverage addresses the items in the home. This option generally covers:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Curtains
  • Portable kitchen appliances
  • Washer and dryer
  • Freezers and any food in them
  • Up to $2500 in valuables, including artwork and jewelry

As with any insurance policy, some exceptions apply under NFIP coverage. These include:

  • Basements or any areas of your home below ground level
  • Any damage caused by mold, mildew, or moisture not caused by floodwater
  • Stock certificates, cash, or bearer bonds
  • Precious metals
  • Loss of income
  • Trees, plants, or shrubs outside the home
  • Swimming pools or hot tubs
  • Walkways
  • Decks and patios
  • Septic systems
  • Temporary housing
  • Cars

NFIP coverage is simple to obtain through an insurance agent. Typically it takes 30 days from the date of purchase before a policy goes into effect. Premiums vary significantly depending on where the property sits. 

Private Flood Insurance

There are a limited number of private insurers who can offer flood insurance, as well. These options are outside the federal government. This coverage can have several benefits for homeowners, including:

  • Higher Levels of Coverage – Private flood insurance tends to offer higher levels of coverage than NFIP does. This option may be important for those with high-end homes and belongings.
  • Lower Premiums – As data has become more sophisticated, private insurers have been able to offer competitive rates. For some homeowners, these premiums may be less than those offered by NFIP.
  • Shorter Wait Times – You typically have to wait 30 days for NFIP policies to go into effect. Private coverage can start in less than a week.
  • Extra Perks – Unlike with NFIP, you may be able to claim short-term housing costs. And your policy may cover items that NFIP excludes.

There are some negatives associated with private insurance. It may not be available in very high-risk areas. Also, banks may not accept a private policy when you take out a mortgage with them. 

Lake Region Is Here to Help

Insurance decisions can feel confusing and overwhelming. The lingo and terminology aren’t very user-friendly at times. 

That’s why the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to serve you. We definitely can answer the question, “How does flood insurance work?” 

We have years of experience working with a range of insurance policies. Our independent agents have access to coverage from many different companies, so we are sure to find just what you need.

Don’t spend another minute worrying about protecting your home, car, business, or health. Reach out to Lake Region today for a free insurance review.

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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. 

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A Guide to Preparing Your House for Severe Weather Storms

Severe weather storms in the Northland are no joke. In Minnesota, every season brings both extreme beauty and the potential for life-changing catastrophe from Mother Nature. With storms comes the likelihood of property loss or damage from weather events.

Taking a few proactive steps during calmer times is the key to maintaining your home and family’s safety. It’s smart to “batten down the hatches” on your home and property before the next thunderhead rolls in. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we help you protect your belongings before you ever need to file a claim. And, if the worst happens, we’re with you every step of the way through the claims process. Give us a call or stop by for a free insurance review. You will see how we stand up for our neighbors in Cokato, New London, and Wilmar, MN. 

Prepping for Severe Weather Storms

Depending on the season, Greater Minnesota can experience significant storms that include:

  • Blizzards
  • Gale-Force Winds
  • Ice
  • Hail
  • Lightning
  • Tornadoes
  • Flooding

Now with hot weather approaching, be sure to get ready with these summer weather safety tips.

Inspect Your Roof

Your roof is the primary structural concern during any storm. Heavy rain, hail, and wind can break off shingles and cause leaks and damage to the roof. Lightning strikes and falling trees create even more risk.

Get ahead of the game by regularly checking your roof from the curbside. Check for loose or peeling shingles, debris piling up, and overhanging tree branches that could fall and cause trouble.

Invest in a professional roof inspection each year to locate any areas of significant wear-and-tear, leaks, or water damage. The expert will likely check for signs of leakage in your attic, on walls, and ceilings. They also may check the stability of your beams and joists.

 

Your inspector can help you determine whether to repair or replace your roof based on its age and integrity. Making small repairs now can help you avoid more costly damage when the next storm hits.

If you own a business that needs a new roof, consider shingles rather than metal. With shingles, wind damage may only affect a portion of your roof instead of lifting off entire sections.

Trim Your Trees and Shrubs

Severe weather affects not only your buildings and vehicles, but it also can damage trees and shrubs. And those same trees that provide shade to your home on hot days can cause destruction during a storm.

Be sure to do regular maintenance on the trees and shrubs around your home. Keep them trimmed and pruned as needed. Remove dead limbs or trees since they can be safety hazards. Stay safe by hiring a professional tree trimmer to do big jobs or any that require climbing.

Choose Your Landscaping Carefully

Rocks and gravel can become projectiles that inflict even more damage to your home or vehicles during a storm. Softer landscaping materials in your yard make a safer choice during a storm. 

Shelter In the Safest Place

For optimal storm preparedness, take the time to identify the safest place in your home to ride out severe weather storms. This spot may be your basement, an under-the-stairs closet, a bathroom, or a central room away from windows. 

Check to be sure that everyone in the house knows where the “safe place” is. You should also stock your safe meeting room with emergency essentials like:

  • A first aid kit
  • A radio with extra batteries to keep up with weather reports and storm warnings
  • Non-perishable snacks and foods
  • Diapers and formula, if applicable
  • Diversions such as playing cards or board games
  • A few day’s supply of bottled drinking water
  • Any medications you may need
  • Pet food, medication, and a litter box

Remember to stay away from windows and doors when the storm arrives. Watching the power of an oncoming storm from your porch can be tempting. But it’s best to find shelter as soon as the weather warnings occur.

Take time to map out a couple of possible “escape” routes for when the storm is over. Thinking this through ahead of time gives you choices. In a severe storm, your normal road could wash out or have fallen trees blocking it.

Secure Heavy Furniture

It’s essential to secure top-heavy items to a wall. Pay attention to:

  • Dressers 
  • Wardrobes 
  • Curio Cabinets 
  • China Cabinets 
  • Free-Standing Pantry Units 
  • Storage Cupboards 

You can find the appropriate metal brackets and screws at any local hardware store. Be sure to secure the furniture to a wall stud, not just the sheetrock. A stud is the sturdiest attachment point. As always, call a professional if you are unsure how to do this safely.

Communication Is Key

Having a family emergency action plan can help ensure all your loved ones stay safe during a storm. It’s much harder to be strategic when the winds, rain, and flooding begin. Make it a priority to put a clear plan in place and make sure the whole family knows the protocol.

Practicing emergency drills with small children in your home is a great idea during times of calm. And this habit can save lives later. As early as possible, walk your children through how to unlock your phone and dial 911. You can role-play with them how to speak to first-responders.

You can even download an app on your phone to help your children practice dialing 911!

Lake Region Has Your Back. And Your Siding. And Your Roof.

In Greater Minnesota, damaging storms can hit any time of the year with little warning. Taking proactive steps to protect your home and property can save you money, energy, and stress when extreme weather comes.

Protect your home and vehicles with coverage through Lake Region Insurance Agency. You will gain peace of mind with our expert team on your side. 

As independent agents, we shop the market for the best coverage to fit your budget and your needs. Call our offices in Wilmar, Cokato, and New London, MN, for a free quote. Get a jump on safety and protection in any Minnesota season.

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How To Stay Safe on a Motorcycle This Summer

Through the long winter months in the Northland, Minnesotans dream of warmer weather and getting out in the sunshine. Motorcycles are a fun way to enjoy the back roads and scenic highways, but you must know how to stay safe on a motorcycle for the most care-free touring experience.

No matter what you’ll be driving this summer, the Lake Region Independent Agents can find the coverage you need. Visit our website today to schedule a free insurance review or consultation. Our agents are available in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN. We’ll help you select the best plan on the market for your needs.

How to Stay Safe on a Motorcycle at All Times

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we want to make sure all our clients get out there and enjoy Greater Minnesota. But safety is paramount when you do it on your motorcycle. We’ve assembled several tips to help you enjoy your bike with confidence and care.

Start with the right bike for your body size and experience.

It’s critical to try several different motorcycle models before you make a purchase. You’ll need to determine how much bike is right for your body size and frame. And you need to learn what you feel comfortable supporting. 

For example, it’s unlikely that a 6-foot-6-inch person will feel comfortable riding a smaller sportbike for long periods. On the flip side, a person of smaller stature may feel awkward atop a full-size motorcycle where their feet barely touch the ground. 

There is another crucial bike-size factor for safety. You must make sure you feel confident in supporting and balancing the bike’s weight when you’re at a stop. If you try out a motorcycle and always feel like you’ll tip over, then it may not be the best fit. 

To be safe, you need to be able to:

  • Sit comfortably on the bike.
  • Support the machine’s weight.
  • Lift and lower your feet with ease when transitioning from a stop.

Engine size is another essential aspect of safe motorcycle riding. It’s a good idea to start with a smaller, less powerful engine as a beginning rider. Bigger engines pack more punch and require significant control. 

For newbies and experienced riders alike, make sure you know the bike’s speed and acceleration capabilities. You have to handle the horsepower underneath you before you hit the road.

Take a class (or two or six).

Education and practice are two hallmarks of safe riding in Minnesota and beyond. Minnesota offers a comprehensive menu of safe rider courses all over the state. 

When you sign up for motorcycle safety training, you receive a lot of valuable information. You’ll get online classroom instruction on safe riding practices, applicable laws, and defensive driving techniques. Plus, you will practice your skills on a suitable and dedicated course with a training bike. You’ll learn road skills like:

  • Stopping
  • Shifting 
  • Turning
  • Clutch and throttle control
  • Straight-line riding techniques

Classes target beginners, intermediate riders, and experts. The skills taught in each course differ according to your level of expertise and experience. 

Keep your riding skills fresh by taking a new course before that first long ride of the season, even if it’s a repeat. You’ll likely gain practice in an area where you feel less confident each time you take the class.

Grow an extra set of eyeballs.

Most motorcycle accidents occur because a car driver didn’t see a motorcyclist. You’ll need to hone your defensive driving skills to remain safe on your bike. Be sure to stay clear of other motorists’ blind spots on the road. And don’t assume that cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles can see you.

Get visible with your gear.

It can be tempting to kit yourself out in the classic black leather of the iconic rider. Leather can provide excellent skin protection and keep you warm in the elements. However, high-visibility gear is the way to go for safety.

When you wear bright yellows, greens, and oranges, you’re more visible on the road to other drivers. Visibility means increased safety. Motorists may notice you more quickly during turns, at intersections, or on the freeway. 

With the increasing trendiness of high-vis motorcycle gear, you have a lot of options available. Now there is a wide array of state-of-the-art materials in styles for any preference.

Don’t forget your helmet.

Helmet laws are controversial in many states. But the fact is, motorcycle helmets significantly reduce the instance of head injuries and the risk of death. The statistics are staggering and illustrate the importance of helmet use. When wondering how to stay safe on a motorcycle, using a helmet is critical.

Make sure your helmet is DOT approved and no older than five years for the best protection. Inspect your helmet each season for signs of wear or damage. 

If you purchase a helmet online, be sure the vendor has a comprehensive sizing guide. Quality vendors will have you take your exact measurements and submit them before ordering your helmet.

Your helmet fits properly when it’s snug but comfortable. When wearing your helmet, you should be able to shake your head gently and have the helmet stay put. This is especially important for young riders. Never put an adult helmet on a child. Kids should always have their own properly-fitted protection.

Get Comprehensive Insurance Coverage for Your Motorcycle

Of course, we hope that adopting the above safety precautions means you never get in a motorcycle accident. However, things happen on the road that you can’t control. Be sure you have coverage for every eventuality.

A motorcycle insurance policy from Lake Region Insurance Agency can increase your peace of mind when you’re on the road. Comprehensive coverage can help address medical bills, property damage, liability, and damage to your bike if there is an accident. It can also offer financial protection in the event of theft, vandalism, or fire.

Call or stop by one of our offices, and we’ll shop our extensive network of providers for the best deals. Ride easy knowing that Lake Region Insurance Agency has your back when you’re on the open roads of Greater Minnesota.