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Sinkhole Coverage – What you need to know

 Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the nation. Because of this Florida made some changes to its laws regarding sinkhole coverage on homeowners insurance policies. Florida law now requires insurers to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse”. This now means that damage caused by a sinkhole may not be covered under your home insurance policy. That’s because the law defines catastrophic ground cover collapse differently from sinkholes.

According to the FL Dept of Financial Services, “Florida law defines a sinkhole as “a land form created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole may form by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution (the dissolving) of limestone or dolostone or by the subsidence as these strata are dissolved.”

“Catastrophic ground cover collapse” is defined as “geological activity that results in all of the following: 1). The abrupt collapse of the ground cover; 2). A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye; 3). Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and 4). The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the government agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.”

“This means that if your home is damaged by sinkhole activity, but does not meet all four criteria for catastrophic ground cover collapse – for instance, you may have foundation cracks, but the home is still livable – your insurance may not pay for the damage if you do not have sinkhole coverage.

All insurance companies licensed to do business must offer sinkhole coverage, usually as an addendum or rider to an existing policy, and for an additional premium charge. However, insurance companies may require an inspection before extending coverage. If sinkhole activity is present on the property or within a certain distance of the property to be insured, the insurance company may decline coverage.”

Because of these changes it’s important to find out what is covered under your policy. If you are not sure if you have sinkhole coverage or catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage contact one of our agents today for a full policy review.

For more information on Sinkholes and Catastrophic Ground Collapse please visit the Florida Department of Financial Services website.

Commercial Insurance 101

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If you own a business, it’s important to match the insurance you carry to the company you keep. Doing so can save you time and money down the road. 

Commercial auto insurance can be especially important, so if you’re not sure what kind of commercial auto coverage you need, you may want to talk with an independent agent who specializes in that particular area. Independent agents work with you to put together a package that provides the protection that’s right for your business. 
“Anyone who owns a business with a commercial automobile needs to have coverage that is appropriate for the industry and the size of the business,” says Brett Stalnaker of The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies. “An independent agent who specializes in commercial auto cover-age can provide business owners with the kind of advice they need to make the right choice.” 

Here are some tips to help you find a commercial auto insurance agent: 

• Get objective advice. There are different types of insurance agents. A captive agent represents only one insurance company. Independent agents represent a number of different insurance companies. Independent agents tend to be more flexible, because they can offer coverage options from various companies, increasing your odds of getting the combination of cover-ages, price and service that fits your business needs. 

• Visit the Web site of a larger insurance company. Web sites such as driveinsurance.com can provide you with coverage option information and a way to find an agent in your neighborhood. 

• Seek referrals. These can come from professional organizations or other contacts such as other business owners. Chances are, other business owners in your industry can recommend an agent that they’ve worked with. 

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to business-related insurance. A business that you start in the dining room or garage with just one vehicle can grow to the point where several vehicles are added and you move to commercial property. As your business evolves, your protection needs will most likely change, too. Be sure to check in with your agent periodically to reassess your commercial auto policy. 

Click here to learn more or to start your search for commercial insurance.

Tips For Protecting Boats And Motorcycles

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Tips For Protecting Boats And Motorcycles 

Before you take your motorcycle on the road or put your boat on the water, it may pay to be certain your insurance is ship-shape. 

Motorcycles and boats are often significant investments, and the right insurance policy can help protect them. Here are a few tips, courtesy of Patrons Insurance.

Evaluate your specific needs. Insuring a boat or a motorcycle is different than insuring your car or home. A specialized motorcycle policy, for instance, can provide coverage for custom paint jobs and aftermarket equipment that might not be covered if the bike were just added to a generic auto policy. 

Similarly, a specialized boat policy could cover things like the cost to replace lost or damaged fishing gear and costly services such as emergency on-water towing and fuel-spill cleanup. You probably wouldn’t get this coverage by adding a boat to a homeowner’s policy. 

Consult with an independent agency – like Patrons Insurance. Unlike “captive” agents who represent only one company, independent insurance agents and brokers are licensed insurance professionals who represent several companies. They can offer you a variety of coverages, review and evaluate your policies, suggest new coverage options that meet your changing needs and answer your questions. 

“An independent insurance agent or broker can make sure you have the specialized coverage you need to protect your boat or bike,” said Jim Lloyd, of the Progressive Group of Insurance Companies. “Some insurance companies provide only bare-bones protection for your boat or motorcycle by simply adding it onto your existing auto or homeowner’s policy, but independent agents and brokers can review and evaluate your needs to help match you with the company that will provide you with the combination of specialized coverage, service and price that’s best for you.” 

Click here to learn more about Boat Insurance and Motorcycle insurance.

Get ready for bike season in five simple steps

Get ready for bike season in five simple steps  

There’s nothing like cruising down the open road on your motorcycle – the wind in your hair and a few bugs in your teeth. 

Before you hit the highways and byways this season, make sure your insurance policy is up to speed so that you and your bike are protected. 
Here are a few tips from the experts at Progressive: 

1. Make sure your insurance policy is still in force. Some companies have a winter layaway period when some coverages are restricted. Check with your insurance company to see if you have any type of limited coverage. 

2. Update your policy. Let your insurance company know about any changes like additional riders, a new address or customized parts. A quick call to your independent agent can secure coverage that meets your needs. 

3. Cover customized parts. Parts such as chrome plating, a new paint job, saddlebags or special rims usually increase the value of your bike. If you’ve added custom parts or equipment, make sure they’re protected. 

4. If you don’t need it, drop it. If you own an older bike, check its value. Don’t pay for coverage that you don’t need. Consider dropping collision coverage if the premium equals 10 percent of the bike’s market value. Understand, however, that you won’t be covered if your bike overturns or collides with another object. 

5. Shop around. Prices can vary from company to company, so shop around. Another tip: If you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage, consider raising your deductibles. This can lower the cost of your physical damage coverage.

Seven Commercial Auto Insurance Myths Debunked

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Your vehicles are the backbone that keeps your business up and running. But when it comes to the insurance for those vehicles, there may be some misconceptions floating around out there. For example, you might have been told that it’s okay to cancel your vehicle insurance in the off-season, or that all of your drivers are automatically covered by your policy.

To help you get to the facts about commercial auto insurance, we’ve collected some of the more widely-held misconceptions and uncovered the truth about them–along with some tips on how to make sure you have the right coverages for your business. 

1. Myth: It’s cheaper to cancel your insurance if you have a seasonal business.

Fact: Not necessarily. If you cancel your insurance policy, your stored vehicles won’t be protected. A Comprehensive-only policy provides coverage for a business that doesn’t need liability coverage during certain months, but needs basic protection against incidents, such as vandalism, theft, falling tree branches, hail, etc. This is ideal for vehicles that sit for long periods during off-season.

Plus, a Comprehensive-only policy provides continuous insurance which may save you money in the long-run. If you drop your insurance completely, you may pay significantly more to purchase a new policy when your peak season rolls around because most insurance companies ask for proof of continuous coverage to get you the best rate. 

2. Myth: All commercial auto insurance companies use their own claims adjusters.

Fact: Most companies use part-time or contract adjusters to handle commercial vehicle claims, which can slow down the time it takes to get your vehicle back on the road and in business. Progressive handles 100 percent of its commercial vehicle insurance claims with its own staff of in-house commercial insurance experts, making sure claims are processed faster than other insurers that outsource this work.

3. Myth:  You must pay your insurance premium in full up-front.

Fact:  This isn’t always the case.  Some insurance companies offer payment plans that allow your insurance premium to be paid in installments, with very little initial payment.  Keep in mind that you might qualify for a discount if you pay your policy premium in full up-front; however, your carrier or agent may also have other bill plan options available to help you manage your cash flow. Progressive, for example, offers several bill plans, including low initial payments and no interest financing 

4. Myth:  Your employees are covered when they drive your business vehicles. 

Fact: Some vehicle insurance companies will only extend coverage to drivers who are specifically named on the policy.  Make sure your insurer allows “permissive use,” which means that all of your drivers are covered as long as they have your permission to operate the vehicle.

5. Myth: It’s cheaper to buy all of your business insurance products from the same company.

Fact: You need a wide range of coverages to protect your business, from commercial auto insurance and general liability to workers’ compensation. While it might be easier to buy all of these products from the same company, you could save big bucks by buying your policies from separate providers. Shop around to find the best deal, or ask your local agent for quotes from several different companies. 

6. Myth: All insurance companies offer 24/7 service.

Fact: Many insurance companies are only available during regular office hours, which can make filing a claim, adding a vehicle to your policy, and paying bills inconvenient. Before you buy, check with your insurance company to make sure they’re available when you need them.

7. Myth or Fact
Wonder if one of your perceptions about vehicle insurance is myth or fact? Talk to a local agent.  They can provide answers and help you determine which coverages are right for your business.

A trip in an RV shouldn’t ruin your marriage … or your day

Mistakes happen, especially when you’re somewhere unfamiliar, but the results of a recent survey may still surprise you.

The survey found that among RVers, a spouse is more likely to be accidentally left behind than the dog.

A leading RV insurer, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, surveyed more than 1,000 RVers countrywide to uncover amusing mishaps they’ve experienced while traveling.

The survey found that the most common blunders made while traveling are:
•driving away with the steps extended;
•backing into something;
•misjudging overhead or side clearance space;
•not connecting taillights correctly; and
•running out of gas.

The survey found that 53 percent of RVers spend a month or more each year traveling the open road, and 42 percent travel more than 500 miles per trip.

Traveling the open road in an RV can be a great adventure, but sometimes it gets a little bumpy. That’s why RVers were also asked about their insurance. When mishaps happen, you want to get back on the road fast—ideally with all of your passengers on board.

Only 28 percent bought a stand-alone insurance policy with specialized RV coverages. In fact, 54 percent simply added their RV to their auto policy, and 14 percent didn’t buy any RV insurance.

Although mishaps can sometimes be funny, they can also lead to costly damages. Simply adding your RV to your auto policy can leave you woefully underprotected. It’s important to know what coverages are available to adequately protect yourself and your vehicle.

“There are huge differences in coverage and services from companies that specialize in RV insurance,” says Cathy Pelfrey, RV product manager at Progressive. “Check with your local independent insurance agent or do research online so that you buy the policy and coverages that are right for you.”

For more information on specialized RV coverages, contact us today!

Boat insurance myths

Boat insurance myths 

You don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster. You don’t believe your friend caught Jaws fishing off the Florida coast. So why do most boaters believe boat insurance covers them wherever they go? 

Progressive surveyed more than 1,000 boat owners. It uncovered a few insurance myths floating around. Here’s a sample of the findings and the facts behind each: 

Myth: Everyone pays more for insurance because of the hurricanes from a couple of years ago. 
Reality: Even though it’s believed by 74 percent of respondents, it isn’t true. Boat insurers generally price policies based on claims in each state. For example, Ohio customers won’t pay more for insurance because of hurricanes in Florida. 

Myth: Boat insurance covers me anywhere I decide to go boating. 
Reality: Seventy-six percent of respondents believed this one. The reality is some insurers only provide coverage where the boat is used most. Insurers may limit coverage to 100 nautical miles of your home port. Progressive provides coverage virtually anywhere you decide to go in the continental U.S. and Canada. 

Myth: I’ll get a better insurance rate if I buy from the same company that insures my home or car. 
Reality: Buying more than one product from the same insurance company doesn’t mean you get the best rate – even though 45 percent of respondents thought so. Boaters can save by shopping around and combining specialized policies from different companies. 

“It’s important to understand what’s available,” said Dominic Mediate of Progressive. “You want to be properly protected in case your boat is stolen, you get into an accident or contents are damaged. We’re separating fact from fiction so boaters can make the best insurance decisions possible.” 

For more information about boat insurance, contact us today!

Seven Shopping Strategies For New Car Buyers

Seven Shopping Strategies For New Car Buyers

New car shopping can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re a car enthusiast. But others can find the experience stressful and tedious. Either way, there’s a lot to think about. According to a survey of car shoppers, overall purchase price is the most important factor when shopping for a new car (46 percent), followed by make and model (31 percent). 

Safety and performance come in a distant third, tied at seven percent. But whether you’re turned on or turned off by the dizzying array of car choices, trim options, “expert” reviews, incentives and other deals, it definitely pays to approach car buying strategically. 

So if you’re in the market for a new vehicle and you find yourself having trouble keeping a clear head, just keep these strategies, courtesy of Patrons Insurance Agency, in mind: 

1. Decide how much money you can spend and what type of vehicle best suits your needs. Just looking for the basic transport capability of a small or medium sedan? Or do you need the hauling capacity of a van or SUV? Something practical? Something sporty? Something in between? 

2. Research crash tests and accident data available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

3. Shop around for financing. If you can, apply for and get approval for a loan from a bank, credit union or other financier before you even visit the dealership. Being a “cash buyer” gives you an advantage when you do finally meet with the dealership’s financing person. 

4. Test drive the car. Try to drive in conditions that will be similar to those under which you’ll drive every day. 

5. Check pricing for your desired make and model at two or three dealerships and use that information to help you negotiate the best deal. 

6. Get a firm quote, in writing. This should include not only the cost of the car, but any fees and the sales tax. 

7. Inspect your new car carefully before driving off the lot. Make sure all the options you’ve ordered are included and that the body and paint are free of scratches or dents. 

Finally, it’s important to consider the cost of auto insurance, although it seems that few people realize that what they pay for insurance can add significantly to the vehicle’s total cost. 

Wise car buyers know to shop around for insurance and find out how costs compare. They also know to visit an independent insurance agency – like Patrons Insurance Agency. We can check with several companies to find the best combination of coverage and price. 

Not All Homeowners Insurance Policies Are The Same

Whether or not you have had to file a homeowners insurance claim in the past. You expect that when the time comes that you need to file that claim that your insurance policy will cover the damages. Well this might not be the case for consumers who purchase the “HO8’ homeowners policy Citizens will be offering at the end of February.  

As of 02/28/2013 Citizens Property Insurance Corp will be offering a Modified Coverage Form Homeowners Policy referred to as an “HO8” policy. This “HO8” homeowners policy is very different from your standard “HO3” homeowners insurance policy because it does not cover many of the things a standard homeowners insurance policy covers. Here is a list of the major coverages the “HO3” policy covers but the “HO8” policy DOES NOT cover.

  • Water Damage Coverage– Water damage is one of the most common homeowners insurance claims filed. This included leaking pipes, over flow from appliances and rain damage from a leaking roof. 
  • Replacement Cost Coverage on Personal Property– This allows the insurance company to depreciate your belongings and pay you actual cash value for them instead of actually replacing them.
  • Coverage for Falling Objects, Including Trees– In the state of Florida during Hurricane Season falling trees are a major cause of damage to people’s homes.
  • Mold Coverage– Many times a small water leak can turn into extensive mold damage.
  • Theft Coverage for Personal Property off Premises– If your laptop is stolen from your car there is no coverage for the stolen property. Theft coverage is also limited $1,000 per occurrence.

The “HO8” policy will cost 21.7% less than a standard “HO3” policy. The only reason it is cheaper is because they have taken away almost all of the most important coverages a homeowner needs. Citizens Board Member Greg Rokeh has even referred to this policy as a “piece of garbage policy”. 

Patrons Insurance Agency owner Tim McGuire said that he strongly encourages people not to buy this policy and to make sure they know which form of homeonwers insurance they are buying. This policy might save you money at the time of purchase but when that claim happens and the coverage is not there it will cost you thousands more than you saved.

Get the right insurance for your trucks—and save money, too

Five things you should consider before your next renewal

Your vehicle insurance could be as much as 40 percent of your total operating budget.  A Regular policy review is essential in making sure you have the right insurance for your truck—and your business. Plus, you could save big buck if you qualify for additional discounts. 

To get started, ask yourself these five questions—then give your local agent a call. 

1. Are all of my employees covered when they drive my trucks, even if they’re not listed on my policy?

You should always list employees who regularly drive your vehicles. Ask your insurance company if it covers temporary drivers as long as they have your permission to operate the vehicle.

Some insurance companies will only cover drivers who are named on the policy. So, if you regularly employ temporary workers, you need to call your insurer and add them to the policy every time they drive to ensure they’ll be covered in an accident.

Permissive use policies don’t require you to add temporary workers.

2. Will my policy pay to repair my employees’ personal vehicles if they get into an accident while running a business errand?

If you often send employees on business errands in their personal cars or trucks, or, if you use rental vehicles, consider adding optional coverages to your policy to protect those vehicles. In many cases, a standard commercial auto insurance policy won’t cover damages in case of an accident. Your agent or insurance company can walk you through all of your options. 

3. Should I maintain my policy during the off-season if I’m not using my truck?

When the season’s over, consider switching to Comprehensive-only coverage instead of canceling your policy altogether. This coverage protects your vehicles against incidents like vandalism or hail that can happen when they’re sitting for long periods during the off-season.

If you do decide to cancel your Liability insurance, check with the Department of Motor Vehicles first. There may be some additional steps you need to take to comply with the insurance laws in your state. 

4. How quickly does my insurance company resolve claims?

Find out how long, on average, it takes your insurer to resolve claims. The faster they take care of your claim, the faster you can get back to work. 

Also, ask if your insurance will cover a rental vehicle or provide downtime payments. 
That way, if your truck’s out of commission, your business will stay profitable. 

5. What can I do to control my insurance expenses?

Discounts can make a big difference, especially with commercial insurance. Many insurance companies offer several different types of discounts, like an experienced business owner discount and a discount if you have a General Liability or Business Owner’s Policy. Other ways that you can save include increasing your deductibles and paying your premium in full.