Tips for your Summer RoadTrip

We hate to break it to you, but August is upon us.  Summer is going to near it’s end before you know it and the end of August seems to be the time that most Minnesotans plan their family vacations.  It’s also becoming more popular to drive than fly to a destination for many reasons.  We thought it would be helpful to give you some tips and tricks to planning and perfecting your road trip.

1. Clean your car before and during your trip.

Go ahead, leave the napkins and gum wrappers under your seat. Leave the receipts from your last business-related drive in the glove box. Don’t sweat the dog hair in the back bed … but you’ll be sorry. A few days into your trip, when the old gum wrappers are joined by new fast food wrappers, when the glove box starts overflowing with hotel receipts and local maps, when dog hair starts sticking to your luggage and your gear, you’ll rue the day you failed to pull out the Shop-Vac.

As your trip proceeds, take time every couple of days to purge your car. Even if you can tolerate some chaos, the accumulated junk and minor filth will start to drive you mad in the close quarters that define a road trip.

2. Check your vehicle.

About a week before you leave for a long road trip, have your mechanic check your car’s fluid levels, brakes, tires and anything else that could cause problems. Be sure your spare tire is fully inflated and that you have jumper cables and extra wiper fluid on hand.

3. Have a loose plan.

If you overschedule your road trip, you’re almost guaranteed to find yourself slogging the last few miles long after you had intended to be asleep, trying to cancel one hotel reservation so you can pay for another well short of your originally planned destination.

On the other hand, having no plan at all is only recommended for the most hardy souls.

4. Anticipate trouble spots.

Road construction is notorious this time of year.  However, the app named Waze can reroute you and save you lots of time.  Check it out, you won’t be sorry.

5. Preload your phone with entertainment options.

The days of regional radio offering a musical or informational palette that you can’t find anywhere else are almost all but gone, so tapping into the local vibe via radio is far less satisfying than it used to be. That means you’ll want to make sure your phone is set to keep you entertained over the long hours of driving, whether you’re tapping into your own collection of music, streaming tunes via an app like Spotify or Pandora, or listening to your favorite podcasts.

If you’re road tripping in your own car, you probably already have a phone charger that will plug into the console and keep you powered up. If you’re renting a car for your road trip, be sure you have the right technology to plug into whatever power outlet is available in that vehicle (cigarette charger, USB port, etc.).

6. Join a roadside rescue service.

Having that 800-number that immediately ties you in to approved local tow services and mechanics is going to save you a lot of hassle, and also shield you from some of the dangers of the road that none of us wishes to encounter. We highly recommend AAA. Their benefits can be used in so many ways!

7. Have your documents and a clean record.

I don’t know about you, but it sometimes seems like my new insurance card takes days or weeks to get into my glove box. If you are traveling without current documentation of license, registration or insurance, you could be in for a world of hurt if you are pulled over for any reason. Further, you may want to clear up any old traffic and parking tickets before you go; under the right (or perhaps wrong, in this case) circumstances, your car can be impounded for your wayward ways.

8. Seize the moment

Whether you are ahead of schedule or way behind, there is something to be said about breaking away from the plan.  Maybe you wanna stop at that tourist trap, or check into a hotel early and catch a nap….sometimes the best family memories are the unplanned things in life.

Here’s wishing that your road tripping finds you on time and in the right place, even when you least expect it.

The Steps in Handling a Car Accident

Do you have teen drivers in your home?  Maybe you are doing some distracted driving yourself.  An unexpected car accident can leave you feeling a bit scattered. That’s why it’s important to brush up on post-accident procedures. Here are 7 steps guide can help make the moments after an accident less stressful — and the claims process a whole lot smoother.

1.Move to a safe area if you can

If it’s safe to do so and you aren’t seriously injured, move your car out of further harm’s way, like to the shoulder of the road. If moving your car just isn’t possible, flip on your hazards to warn other drivers that your vehicle isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

2.Stop your vehicle and get out

Make sure your car is no longer moving, turn off the engine, shift into park, or set the hand brake if you drive a manual. Take a moment to catch your breath. Check to make sure it’s safe to get out of your car before opening the door.

3.Check on others involved

Check on all the other parties involved, including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, to make sure no one is hurt. Call 911 if anyone may be injured. Even a seemingly minor symptom like dizziness should be checked out by a health care professional.

4.Call the police to the scene

Even in minor accidents, a police accident report can prove invaluable when dealing with your car insurance company and other drivers. Cooperate fully, but avoid admitting fault or blaming others while at the scene. Let the police objectively judge events and determine who, if anyone, is at fault in the crash. If the police can’t make it to the scene (which is more likely if there are no injuries), you can file an accident report through your state’s DMV.

5.Gather info

Try to write down as much info as possible in the accident aftermath, including:

  • Driver and passenger names
  • License plate numbers
  • Insurance info
  • Makes and models of all vehicles involved
  • Contact info for any eyewitnesses
  • Location of the accident
  • The name and badge number of any responding police officers

6.Document the scene

If you have a smartphone with a camera, snap some photos of the accident scene. They’ll come in handy during the claim process.

7.File your insurance claim

After step 7, it’s our turn to help. We’ll work with you to get your car repaired as quickly as possible. Call us at 952-479-5781

We sincerely hope this post gives you some tips if you are ever in the situation above. Safe driving!

Boating in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

 

Known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it is only natural that Minnesota is home to many boaters. If you own a vessel or are thinking of buying one, you should learn as much as possible about MN boat insurance.

With our expertise and knowledge, you are in good hands when shopping for a policy. We can help you decide which type of coverage is best, while also saving you money. This is the best of both worlds.  Typically, however, a homeowner’s insurance policy will only cover damage to your boat that occurs while it is on your property. Further, the amount of coverage offered is typically less than in a boat insurance policy, which can lead to problems if the boat is damaged.

You are required by law to register your boat in the state of Minnesota. There is no way around this. If you take to the water without the proper registration the end result could be a large fine from the authorities. The type of boat, its length, and the expected use of the boat will largely dictate your boat insurance rates. Whether you have a speed boat, a small fishing boat or a yacht will make a big difference in what you pay. In general, boat insurance costs typically range from $300 to $500, on average. When you buy Minnesota boat insurance you will feel much better every time you head for your favorite lake or river. You will know that your boat is protected, meaning that you are financially protected as well.

Minnesota does not require a boating license for boaters, but requires a Watercraft Operator’s Permit for boaters between 12-17 years of age who wish to operate a personal watercraft. The boating laws of the state require that the person operating a boat should not be under the influence of intoxicants.

We hope this helps answer some questions if you are considering buying a boat this summer. If you already own a boat and want to make sure you have the best coverage for your needs, feel free to reach out at 952-479-5781 or email us info@mysentinels.com

Happy Cruising!

 

Open your Cabin Checklist

 

I know, I know.  This winter has been never ending.  You are over it, we are over it.  But, summer will come! And you need to be prepared for that, don’t you?  Well search no further. We’ve compiled a nice little checklist to help you out and keep you on track.

Don’t forget to:

  • Call to turn on any services you shut off over the winter, including electricity, water and trash collection.
  • Check the insurance policies on your lake home and boat. Call Sentinel Assurance to tell us about the new jet ski, boat or wave runner you’d like to insure.
  • Check your boating registration and renew it if necessary. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, watercraft licenses must be renewed every three years.
  • If you plan to put in a dock, and you need help, call your crew a few weeks in advance to see if they’re available.

After a long winter away, you’ll need to be sure that your home is safe to inhabit again before you turn on your water and other systems.

  • Check the furnace and put in a new filter.
  • Check pipes for rust or damage before you turn on your plumbing and water heater. If you’re not sure how to make the call, hire a plumber to do a basic assessment.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of critters. Check screens and windows for holes and gaps and electrical cords for fraying or bite marks.
  • Inspect your deck and eaves for signs of rotting.
  • Test the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Test and replace the batteries in motion sensor lights on the front door, deck and on the way down to the lake.

Whether you’ll spend the whole summer or special weekends at your lake home, you’ll want to be sure it’s stocked with the basics. Run a quick inventory review before heading to the store for replenishments.

  • Go through your pantry and throw out any expired food, as well as anything that looks like it may have been the subject of a critter invasion.
  • Check that you’re stocked up on sunscreen and bug spray.
  • Check the stock of your bathroom toiletries. To save money and stay green buy shampoo, conditioner and body wash in bulk bottles rather than using travel samples.

Next, have fun.

We wish you a great cabin season this summer!

Planning for your Spring home remodel

It’s that time of year! Spring cleaning and warmer temps call for those updates you dreamed of for your home.  If you are hiring a contractor to perform work on your home or property, it is essential to hire a contractor who is both licensed and bonded. When you hire an unlicensed contractor, you are taking significant risks, including that you will be subject to a lawsuit, as well as the potential that any implied warranties afforded by state law will be void.

While the laws for a contractor’s license differs by state, in most cases, a license is required to do any type of skilled labor on another person’s home or property. For instance, an electrician, a plumber, or a drywaller may be required to have a license. Someone performing a variety of tasks may need to obtain a general contractor’s license. The state may impose specific requirements such as minimum education or work experience to obtain a license. The state may also require that the contractor take an examination with different levels of licensing for the right to do different size jobs. In addition, the state may require that the contractor has an active worker’s compensation insurance policy for a license to be issued. In many states, being bonded is also a prerequisite to obtaining a license.

Being bonded is different from being licensed, although the two are sometimes related. When a contractor is bonded, this means he has purchased a surety bond. This is a type of insurance policy that protects a property owner. The bond provides a certain amount of liability protection and if the contractor fails to complete a job as required or contracted, the bond can provide compensation to a property owner.

Typically, for a bond to pay out to a homeowner, the property owner must first win a claim with the state contractor’s board by proving that the contractor failed to perform the required work. The homeowner may also be required to attempt to collect money from the contractor before making a claim against the bond. Whether the bond will be sufficient to pay the claim depends on the size of the bond that the contractor had, and on whether there are other claims against it. The Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB) warns customers that the bonds required in Oregon may only provide a limited amount of financial security to property owners because the bonds required are often small compared to the volume of work performed by contractors. However, this may differ in your state and your contractor may sometimes buy a larger bond than is required by law. To determine the amount of protection available to you by hiring a bonded contractor, it is best to speak with a lawyer prior to entering into a construction agreement.

There are important reasons to hire a bonded and licensed contractor. First, since the unlicensed contractor is usually breaking the law by working without a license, there’s a good chance he is also not complying with other laws including permit requirements and inspection requirements. This can result in your project not being up to code, and necessitating repairs or removals if your home is inspected or before your property is sold. Second, it can be much harder to determine if an unlicensed contractor will provide you with quality workmanship since the contractor has not submitted to any examination or review of his knowledge by a licensing board.

Aside from the increased possibility of receiving poor workmanship when you hire an unlicensed contractor, you may also be giving up your right to make warranty claims. While most states impose implied warranties on contractors for bad workmanship, these implied warranty laws often require that the contractor be licensed in order to apply. Furthermore, your state contractor board will not typically help you to make a warranty claim against an unlicensed contractor. So if you are trying to recover at all, you will need to go to civil court. Even if you win in civil court, without a bond, there’s a good chance the unlicensed contractor will not be able to pay your damages.

Another important consideration when hiring an unlicensed contractor is that you could be subject to liability. While the licensed contractor is usually required to have worker’s compensation insurance, someone unlicensed may have no protection from injury at all. If the unlicensed contractor harms himself on your property, you could be subject to a lawsuit and responsible for paying his damages.

Hopefully we’ve equipped you with some information to help you make good choices when hiring a contractor.  Once again, Sentinel Assurance is here to help, let us know if you need a quote or to review your current coverage.

Inventory Checklist: What’s in your home?

No one really wants to think about the horror of losing your home and all of it’s contents to a fire.  But it happens.  If you had to remember every possession in your home with their values following a serious loss (like a fire), could you?

Taking some time to complete a checklist, room by room, prior to a loss you can systematically list and evaluate the value of your possessions. In the event of a loss covered by your policy, a checklist of your household items will be a valuable aid in helping you present your claim to your insurance company at a time of great personal stress {Downloadable Inventory Checklist}

Reviewing and updating this checklist every year would prove so helpful. Once completed, store this checklist in a safety deposit box or fire proof safe. Photographs and video are excellent means of recording your possessions and again can be of great value in the adjustment of a claim for loss or damage. Be sure to keep such records and an inventory list in a secure place away from your residence such as in a safety deposit box or with your agent’s file.

We highly recommend that you insure to today’s replacement value for greater protection. Exceptions, of course, are items that have outlived their effective usefulness, some clothing for example or perhaps other possessions that have been consigned to the cottage. These items should be insured on an Actual Cash Value basis (replacement cost less depreciation). Additionally, antiques, fine arts, rare books and objects of similar nature must be insured on an Actual Cash Value basis or scheduled basis for obvious reasons.

Do you operate a business from your home?  There are limitations to your residential insurance policy regarding business property and operations.  If you operate a trade, profession or occupation for continuous regular pursuit of financial gain within your home, your home based business may not be covered! Having another checklist for your business property will be helpful and while you are at it, contact Sentinel Assurance to make sure you have the business coverage you need as well!

Lawsuits: Why you may need an Umbrella Policy

In today’s world, anyone can get hit with a lawsuit. That’s why it’s more important than ever to consider an added layer of protection for your assets – and your peace of mind.

An umbrella policy provides excess coverage above and beyond what is provided by your homeowners and auto insurance policies. As an example, let’s say your auto insurance pays $300,000 of medical expenses per accident and your umbrella policy is for $1 million. If you are sued for $900,000, your auto insurance would pay $300,000 of the damages and your umbrella policy would pay the remaining $600,000. Umbrella policies usually provide roughly $1 million to $5 million of additional coverage, and it is possible to get more if you have lots of assets to protect.

What about the legal expenses you’ll incur if you’re sued? With umbrella policies, legal expenses are covered on top of the policy amount. The policy may also pay you if your appearance at legal proceedings causes you to lose pay from work (for example, if you are an hourly employee or if you don’t have any personal or vacation days available). Since the insurance company’s money is at risk when you’re sued, it’ll want to protect that money with its own legal team, possibly a better legal team than you could afford on your own.

In addition to covering you for accidents on your property or car accidents you are found to be at fault for, an umbrella policy can also protect your dependent children (for example, if your daughter causes a car accident), any accidents caused by you or your dependent children while operating a watercraft, accidents that occur on rental property you own and personal injury lawsuits arising from slander, libel, defamation of character, false arrest, detention or imprisonment, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, shock/mental anguish and possibly more.

Take some to time to review your coverage.  An umbrella policy can save you a lot and literally cover you and your family.  Sentinel Assurance is here to help. Give us a call and we will put together a quote for you.

 

 

Personal Articles Policy-What is covered?

Everyone has possessions of value in their home, some of a high monetary worth and some which simply hold a great deal of importance to the owner. With a typical home insurance policy the major items in a home, including appliances, furniture and clothing, are covered in the event of a theft or loss. There’s also some of coverage for other valuable items, such as jewelry, personal computers or antiques.

The dollar value paid out on these valuables by a home insurance policy can be quite low, however, and is often not nearly enough to cover the cost of the item. To avoid this from happening, many insurance companies offer another level of home item insurance, such as a “premium” or “ultra” coverage. However, even this type of policy will not pay out for extreme or rare situations, like a valuable being damaged by a houseguest. In situations where high-value items in a home fall outside the scope of even the broadest home insurance policy, a personal articles floater may be a viable option.

When a personal articles policy is purchased, it will require a detailed list or “schedule” of the property that will be covered. Each item must have an appraised value attached to it, and some insurance companies will require proof of that appraisal. If a loss occurs the insurance company pays out the lowest of the following options: actual cash value, the amount the property could reasonably be expected to be repaired or replaced, or the amount of insurance.

So, that wedding ring your spouse purchased for you, make sure you get coverage!  Sentinel Assurance is here to help, let us know what your needs are.

 

Top 10 Items for Your Winter Driving Kit

Snow. Black ice. Freezing temps. Winter driving conditions vary from a slight nuisance to extreme hazard. But with the right gear and a little prep, you can put yourself in a better position to deal with an accident or unexpected delay while on a cold, wintry road. Here are 10 items to stash in your winter driving kit.

1. A folding shovel

If you find yourself suddenly snowed in or stuck in a snow bank, a good shovel can be a lifesaver. Check out compact, lightweight folding varieties that store easily in the trunk.

2. A windshield scraper and de-icer 

Make sure you carry a decent windshield scraper to get snow and ice off your windshield and mirrors. For extreme ice build-up, consider using a de-icer to save you precious time and energy.

3. Extra water and high-energy snack foods

Even in cold weather, staying hydrated is extremely important. Bring along a few bottles of clean water with you before you head out. And stow some high-energy snack foods with a long shelf life (like energy bars, unsalted trail mix, and hard candy) in your car at all times.

4. Emergency signaling device

Flares are incredibly useful if you’re stuck in snow — they can be used to start a signal fire, and the heat they emit helps them stay visible in heavy snow conditions. Battery-powered signals are valuable too and have the benefit of staying lit longer than a flare.

5. A flashlight with extra batteries

Save the battery power on your cell phone and use a spare flashlight instead.

6. A way to charge your cell phone

Being able to use your cell phone is going to be a huge help in any emergency. Whether you carry a portable charger, power pack, or adapter, make sure you have a reliable, remote way to charge your cell phone when your battery gets low.

7. Jumper Cables

It’s important to have them in your vehicle year-round. Jumper cables should be at least 10 feet and coated with at least 8-gauge rubber.

8. A first-aid kit

A basic first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, a cleaning agent, and pain relievers is a must-have for your car kit in every season.

9. Warm clothes and a blanket

If you need to use your car as a temporary shelter, you won’t be able to run the engine for heat indefinitely. Bring extra layers that can keep warm (think knit hats, a pair of socks, gloves, and a warm blanket). Hand and feet warmers are also easy to store and can help keep you toasty in case of emergency.

10. Snow socks or chains

If you get stuck and need that little bit of extra traction to get your car moving, snow chains or snow socks (which are easier to install than chains) can help give you the grip you need.

This list is a great starting point for any vehicle winter driving kit. You also need to grab household items, such as litter, rock salt, matches or a lighter. Remember, there are a multitude of additional items that can be added to individualize the kit to your personal needs. If you have your dog with you often, make sure to account for that. If you have kids, make sure that your vehicle emergency kit is prepared for any and all passengers. Keep safe this winter, be prepared for any and all weather. Drive safe!

 

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