Here in Rosemount, we have experienced some recent severe storms that have seen various sizes of hail fall. We’ve been getting lots of questions from our customers as to what to do if they want to see if they have any storm damage. It’s always best to consult directly with your insurance agent or give us a call at our office if you have specific questions, but here are a few tips and resources to help you in this scenario.
Often times after a storm, you’ll hear that dreaded doorbell within a few hours of the hail falling, and you can almost be certain it is an out-of-state roofing contractor wanting to take a look at your roof and file an insurance claim for you. Before you let them do that, ask if they are local or from out of state and ask to see their licensing information.
There’s no harm in allowing them to do an inspection, but do not let them file an insurance claim on your behalf. Always contact your insurance agent first so they can advise you on the best course of action in determining whether you should file a claim or not. A lot of these companies will “guarantee” a new roof and we often see insurance fraud with this type of business practice.
Keep It Local
It’s always best to use a local, reputable roofing contractor if you suspect you might have hail damage. We have compiled a list of locally owned roofing contractors to give you a place to start in finding one to work with.
Does it seem like driving has become more expensive in Minnesota in recent years? It likely has. Since 2014, the U.S. has seen more new cars on the road, and those cars are driving more miles than in years past. The severity of traffic-related accidents has grown worse, and insurance claims for bodily injury have become more expensive. Together, these factors are increasing the cost of driving for just about every car owner.
More new cars: New car sales hit a new record in 2015, just under 17.5 million vehicles sold, up 5.7 percent from 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. That’s good for the economy. And, the safety, technology and convenience features that get better every year are good for drivers. Still, new cars can be more expensive to repair or replace, and all that technology doesn’t come cheap. So, the cost of accident repairs is also increasing.
More miles driven: Encouraged by greater employment and lower gas prices, those new cars, along with the older ones, are driving more miles. Whether commuters driving in to Minneapolis or St. Paul each day, or families making the trip up north, U.S. drivers drove 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That’s another record, and it’s also highest number of miles driven since Americans logged 3 trillion miles in 2007, just before the recession. Of course, the more miles driven, the greater the potential for accidents and the need for repairs.
Traffic deaths increase: Any traffic fatality is one too many, but the U.S. registered a 7.2 percent increase in annual traffic-related deaths from 2014 to 2015. It was the largest increase since 1966. Half of those who died were not wearing seat belts, a third of the deaths were due to drunk drivers or speeding and at least one in 10 involved distraction. It’s also worth noting that fatalities for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists increased more in 2015 than those for auto drivers and passengers. It’s a heartbreaking trend that’s both dangerous and costly.
Medical costs rising: From 2005 to 2013, the average cost for a bodily injury liability claim rose 32.1 percent, according to the Insurance Research Council. These increasing costs have been attributed to a number of factors, including the rising severity of accidents, and the rising cost of medical care. And, they come at a time when the frequency of such claims has been declining.
Distracted driving: Although using a mobile phone while driving is restricted, if not prohibited, in many states, cell phones and texting continue to be a serious cause of accidents. We don’t know just how serious this problem is, because accident reports often don’t mention if mobile phone use was a contributing factor.
But, cell phones have brought greater awareness to the larger category termed “distracted driving,” activities that take the driver’s attention away from the road. Distracted driving means using a cell phone or texting while operating a car, but can also refer to eating while driving, operating your car’s navigation system and conversing with passengers.
The AAA Foundation points to federal estimates that distracted driving contributes to 16 percent of the nation’s fatal crashes, about 5,000 deaths annually.
All of these rising costs and dangers impact another area of driving, too – auto insurance costs. You might see it reflected in your own premium bill, and be tempted to reduce your costs by reducing your insurance coverage. But, at a time when the risk of costly accidents is rising, it may not be wise to save money by undercutting your protection against financial loss.
As an independent insurance agency, Sentinel Assurance Group is dedicated to helping you reduce your insurance costs without sacrificing the protection that gives you a feeling of security. We know where to find discounts that can benefit you. That could mean a better rate for cars with safety equipment such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) or anti-theft devices, or discounts for families who put less mileage on their vehicles or insure more than one car on the same policy. We can help you save money without sacrificing your security. Call us today.
The forecast in the Twin Cities: Hot and getting hotter. And, that can make for troublesome travel.
When the temperature increases, decrease your risk on – and off – the road with these safety tips:
Check those tires. You’re already checking your tire pressure every month, right? Even if you are (most of us don’t), keep a closer eye on them during the warm months. Heat can increase tire pressure rapidly.
Keep cool under the hood and inside your car. If you don’t remember the last time you had your engine coolant checked and flushed (mechanics recommend flushing and refilling every two years), now is probably a good time – before you hit the road. Give your air conditioning a test run, too. If it’s not cooling you down, get it serviced.
Act quickly if your car starts to overheat. When your car’s temperature moves above the halfway mark on the dashboard, try turning off your air conditioning and turning on your heat to give your engine a break. Pull over if it’s safe to do so, and give your engine even more of a break. Call for roadside assistance if there’s steam or smoke, and get away from the car if it’s smoke. More of a do-it-yourselfer? Be careful opening the hood of an overheated car, and don’t add coolant or water until the car cools down.
See to the comfort – and safety – of your passengers. Within just 10 minutes of parking your car on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can hit 110 degrees. Don’t leave kids or pets in a parked car, even for just a few minutes, and bring plenty of water for the trip. The back seats and cargo areas of many cars don’t get as much air as the fronts seats, so make sure your kids, both human and furry, stay hydrated.
Proceed with caution in an electric car. High temperatures (and cold ones, too) can reduce the charge of your battery, sometimes by as much as 40 percent. You’ll want to take that into account when planning a trip.
Different seasons bring different car maintenance needs in Minnesota. Follow these tips to help make sure you and your car both stay cool in the heat.
It’s summertime – prime RV season in Minnesota. But, even if you know where you want to go, do you know how to get there?
After all, driving an RV is a little different than simply hopping in your car, so we here at Sentinel Assurance Group put together some tips to help you plan your route and enjoy your trip.
Use an online trip planner: Two that we know of are FreeTrip.com and the Good Sam Club (this one requires a membership). You can set guidelines, such as avoiding highways or low clearances, and get a route customized to you.
Don’t forget guidebooks and atlases: There’s nothing wrong with going low-tech, too. In fact, it’s good to have a backup for when you need to change plans without Internet or GPS assistance. Atlases for commercial truck drivers, in particular, can be useful, because they highlight some of the same things you need to consider, such as overpass height, etc.
Know your vehicle: It’s tempting to just take the height specifications from your manual, but it’s better to know for sure. Measure your RV from the ground to the highest item on the roof. Stick it on a label inside your windshield so it’s always visible.
Utilize other tools: Some GPS models have RV/truck modes that will adjust routes based on the larger size of your vehicle. Use them if they’re available.
Have multiple sources of information: Online trip planners and GPS systems make things easy, but they’re not always up to date. So, in addition to your trip plan and guidebooks, also take care to pay attention to signs and your surroundings when you’re on the go.
It’s easier than ever to plan for a great road trip, so get out there and explore! We’ll be waiting to hear all about your trip and to help you with all of your RV insurance needs.
Getting married is a big step that you’re no doubt commemorating with a big celebration. And, that often comes with a (fairly) big price tag. So, have you considered insuring the whole to-do?
As with other sizeable investments, you can insure big events, such as your wedding. But, that’s not the only way insurance can play a role in your big day and the events that follow. Here are four tips for insuring your wedding, rings and more:
Big day, big investment – protect it
Of course you want your big day to go off without a hitch. But, you also want to prepare for those pesky “what ifs.” What if the caterer backs out? What if the bride’s dress gets lost in her checked baggage? What if your venue goes out of business?
Event insurance typically covers unexpected issues with the site, weather, vendors and illness or injury, so you aren’t stuck with the tab. For example, if you need to find a new caterer the day before the wedding, your policy may help with the costs.
Say ‘I do’ to covering your rings.
Regardless of the monetary value of your engagement and wedding rings, it’s important to protect your investment — preferably right after you purchase them. We can help. Call us from the jewelry store if you like, and we’ll schedule your new bling on your renters insurance, condo insurance or homeowners insurance.
Cover your bases by covering your gifts.
While you’re dancing the night away, you don’t want someone walking away with your gifts. But, unfortunately, it happens. You may want to consider a policy to protect your gifts. And, of course, you’ll want to include them as part of your home inventory and personal property coverage. Some items, such as collectibles and china, may need scheduled coverage, just like your rings.
Start your honeymoon right.
If your honeymoon costs as much as a car, it may make sense to get travel insurance. Policies can include coverage for trip cancellation or delay, and even medical insurance. Frommers.com says it should cost no more than 8 percent of your trip price. Whether your wedding is a small family affair or the biggest event of the year, you deserve to have a stress-free day. Let us help you select the insurance coverage you want for your wedding and everything that goes along with it. So, when the big day arrives, all you have to worry about is having a great time!
Did you know that, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Americans spend about $11 billion each year on air conditioning? That might not be such a surprise if you’re the one who writes the check for your household energy bill every month.
Believe it or not, you can spend less on cooling costs while still keeping cool in Minnesota. Here are five things to do before you reach to adjust the thermostat:
1. Make sure your house isn’t part of the problem. If your home isn’t insulated and sealed well, warm air could be leaking in, sabotaging your efforts to cool things down. Make sure all cracks and openings are sealed, along with your ducts. The DOE says air loss through ducts can account for 30 percent of the energy a cooling system uses.
2. Keep that breeze flowing. Natural ventilation is a great way to decrease the temperature in your home without using any energy. Open windows in the mornings or evenings when the air is cool and get a cross-breeze going throughout the house.
3. Check that the heat isn’t on. You might be heating your house in the summer without realizing it. How? By using the oven, stove or other appliances that generate heat. Cook outside whenever you can, and use the dishwasher and clothes dryer at cooler times of the day if possible.
4. Create your own personal cool zone. Cooling the whole house might not be necessary if you’re only using a few rooms. Set up fans (ceiling fans will allow you to set your thermostat a few degrees higher), drink plenty of cool liquids and eat cold foods, which can help lower your body temperature. You might even consider wearing a damp shirt to stay comfortable or putting an ice pack on your forehead, the back of your neck or your wrists.
5. Don’t forget the basics. When it’s sunny outside, keep your curtains closed. Minimize your use of lights, as they generate heat. And, when the outside air is warmer than the air in your house, close the windows to keep the cool air in. We can’t promise these tips will keep you just as cool as when you kick back and turn on the AC full-blast. But saving money every month? That’s pretty cool, too.
So, you’ve decided to reward your graduate with a car (or help him/her purchase one, at least). That’s great! Adding a car to the family can make life easier for everyone — as long as it’s the right car.
Now, how do you figure out which car is the right car? Whether you’re shopping for a new or used car, here are a few things we here at Sentinel Assurance Group would like you to consider.
It’s easy to find out which cars did well in crash tests (and which didn’t). Visit these sites for current and past ratings, and other useful tools:
The National Insurance Crime Bureau allows you to enter a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to find out if it’s been reported stolen or flagged as a salvaged vehicle.
Reliability and Usage
Sources such as Consumer Reports can give you a good idea of the experience other owners have had with the models you’re considering. Warranty coverage is included with new vehicles, of course, but also some used cars that have undergone a certification program. Depending on how your grad is going to use the car, you’ll want to look at mileage estimates and features such as all-wheel drive.
The Importance of an Inspection
Buying used? It’s crucial that you get an inspection from a trusted repair shop. Get as much history on the car as you can, from owner records to a report from Carfax or a similar service. And, if you feel the sellers aren’t being forthcoming, walk away. Don’t let their problems become your problems.
Cost of Ownership
Certain cars cost more to repair and maintain than others, and insurance costs can vary widely as well. We would be happy to help you determine the impact different models can have on the price of coverage. When you get further along in your search and have a few choices in mind, give us a call to get a few quotes!
When you find the right car, not only will your graduate be thrilled, you’ll look on with confidence – and pride – as your grad drives off toward the future.
High school is full of defining moments for our Rosemount teens and two of the highlights for most are prom and graduation. Both Danielle & Amy have sons graduating this year, so this topic hits close to home!
However, this time of year often sees other, more tragic defining moments – serious car accidents involving teens who are distracted or even under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
At Sentinel Assurance Group, we want to help make this season one to celebrate for you and your teen. So, with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are some tips that can keep your teen safe.
First, encourage your teen to follow these general safe-driving rules:
Absolutely no alcohol
Always use seat belts
No cell phone use (including texting) while driving
Of course, special events such as prom and graduation often present special circumstances. There may be dinner with dates before the dance, and parties before or after either event. It’s a good idea to discuss your expectations well before each event, putting some guidelines into place before your teen heads out for the night. Here are some ideas:
Make sure you know the itinerary of the evening, as well as who else will be with your teen. You should have contact information for everyone.
Have a way to contact your teen at all times. You may want to require them to check in with you once or twice over the course of the evening.
Set a curfew, whether they are coming back to your home or staying with a friend. If they are staying elsewhere, make sure the curfew will be enforced by a responsible adult.
Discuss with your teen how to handle difficult situations, such as facing pressure to drink, or accepting a ride with someone who shouldn’t be driving. It’s a good idea to provide your child with money for a taxi just in case.
Offer a “no-questions-asked” ride home, should they need one during the evening.
If you’re worried about your teen driving, consider alternate transportation. A car service or limousine will provide a responsible, experienced adult driver. You also will be able to limit changes to the itinerary and contact the driver.
Prom and graduation are special times in a teen’s life. And just a little common sense will go a long way toward making sure your young adult is around to enjoy the other milestones that are sure to come.
No matter what season is winding down, the next season is just another reason to spend on the water in the boat with rod in hand. One of the best ways to enjoy boating and fishing in Minnesota is to share the fun with others – especially your kids or grandkids.
Amy & Danielle both LOVE to fish, here are a couple of pics from the trip we took up to Lake of the Woods last fall for some Walleye fishing!
While expert anglers tend to know the ropes of both boating and fishing on Minnesota lakes and rivers, there are still many mishaps that can occur if the excursion is not well-planned and strategically executed. This is especially crucial when you have little ones along for the ride.
The next time you’re gearing up to go after the ‘big one,’ make sure that it’s as enjoyable as you anticipate by considering the following guidelines.
Only if weather permits. Check the weather forecast in detail, using your favorite app, before you head out onto the water. In many climates, weather can change quickly and drastically, ushering in unexpected storms that could scare your children and put you all in harm’s way
Dress yourself – and your little ones – for the adventure. Though it may seem obvious, it can get slippery out on the boat or the dock! Ensure stable footing for all by making sure you and your kids are wearing shoes that grip boat floors and slick rocks and docks.
Make safety a game. It’s important to be equipped with everything you need for safety and protection – from flashlights and sunscreen to plenty of water and life preservers – but you can also make it fun for the kids. For example, make them the keepers of the radio or the person who makes sure everyone is wearing a hat or sunglasses for protection from the sun.
Be hyper-vigilant about dangerous items. The sport of fishing is accompanied by some sharp items – hooks and knives to name just two. Make sure you have these items in a locked tackle box to ensure no one accidentally gets hurt.
Follow boating rules. Make sure your boat is in good standing by adhering to all the laws of the lough. To find these, research the body of water you’re going to be fishing on before you head out.
At Sentinel Assurance Group, we hope your family fishing outings become lifetime memories!
It’s every bargain hunters favorite time of the year, Garage Sale season! Here in Rosemount, we have an annual city-wide sale coming up on May 11-13th and you won’t want to miss it! Click here for a list of the official addresses and let us know in the comments below what your fave garage sale finds are!