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Renovations Can Change Your Home Insurance

Florida Home ImprovementsRenovations can take your dwelling from cramped and outdated, to spacious and modern. Renovations in 2014 continued to rebound in Florida, according to Renovation Magazine’s annual, “Cost vs. Value Report.” An escalation in remodeling means a surge in home property values.

“Home renovations will most likely boost a home’s value. If that happens your newly renovated home could be inadequately insured, says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance.

Homeowner’s insurance offers compensation for damage, loss or injury to individuals, your property, home and belongings.  The amount of homeowner’s insurance required is determined in part on the value of your home.

Let’s say you upgrade your kitchen and replace your laminate countertops with quartz and install custom cabinets. Your existing home insurance might not be sufficient to replace your new items if they are damaged.

Most likely your home insurance premiums will increase as you upgrade or create more livable space in your home. Remodeling doesn’t always mean an increase. Some renovations such as window and door replacements, roof replacement, the addition of a security system or upgrades in plumbing or electrical can make you eligible for lower premiums or discounts depending on your coverage.

Call your insurance agent before construction begins. This will this give you an opportunity to discuss potential changes in your home insurance policy, allow you to protect your investment throughout the process and extend liability while work is done on your home, further protecting you.

Before work starts, a contractor should provide you with a Certificate of Insurance to prove they have adequate worker’s compensation coverage and liability insurance should an accident or burglary occur during the job. Check all subcontractor’s such as electricians, painters and plumbers as well and verify that their coverage is current.

All renovations should pass the proper inspections and meet local codes.

Popular home renovations that will change your home insurance include, but are not limited to the following.

Pool/ Hot tub– many residents in Florida have a pool or spa in their yard. Home insurance liability will increase to cover medical expenses if someone is injured while swimming and legal expenses if you are sued. Your insurance company might require you to place a fence around your pool for safety.

Home office– if your new business plan requires the use of machinery, keeping an inventory, or generates visitors, an additional business policy or policy amendment might need to be added to your home insurance.

Room additionhomeowner’s insurance factors in livable square footage to the price. Also, basements can be flood prone and might require additional water coverage. If you take on tenants, landlord coverage could be required.

Your home is more than an investment- it is where your life happens.  GreatFlorida Insurance offers home insurance to protect your dwelling, belongings and family. Call us today for a free quote.


Steps to Take in a Car Crash

Florida Auto insuranceBeing in a car accident is stressful and can leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed.  According to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, there are over 16 million drivers in Florida and over 200,000 car accidents every year. A car accident can leave even the most level headed driver startled.

“Being prepared for the unexpected can help”, says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. “It’s a good idea to keep your vehicle registration, auto insurance card, health insurance information and emergency contacts in the glove compartment so they can be easily accessed in an emergency.”

There are some simple steps to take in order to make the experience less traumatic:

  • Take a deep breath and try to remain calm.
  • Check for injuries, if you are uncertain about the severity of an injury call 911 for medical assistance and ere on the cautious side.
  • If the accident is minor, try to move the vehicles to the shoulder of the road or a safe area, out of traffic.
  • If the car cannot be moved, the driver and all passengers should remain in the car with seatbelts fastened to prevent further accidents.
  • Turn on your hazard lights. Place flares or warning signs if you have some, behind the car to warn oncoming traffic.
  • Call the police even if the accident is minor, they will let you know if an officer needs to be present.
  • Call your insurance agent immediately.

Make detailed notes, important information to gather will be:

  • Drivers, occupants and witnesses names and phone numbers and email.
  • If the name on the auto registration is different than the driver involved in the accident, make a record of the relationship.
  • The vehicle make, year, color, model and license plate number
  • Get the drivers insurance company name, phone number and policy number.
  • If emergency services respond record the police report number, officer name, phone number and badge number.
  • Take photos of the damage on all vehicles involved.

Some additional tips for your protection include:

  • Do not sign any documents unless they are for the police or your insurance agent.
  • Do not tell anyone the accident was your fault even if you think it was.
  • State only facts and limit the discussion of the car crash to the police and your insurance agent.
  • If possible, do not leave the accident scene before the police and other drivers do.
  • Be polite– a car accident is a volatile and sometimes frightening situation.  Being polite will help keep emotions cool and the situation calmer. It is not the time to lay blame, even if the accident was not your fault. Check with the others involved and make sure everyone is alright.

You can depend on GreatFlorida Insurance when the unexpected occurs. Our experienced agents are located across Florida and can help you find the health insurance or auto insurance ideal for your lifestyle, contact us today.


Best Florida Staycation Ideas

staycation-image-wideA staycation or a stay-at-home vacation found popularity during the economic downturn a few years ago.  A staycation’s benefits have kept it trending in the U.S.  It is a great way to cut back on discretionary spending and save money. Let’s face it, traveling is not stress free. Long lines at airport security and gridlocked traffic will not put you in a “Zen” state of mind. Comprehensive planning and packing can make you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation.

“Home can lose its sense of adventure, said Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. “After being some place for a while, it is easy to dismiss local sites or think you will visit there one day.”

They key to enjoying a successful staycation is to relax. Consumer Reports urges you to discipline yourself to avoid activities that will have you focusing on work such as checking work emails and calling the office. Other suggestions include, taking a break from your daily routine and placing a hold on household projects.

If you are a little stumped on what to do while you are enjoying a staycation, the list below is sure to help.

According to Wikipedia, most Floridians live an average of 25 miles or less from the water.  Check out a beach, lake, spring, river, splash park, water park or pool.

Florida has 11 national parks and 174 state parks as well as many more municipal parks to explore, hike or bike.

  • Zoo
  • Golf or mini golf
  • Aquarium
  • Museum-art or historical, botanical gardens
  • Local theater
  • Dinner theater
  • Skating rink
  • Indoor trampoline
  • Stop by a local winery or craft brewery
  • Summer concerts
  • Twilight movies in the park
  • Theme park
  • Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

To help you achieve a greater peace-of-mind, whether you are traveling or taking in the local sites this summer, GreatFlorida Insurance provides quality and affordable auto insurance and homeowners insurance. Our knowledgeable agents will find the right auto insurance and homeowners insurance to fit your specific needs. Contact us today.


2015 Legislative Session- What Passed What Failed?

This year’s Florida legislative session was filled with hostility and drama. The standard 60-day session ended three days early due to contention between the House and Senate on Medicaid Expansion. Without a state budget passed, a Special Session was called June 1 -20. An early end to the session, along with a stalemate, doomed many bills. This year there were many proposal casualties.


  • Ticket quotas cannot be used to generate revenue for police departments.
  • States, counties and cities can only buy American made flags- a patriotic move
  • Attention craft beer lovers, 64 ounces of beer, known as “growlers” can finally be sold in Florida.
  • Drones cannot take pictures on private property; violators will not be arrested but can be sued.
  • Gay people can adopt children.
  • Florida school districts can start the school year as early as August 10.
  • Scale back testing in public schools
  • Tax cuts-about $400 million in tax cuts with sales tax holidays and a tax cut to cable, TV and cellphone services.


  • Comprehensive state water policy
  • Medicaid Expansion
  • Prison Reform
  • Texting while driving considered a primary offense
  • Abolishment of the death penalty
  • Equal pay for women on state contracts
  • Education– school choice, eliminating sales tax on student textbooks, mandatory uniforms for K-8, a minimum $50,000 salary for new teachers, concealed weapons to be carried by designated employees on school property in K-12 schools, ban on concealed weapons on college campuses
  • Undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
  • Tupelo honey designated as the official state honey
  • Expansion of gambling- a victory for Disney and other’s wanting to maintain a family friendly state environment
  • Legalization of medical marijuana

GreatFlorida Insurance has been serving Florida since 1991. Dedicated to helping Floridians make informed decisions about their insurance, we offer professional service and affordable insurance. GreatFlorida Insurance specializes in:  auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, boat insurance, motorcycle insurance, commercial insurance, renters insurance, health insurance and umbrella insurance.

Our knowledgeable agents have 115 offices located throughout Florida. Reliability is a must for our customers. We provide 24-hour service, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The right insurance coverage can give your clients peace of mind, knowing their investment is protected.

Call 888-478-7801 to talk to a local agent or go online to www.greatflorida.com for a free quote.


Sources: http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2015/05/06/legislature-sets-special-session/

Uber and Lyft Could Leave You Uncovered

Getting a ride somewhere has been made easier than ever thanks to ride-sharing programs such as Uber and Lyft. The apps are convenient, but what happens if you are in an accident? Who is responsible for the damages is the source of debate in Florida.

Uber states, “From the moment you are picked up until you are dropped off, you are covered under our commercial liability insurance, every trip in every city.” Uber and Lyft riders are covered under a one million dollar policy that covers riders. This is more auto insurance coverage than taxis or limos. They also have added uninsured and under insured motorist coverage.

According to The Insurance Journal, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Deputy Chief of Staff, Monte Stevens said the Uber policy meets the state insurance requirements. So what is the problem?

“The uncertainty comes into play for drivers, when they are logged into the app but are waiting for a rider,” said Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. “During this period, a driver’s personal car insurance is responsible for damages. Unfortunately, many personal auto insurance policies would be likely to deny the claim because the driver is logged into the app, so it would fall into the commercial driving category. During that time Uber’s policy is “contingent,” leaving gray area.”

Many Florida lawmakers are arguing, “Is this considered a taxi service or carpooling service?’  The state is deliberating new insurance requirements and ride-sharing regulation. Uber is hoping to get the issues picked up in the special June legislative sessions but it is unlikely that ride-sharing will be addressed by lawmakers until the 2016 session.

If you are a ride-sharing driver, agents at GreatFlorida Insurance can make sure you get the proper coverage for you and riders. Contact us today to discover all the auto insurance and commercial insurance options available for you.Screen-Shot-2015-01-20-at-8.06.44-AM


A few boaters have encountered sturgeon collisions

Florida is considered the, “Fishing Capital of the World,” by saltwater and freshwater anglers.  The Florida Tourism Board reports, Florida has 7,700 lakes, 10, 550 miles of rivers and 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline- all teeming with fish.

“Fishing is a very popular recreational activity in Florida because we have so many accessible places to go, great year- around weather and a huge variety of fish species,” said Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. “You can make your fishing trip as simple or as elaborate as you want. You can charter a boat for an all- day excursion on the ocean or cast from land into a nearby lake.”

This year has been an unusual year for boaters and fisherman with some record setting highs and dangerous lows. A few boaters have encountered sturgeon collisions.

  • In May on the Santa Fe River, a sturgeon jumped into a boat crashing the windshield. Thankfully the operator only experienced minor injuries.
  • Another collision on May 31 occurred in the Suwannee River. It involved a four to six foot sturgeon jumping out of the water and into a boat, knocking a teenage girl unconscious. She was released later the same day from the hospital.

“Boaters need to be aware that these fish are in the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers. We want people to enjoy the recreational opportunities in the rivers, but we also want people to realize these fish do jump and can hurt you,” said Major Andy Krause, commander for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) North Central Region in Lake City.

The FWC recommends going slow to reduce the risk on impact and being vigilant.  All passengers should wear life jackets and stay off the bow of the boat.11073112

According to the FWC, researchers attribute this phenomenon to this year’s  low water levels. They have discovered sturgeon jump in order to communicate with one another and to fill their swim bladders to maintain natural buoyancy.

This year has not been all bad for fishing enthusiasts.  It has also started out as a record setting year for fisherman.

  • A state record was set during a tournament on the Choctawhatchee River when a man caught a 69 pound 8 ounce blue catfish. This is the fourth freshwater record set this year after two shoal bass and a flier according to the FWC.
  •  A black grouper was caught in the Gulf of Mexico at a charity event weighing 124.15 pounds.  It set a state record and the International Game and Fish Association will need to verify if it is a new world record.

GreatFlorida Insurance provides boat insurance for all types of vessels from Jet Skis to yachts. We also cover fishing and other recreational equipment on your boat. Contact one of our agents if you are in the market for boat insurance or would just like more information.

Car-Child Safety Tips

Recently, an 18-month-old girl died in Panama City when her mother forgot her in the car.  The child was found unresponsive eight hours later. A tragedy like this sparks a lot of emotion- outrage, anger, disbelief, shock and heartbreak.

This kind of news makes you want to hold your child a little closer. While most parents think it could never happen to them, mothers and fathers are the most common caregivers to leave their children forgotten in a vehicle.

“Whatever the reason parents leave their child in the car, everyone can agree it is an absolute tragedy,” said Ellsworth Buck Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. “At GreatFlorida Insurance, we want to help prevent a horrible situation such as this from happening to families.  We hope by informing our customers and providing them with information, we can put an end to children suffering heatstroke in cars.”

Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children. Kids are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults. Their bodies warm three to five times faster than adults.  On the website, noheatstroke.org, San Jose State University Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, reports from 1998- present, 639 children have died from heatstroke. In Florida, 68 children have been forgotten in the car by their caregiver.

The National Highway of Transportation Safety Administration, NHTSA has recommendations to make sure no child is forgotten in a hot vehicle.

  • Always check the backseat before you lock the car and walk away.
  • Keep a stuffed animal or toy in your child’s car seat. When it is occupied, move it to the front seat as a visual reminder that your child is in the car.
  • When someone else drives your child, call to make sure the child has arrived safely. Consider making arrangements with your child’s daycare to call you when they are not present.
  • Utilize drive- thru services

The weather can be deceptive and is not always a reliable factor for determining car temperatures.  Noheatstroke.org reports, in 10 minutes a car’s temperature can rise over 20 degrees. Even at a temperature of 60 degrees outside, the temperature inside of your vehicle can reach 110. Cloudy days are also a threat and opening windows does not prevent heatstroke.

Bystanders are always encouraged to get involved when they see a child left alone in a vehicle. Florida’s “Good Samaritan Act,” provides immunity from civil liability for those who offer care at the scene of an emergency. If you see a child alone in a car, act immediately.  Call 911 then remove the child from the car. Spray the child with cool water, no ice. If the child is responsive, stay with them until the authorities arrive. Have someone search for the driver or have them paged at the facility you are located.

Signs of a heatstroke:

  • Temperature over 104
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed (red) skin
  • Racing heart rate
  • Skin is hot but dry to the touch
  • Confusion or strange behavior

A child dies when his or her body temperature reaches 107.  It is best to never leave children in the car unattended.

If you are looking for auto insurance, agents at GreatFlorida Insurance can help you navigate through policies and prices to find the right car insurance coverage for you.


The Summer Road Trip

Florida-Auto-Insurance“I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me…” – Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”

Summer road trips are a great way to create memories with family and friends. “An annual road trip is a rite of passage for many American families,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. “A road trip can help you reconnect with family and relax, while taking in scenic views from across the country.”

The slowed down pace of driving to a destination rather than flying can save you money while providing time to enjoy the journey. Road trips allow you to craft your personalized vacation. They can be well-planned in advanced or impulsive. You decide the budget, the route and the destination.

Where to

Most travelers have a specific destination they are driving to get to eventually. If you want to go somewhere, but are not sure where, DiscoverAmerica.com, can help you plan your ideal trip. Your road trip can be centered on a region you would like to travel or a theme, such as food and drink or sports.

If you are looking to stay in Florida, Travel + Leisure, chose U.S. 1, Florida Keys, as one of America’s best road trips. It includes views of islands, lighthouses and beautiful waters. Along the way you can stop for a swim with dolphins or discover underwater coral reef parks.

Before hitting the road

Make sure your car is in top shape by getting your oil checked along with the coolant levels, wiper fluids, brakes and tire pressure. AAA reports only 17 percent of cars on the road have their tires properly inflated.  The proper tire pressure can help save of fuel. Make sure your car insurance is up to date and check to see what kind of coverage and emergency roadside service is available to you while traveling.


Careful planning can give you time to scour websites and find great deals but those who enjoy spontaneity can also benefit from last minute price slashes on hotels that are not at full capacity. Check out mobile apps such as, Hotel Tonight or Last Minute Travel Deals.

When selecting a place to stay, look for amenities to enhance your trip such as a pool or gym. These can helpful in burning off energy after cooped up in a car all day. A stay that includes free breakfast will get you going the next morning before you hop in the car. Those will a little more adventure in their blood can try camping overnight at a KOA along the route or at local campground. More rustic accommodations can save your budget while giving you a greater chance to meet other guests while enjoying the fresh air.

On the way

Electronics will distract from quality time and the scenery, think about limiting their use. Try checking out an audio book from the library or packing along a journal or drawing pad so kids can record details about their trip.

Picnicking can save money and let you to take in the view while walking around to stretch out your legs.  Get the whole family involved in the planning process.  Check out the route in davanced and see if there are renowned ice cream shops, must-see historical or museums sites or quirky shops carrying kitschy items.

Remember, enjoying the trip is part of the journey.

If you are looking for dependable and affordable auto insurance, give us a call at GreatFlorida Insurance today.

Watch for Vulnerable Riders

Florida-Motorcycle-InsuranceMotorcycles are an appealing mode of transportation for several reasons: they get nice gas mileage, they are affordable, you pay less with motorcycle insurance than with car insurance and you can ride in the High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane.

“Florida is a great state for riding motorcycles. It offers scenic back roads and picturesque coastline. The terrain is mostly flat with occasional curves and good corners,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. The freedom you feel when you ride is a big draw, but this pleasure can come at a cost.

Motorcycle riders have the same rights and privileges as other drivers on the road. Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents almost always end in injury leading to extensive medical attention. The Florida Department of Transportation, reports that a large number of motorcycle crashes come down to car drivers having poor speed and spatial judgement as well as drivers not seeing motorcyclists.

Motorists can help prevent motorcycle accidents by observing to the following tips:

  • Watch aggressively for motorcycles
  • Check blind spots
  • Do not share lanes with a motorcycle
  • Leave at least 4 seconds between your vehicle and the motorcycle ahead of you
  • Watch before turning left
  • Always use your signal before changing lanes

Being on a motorcycle will leave you more exposed than being in a car, leaving motorcycle riders more vulnerable on roadways. Some differences between cars and motorcycles include the following:

  • Motorcycles have no restraints or seatbelts
  • Motorcycles weigh much less than other vehicles
  • Motorcycles are small and slim making it difficult for other drivers to see, especially when they are in a blind spot.
  • Motorcycles are more vulnerable to road obstructions and impediments such as road debris, pot holes and puddles.
  • Motorcycles are less stable than a car and require a rider to constantly maintain balance.
  • When riding a motorcycle your body parts such as skin, face and joints are exposed, so even in a minor accident they can suffer painful injuries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC reports, motorcyclist involved in an accident experience common injuries such as bone fractures and most commonly broken legs. Other injuries are numerous and can include: wrist, arm, shoulder and pelvis fractures, road rash or skin abrasions, ranging from mild to severe. Also, head and traumatic brain injuries. While wearing a helmet can reduce injuries, this is the leading cause of death and disability in motorcycle accidents.

Make sure as a motorist, you are respectful and share the road with motorcycle riders. If you need car insurance or motorcycle insurance, GreatFlorida Insurance agents can create custom motorcycle insurance coverage to fit your lifestyle, regardless of the type of bike you ride, call us today.




Have you lost your Florida Driver’s License? Forgiveness awaits.

Each year many Florida drivers commit a transgression resulting in the loss of their driver’s license. Thankfully, forgiveness is extended by the state in the form of an SR22 or FR44. To help get their license get reinstated and put drivers back on the road, GreatFlorida Insurance has launched a new website, SR22.greatflorida.com.

The new website provides information specific for Florida drivers who find themselves in need of an SR22 or an FR44. “Our insurance company has been providing  auto insurance to high risk drivers in Florida for years, despite the reluctance of many insurance companies to deal with these challenging circumstances. We feel the new website will share with the public our services and help by providing accurate information that is exclusive to Florida motorists,” said Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance.

A popular misconception about an SR22 and FR44, they are not insurance but actually a certificate of financial responsibility. It informs the state that you have purchased the appropriate insurance limits required to drive. The certificate is filed by your insurance agent electronically directly to the state. This alerts the state that you are maintaining continuous insurance coverage.

An SR22 can be mandated by the courts for a number of reasons including: excessive tickets and previously driving without insurance. Florida is one of the few states that necessitates an FR44. An FR44 is mandatory for those who have committed a DUI. While they detail new and possibly higher insurance limits, neither of the certificates place restrictions on your driver’s license.

Florida SR22 Insurance

For more information on obtaining an SR22 or FR44, you can visit the new website, http://sr22.greatflorida.com/, where you will find answers to many of your questions.

GreatFlorida Insurance is insurance for Floridians by Floridians. Since 1991, we have faithfully served Florida residents and their insurance needs. Unlike many insurance companies in the state, we are a network of independent, franchised insurance agents located in communities across Florida. This means we are not bound to one company to fulfill your insurance requirements, but we can shop around to find the best coverage and price for you. This flexibility allows GreatFlorida Insurance agents to craft a custom insurance policy specific for your needs, not just offer a standard insurance policy.

GreatFlorida Insurance provides homeowners insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, boat insurance, motorcycle insurance, renters insurance, commercial auto insurance and umbrella insurance. We are dedicated to providing our customers professional, prompt and courteous service. We work with reputable insurance carriers across the nation such as: Travelers, Progressive, Nationwide and more.

It is savvy to make informed decisions about your insurance. GreatFlorida agents are there to guide you every step of the way by giving you options and simplifying the process of buying insurance. Contact us online or give us a call today.