Prevent Accidents With Basic Car Maintenance

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Whether you do it yourself or hire a trusted mechanic, regular car maintenance not only keeps your vehicle running well and safely, it also may prevent an accident. Since every vehicle is different, be sure to read your owner’s manual for information specific to your make and model. (If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you may be able to find one online.)

 

If you’re in the market for car insurance,

be sure to call us at 813-672-4100 for a free,

no obligation auto insurance quote.

 

Here are five car maintenance basics that will help you stay safer on the road:

 

Where the rubber meets the road

The condition of your tires affects how your car handles and how well it stops. According to one estimate, there are 33,000 tire-related crashes in the U.S. every year. Once a month, before you drive somewhere and your tires are cool, check their air pressure (don’t forget the spare tire). Also examine the condition of your tires, looking for any cuts, bulges, or uneven wear, and checking tread depth.  Rotate your tires about twice a year and have your wheels aligned as needed so your tires will wear evenly.

 

Brakes

Beware of noise when braking—it could indicate worn brake pads. Worn pads can damage rotors, which can be expensive to repair, and if neglected long enough can lead to brake failure. If you hear grinding, scraping or squeaking sounds, have your brakes inspected as soon as possible.

 

Keep it clean

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When you’re driving, you want to be able to see well and to be seen, so keep your windshield, mirrors and lights clean and free of stuck-on debris such as love bugs. Don’t forget to clean the inside of your windows—they can get grimy, too, making it harder to see.  Clean your wiper blades to remove buildup of dirt, and replace them when they fail to easily sweep your windshield clean.

 

And speaking of lights…

Make sure all your lights and turn signals work. Are you headlights aligned? If they’re not, you may have trouble seeing the road at night.

 

Fluids

Fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid keep your vehicle running smoothly. Check oil level once a month, and change it regularly (again referring to your owner’s manual for frequency). Flush and replace fluids according to your vehicle manufacturer’s schedule. Watch for telltale puddles beneath your vehicle—you might have a fluid leak.

 

A well-maintained vehicle is not only a safer vehicle, it will last longer and run better, saving you money in the long run. We hope you’ll never be in a car accident, but if you are, rest assured L & M Insurance Group will be here for you. Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your car insurance policy, or if you need a quote. We’re here to serve you.

Safe Driving Tips for Rainy Days

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In the South, over 90 percent of weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement, according to the Federal Highway Administration. We here in the Brandon and Riverview area are certainly familiar with navigating frequent summer storms, so L & M Insurance Group would like to offer a few tips to keep you driving safely when it’s raining or the roads are wet.

  • Rain makes it harder to see and be seen, and it makes the road slippery, so keep your windshield wipers, tires, and lights (headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals) in good repair.
  • Turn on your headlights when it’s raining. This is the law, but it’s also common sense. Your headlights not only help you see, they help other drivers see you. Even though many cars have daytime running lights, turning on your headlights also turns on your taillights, so drivers behind you will be able to see you better. Don’t turn on your high beams, however, as they can cause distracting and dangerous reflections.

Did you know—it’s illegal to drive with your emergency flashers on? Flashers are to be used only when a vehicle is stopped or disabled. If you feel the visibility is so poor you need to turn on your flashers to be seen, you should safely pull off the road as far as you can, and wait out the storm. (And yes, now you can turn on your emergency flashers.)

 

  • Don’t use cruise control. Under slippery circumstances, you want to be completely focused on your driving. Plus, if you need to slow down quickly, you can ease your foot off the gas, which is safer in wet conditions than braking. Since cruise control aims to keep your vehicle traveling at a set speed, it might even accelerate at a time you should be slowing down.
  • Slow down and allow more space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. It takes longer to stop in wet weather, so allow yourself the time and space to react to the unexpected. Also give yourself extra time to get to your destination when it’s raining or conditions are wet so you won’t be tempted to drive too fast. Remember, all it takes is 1/12th of an inch of water and a speed of at least 35 MPH to be at risk for hydroplaning (when a layer of water builds up between the tires of your vehicle and the road, leading to loss of traction).
  • Steer and brake gently. If you start to skid, ease off the gas pedal and gently steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go.
  • Don’t drive through large puddles or standing water. If water is deeper than the bottom of your door, you could seriously damage your car. And never drive through moving water unless you can easily see the ground through it. Your car—and you—could be swept away.
  • Take extra care on wet days that follow a dry spell. Oil and grime deposits on the road can mix with the rain to make things extra slick for the first few hours after rain begins falling again.

We likely have at least a few more weeks of wet driving conditions, so please stay safe out there!

FYI, for information on safe driving, consider taking the National Safety Council’s defensive driving course. You may be eligible for a discount on your auto insurance. Be sure to check with your L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100 to see if you qualify.

Preparing Your Home Before Your Vacation—a Checklist

There’s still time to sneak in a summer vacation before the kids go back to school. Before you go, there are a few things you should do to protect your home while you’re gone, and ease your reentry when you return.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

 

Make it hard for burglars to get in

  • Collect any spare keys you have hidden outside.
  • Install a motion-sensitive exterior light.
  • Park your car inside your garage. If you can’t, be sure to remove any valuables and the garage door opener from your vehicle.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked, including pet doors. Don’t forget the door between the garage and the house.
  • Disconnect the garage door opener receiver, or manually lock the door.

Safeguard your home

  • Florida experiences a lot of storms and lightning strikes, so unplug electronics, WiFi routers, printers, and computers to keep them safe from power surges. (This will also save you on your electric bill, because some electronics keep drawing power even when they’re turned off.)
  • Turn off the water main.
  • Turn off your water heater (if you’ve turned off the water main), or turn the temperature down.
  • Raise the temperature on the thermostat instead of turning off your air conditioning to protect your home and belongings from Florida’s high heat and humidity.
  • Avoid any unpleasantly smelly surprises by throwing away any food that might go bad before you return, and make sure you take out the kitchen trash before you go.

Don’t advertise the fact that you’re not home

  • Stop newspaper delivery and put a hold on your mail.
  • Wait to post your travel plans and experiences on social media until you return from your trip.
  • Don’t leave an outgoing voice message on your answering machine saying you’re out of town.
  • Help your home look lived-in by connecting interiors lights to a timer, and set them to come on at different times.
  • Hire someone or ask a friend or trusted neighbor to take care of your yard—mow the grass, water if necessary, and generally keep an eye on things. A big tree limb down in your driveway for several days is a major clue that no one’s home!
  • Consider hiring a house sitter to watch over everything while you’re gone, especially if you have pets. There’s something about knowing there is someone at home, and your pets will really appreciate being able to stay in their own environment.
  • If you don’t want or need a house sitter, leave emergency contact information with a neighbor.
  • Let your home security company know you’ll be out of town, and give them the names and contact information of your house sitter or a neighbor who has agreed to keep an eye on your house.
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway a couple of times so your home doesn’t look deserted.

Enjoy your vacation, safe in knowing your homeowners insurance is on the job protecting your assets, and that you’ve done all you can to keep your home safe while you’re away.   And please give us a call at 813-672-4200 if you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, or you need a free, no-obligation quote.

How Your Homeowners Insurance Keeps Working, Even When You’re on Vacation

holiday-2418657_1280While you’re making plans for a summer vacation, packing up the kids, and making arrangements for the dog, the last thing on your mind might be your homeowners insurance. You can rest assured that even though you’re on vacation, your homeowners insurance is still working for you back home. Here’s how:

It protects your personal belongings. Under Coverage C, your homeowners policy protects your personal belongings up to the policy’s limits (usually 50-70% of the insured value of your dwelling), less your deductible. If the contents of your home were to be damaged or stolen while you’re gone, you’d be covered—but did you know the personal property you bring with you on vacation is also covered? That means things like your luggage, your laptop, your golf clubs—if these items were lost or stolen while you’re on vacation, they would also be covered, again less your deductible. Note: some companies reduce off-premises coverage to a percentage of the total coverage for personal possessions, so you may want to check with your L & M Insurance Group agent if you have concerns about this.

It protects your liability. Even if you’re not home, if someone is injured on your property, the liability protection in your homeowners policy will cover you. Let’s say a friend is acting as house sitter for you while you’re away, and he or she falls and is injured. Your liability would cover this.

Or maybe you have a pool in your back yard, and some neighborhood kids decide to use it while you’re gone. Even if you’re not there and haven’t given them permission to use your pool, you could still be liable for any injuries.

(If you have someone staying in your home, or if you have a pool or a trampoline, you may need the additional liability protection of an umbrella policy.)

Your homeowners liability also covers you if you if you unintentionally hurt someone while you’re on vacation (for example, if you slice a golf ball into a fellow golfer!).

And, of course, it protects your home itself. Break-ins, vandalism, storm damage, fire—all the usual covered perils will continue to be covered while you are away.

(One thing to be aware of: standard homeowners policies do not cover floods. Since Florida is essentially one big flood zone, talk to your L & M Insurance Group agent about buying a flood policy—they’re more affordable than ever.)

It’s good to know your homeowners insurance is still working for you, even while you’re on vacation. Policy limits, exclusions, and deductibles still apply, so you should consult with your L & M Insurance Group agent to make sure you’re carrying the appropriate coverages and limits to protect your assets. Please contact us if you’d like a homeowners insurance quote, or if you have questions about what your policy covers.

L & M Insurance Group Serves Both Standard and Non-Standard Risks

key-949094_1280As an independent insurance agency, L & M Insurance Group has the ability to help non-standard drivers who have risk factors that make it hard to get insurance at standard or preferred rates—factors such as accidents or a blemished driving record. But did you know L & M is also a great place for drivers with clean records, good credit, and other factors that make them attractive to companies like State Farm or Allstate?

If you have a clean driving record and no or few claims, and you also have good credit, own a home, and carry high limits, L & M could be a good fit for you. After all, good drivers also want and deserve the convenience, personal service, and expertise of using an independent insurance agency!

 

L & M Insurance Group   represents more than 15 auto insurance companies, including Progressive, Safeco, Nationwide, Travelers, GMAC, Metropolitan, and Foremost. We understand the insurance needs that are specific to the standard risk and we can help you choose the liability limits that will best protect your assets. In addition to auto insurance, we also offer a range of insurance policies to cover not only your car, but your house, boat, ATV, investment properties and so on. We also offer umbrella policies to protect your liability.

 

And because we represent many insurance companies rather than just one, chances are excellent that we can save you money, too!

 

We want your business, so when you’re in the market for insurance, please click here to request a quote, or call us at. 813-672-4200.

Boat Safe This Summer

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It’s easy to see why Florida is the number one boating destination in the United States—we have thousands of miles of tidal shoreline, Intracoastal Waterways, lakes, and rivers to explore. The waters around Tampa Bay are especially beautiful, and boaters can go from roaming a secluded beach to pulling up to the dock at one of Tampa’s waterside restaurants—all in one day!

Unfortunately, Florida also is the national leader in boating fatalities each year. At L & M Insurance Group, we want to see you out enjoying the boating life, not coping with a life-threatening emergency. Here are five basics to help you boat safe this summer:

  • If you haven’t already, take a boat safety course. Click here for a free online safe boating course endorsed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  • Inspect your boat each time you get ready to take it out. Among other things, inspect the hull for damage, make sure the boat’s lights work properly, and that you have enough fuel. (Click here for a full pre-departure checklist.)
  • Make sure all safety equipment is in good working order, including life vests (see below), fire extinguishers (make sure yours is U.S. Coast Guard approved), emergency flares, and a carbon monoxide monitor (especially if your boat has an enclosed cabin). If your boat is 16 feet or more, you must also have at least one Type IV throwable flotation device, such as a life ring or flotation cushion. Also make sure you have a first aid kit on board.
  • Have a life vest for every person on board your boat. Make sure the vests fit properly and are in good condition. Most important: make sure everyone actually wears his or her life vest. The main cause of boating fatalities is boaters falling overboard who are not wearing life vests—an average of one person a week. Remember, it’s the unexpected event that poses the most danger—rough water or losing your balance, for example, can land you overboard with no time to find and put on your life vest.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while boating. It’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol, and your judgment and reaction time decline even faster in a boating environment than on land. The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating deaths, and the penalties for “Boating Under the Influence” can include fines or even jail time.

And, of course, make sure your boat insurance is current before you brave the waves. Give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 for a boat insurance quote. Our boat insurance policies are designed to fit the needs and budget of today’s boater. Happy boating!

Five Things to Do Now to Prepare for Hurricane Season

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The start of the 2017 hurricane season is just 10 days away. Are you ready? If you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, you know how much havoc a storm can cause. Better to spend an hour or two now to save a lot of stress and worry when a storm is bearing down on you.

Here are five things to do NOW to prepare before a hurricane blows your way:

  • Inspect your home and yard. Now is the time to make any necessary repairs to your roof (if you replace your roof, be sure to get a wind mitigation report—it could save you money on your homeowners insurance), cut down dead tree limbs, or buy any necessary storm shutters, plywood, or braces for your garage door. Also make note of any lawn furniture, children’s play equipment, or potted plants that might need to be moved so a hurricane’s high winds don’t turn them into flying hazards.
  • Check evacuation and flood zones (they aren’t the same). If you live in an evacuation zone, familiarize yourself with the route, and make plans now for where you’ll go. If you don’t have to evacuate, consider offering friends or family who must evacuate a place to stay. Tip: Keep your vehicles gassed up during hurricane season, just in case you need to get out of town quickly.
  • Create or update your Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure you have plenty of medicines, food, water, batteries, pet supplies, and other crucial items on hand. Include a portable NOAA radio, and if you have a landline, a corded phone (portable cordless phones won’t work if there’s a power outage). Click here for a full description of what your Disaster Supply Kit should contain.
  • Collect copies of important documents, such as driver’s licenses, and insurance policies, and make sure you have your insurance agent’s contact information.   Take pictures of your home and belongings if you haven’t already done a full home inventory, and store those pictures someplace that won’t be affected by the storm, either online or with a friend or family member outside of Florida.
  • Review your insurance policies. What is your hurricane deductible? Do you have flood insurance? Standard homeowners policies do not come with flood coverage, but flood insurance is more affordable than ever, so you might want to look into buying it.

Don’t let a hurricane catch you unprepared. Take time now to prepare your home and your family for any coming storms. And remember, L & M Insurance Group is here to help you. Please contact us if you have any questions about hurricane or flood coverage.

For more information, please visit:

Hillsborough County Emergency Management

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

 

Think You Don’t Need Renters Insurance? Think Again!

for-rent-sign-2-1147396-1279x1778Renting a place rather than buying can make good financial sense for many reasons. But what if a fire destroys your apartment, or a leaky roof saturates your furniture? Who would pay for your damaged belongings? If you think it’s your landlord, think again.

A 2016 survey indicated that while 95 percent of homeowners carry homeowners insurance, only 41 percent of renters carry renters insurance. This could be a big financial mistake. Here are four reasons renters insurance is a good idea for most people.

Renters insurance covers your belongings

To make sure your policy limits are adequate to replace your belongings, create a home inventory and add up the cost of replacing your major items, then double it. We recommend that you carry replacement cost rather than actual cash value. (Replacement Cost: what it would cost to replace your item with a comparable brand new item. Actual Cash Value: the value of your item, less depreciation.)

Renters insurance protects your liability

What if one of your friends trips and falls and breaks her arm? Or maybe your friend’s iPhone is stolen while he’s at your house for a party? Renters insurance has you covered. Most renters insurance policies come with $100,000 liability coverage. You may want to discuss with your L & M Insurance Group agent whether this is enough. Most of the time, it only costs a little more to raise your limits.

Renters insurance is cost effective

Since a renters insurance policy doesn’t cover the structure itself, the actual cost is fairly low. In fact, the average cost of a renters insurance policy is about the same per month as the cost of having a pizza delivered! This is just a fraction of the cost of replacing all your belongings if they’re damaged or stolen, or defending yourself against a lawsuit if someone is injured at your home. Check with your agent about discounts for safety features like a burglar alarm or sprinkler system to further lower your cost.

Renters insurance helps with additional living expenses

If you can’t live in your rental after a covered loss, your policy may help pay reasonable costs of temporary lodging while it is being repaired. Check your policy for financial and duration limits.

Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about renters insurance, or if you’d like a quote. We’re here to serve you.

So You’re About to Buy Your First Auto Insurance Policy…

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Congratulations! Becoming an independent adult can be both exciting and scary. Finding your first job and apartment are milestones to be proud of. Buying your first auto insurance policy? That can be a milestone, too, as it’s one more step in taking responsibility for your life and future financial well-being.

Here are some basics to consider as you shop for your first auto insurance policy:

Why carry insurance?

Simply put, you must carry auto insurance to drive legally. But insurance is really intended to protect you financially, not just make you “legal.” Think about it: if you’re in an accident, proper insurance coverage pays for injuries, as well as having your vehicle repaired—things that can cost multiple thousands of dollars. You’d never be able to afford this without insurance coverage.

What coverages should you carry?

To tag your car, Florida law only requires that you carry a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PD). If you make car payments, your lender will most likely require that you carry comprehensive and collision. However, unless you absolutely cannot afford it, it makes much better financial sense to add Bodily Injury Liability (BI) to your policy. If you are at fault in an accident, BI will help pay for the victims’ injuries, up to the policy limits. This also allows you to comply with the Florida Financial Responsibility Law, which states that anyone responsible for a crash with injuries must be carrying bodily injury liability limits of at least $10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident, in addition to $10,000 each of PIP and PD. If you don’t have this coverage, you may be required to carry an SR-22 for three years.

The increase in premium for adding BI coverage is far less than what it would cost you if you were sued following an accident (and statistically speaking, young drivers are more likely to be in an accident).

Click here for a basic explanation of types of auto insurance coverage.

How can you afford it?

There are a few ways you keep your auto insurance premiums down. The most obvious is to drive safely and keep your record clean!

A second important thing you can do is protect your credit. Credit scores have become a major factor in quoting auto insurance rates. The better your credit, the better the price of your auto insurance.

If you have been on your parents’ insurance policy, you may be eligible for a discount for having continuous coverage, so let your agent know if this is the case. (Make sure you don’t let your insurance lapse once you buy it, too.)

Ask your agent about any additional discounts available, such as for safety features like airbags or anti-lock brakes.

And finally, shop around to find the best rate. Just be sure when you’re comparing policies that each agent is quoting you the same coverage and limits.

Providing affordable insurance is where an independent agency like L & M Insurance Group really shines. We represent more than 15 different quality auto insurance companies, including Progressive, Safeco, Nationwide, Metropolitan, Travelers, Mercury, GMAC, Foremost—and more. Please call us at 813-672-4100 for a free quote today! We’d love to serve you.

Improving Your Home? Don’t Forget to Upgrade Your Insurance

electrician-1206468_1280Spring weather has many of us thinking about home and landscape improvements. It’s a perfect time of year to spruce up our surroundings, and prepare for the coming heat, humidity, and summer storms.

 

If you’re planning renovations or landscaping projects this spring, consider what effect these projects might have on your homeowners insurance and liability. Some projects can make your home safer (thus reducing the chance you’ll have to make a claim on your insurance), some projects will increase the value of your home (so your current homeowners policy might not be adequate), and some projects might even save you money on your insurance.

 

Here are five common home improvement projects and how they can affect your insurance coverage:

 

Tree trimming

Trimming trees not only improves their health and appearance, it can also make your home and yard safer. Proper trimming ensures that dead limbs can’t fall on your car, or be blown into your yard by high winds. You can also protect your roof and pool enclosure by having overhanging limbs cut back. This reduces the likelihood that your home or car—or a guest’s car—will be damaged by falling tree limbs.

 

Planting trees or shrubs

Before planting anything with invasive roots, find out where your water, sewer or septic lines run. Most homeowners insurance policies don’t contain coverage for water or sewer back-up damage—damage that might be caused by roots that grow into your water, sewer, or septic lines. One way to find out where those lines are is to “call before you dig”.

 

Roof replacement

Even though it can be an expensive home improvement, having your roof replaced can offer you peace of mind, increase the value of your home, and save you money on your homeowners insurance. (See “A Wind Mitigation Report Can Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Premium” for more information.)

 

Adding a pool

Having a pool in Florida is almost a must—but it can leave you open to liability claims if someone is hurt while playing in or around your pool. You may want to consider adding an umbrella policy to boost your liability protection. Also, remember to increase the amount of your homeowners coverage to include the value of that new pool. And think twice about adding a slide or a diving board. Most homeowners policies exclude exposure to slides or diving boards. Some only provide $25,000 worth of coverage, and others won’t write your policy at all if you have a slide or diving board.

 

Significant kitchen or bath upgrades

Installing granite or marble countertops, custom cabinetry, or professional-grade appliances? You may want to upgrade your homeowners insurance coverage at the same time, to be sure you’d receive the increased value should you have to make a claim. If the remodeling is extensive, you may need to buy a builder’s risk policy.

 

It’s a great time of year to spruce up your home. Please call us with any questions you have about how your proposed home or landscaping projects might affect your insurance.