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Water Damage: What Your Homeowners Insurance Will—and WON’T—Cover

When you buy a homeowners insurance policy, you’re purchasing protection for your family’s safe haven as well as your most valuable asset. A homeowners policy is intended to help you recover from a sudden and accidental loss, likely an expensive one, such as fire, lightning, hail, etc. However, we find that coverage for one peril, water, is sometimes misunderstood.

Water damage is the second most common reason a homeowner will make an insurance claim, and it is often covered. However, that depends on what caused the damage in the first place. The key is in the concept of the damage being “sudden and accidental.” For example, if a pipe bursts or an appliance overflows, flooding your home and damaging it—those things are both sudden and accidental. However, gradual damage, like that which occurs over time from a leaking faucet, would likely not be covered. Homeowners insurance will not cover water damage due to negligence or lack of maintenance. It’s not intended to serve as a vehicle for maintaining your home.

In addition, your homeowners insurance will NOT cover water damage due to:

  • Intentional acts.
  • Sewer or drain backup (unless you’ve purchased that coverage).
  • Leaks from a swimming pool or other structure.
  • Ground water seepage.

What about flood damage?

A major concern in Florida is flood damage. Flooding is not covered under a standard homeowners policy. This includes flooding from a hurricane, rising water from overflowing rivers, storm surge, or water from heavy rains. If you need flood coverage, L & M Insurance Group can help you get the coverage you need.

Tips to prevent water damage

The best way to prevent water damage is to keep your home in good repair. Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent water damage (see “Fall Maintenance for Your Florida Home” for more suggestions):

  • Inspect dishwasher, water heater, and washing machine hoses and replace if necessary.
  • Turn off water supply to washing machine and refrigerator when going out of town.
  • Monitor your water bill for unexpected increases.
  • Install a leak detector/leak sensor, a device which detects and notifies you about leaks.

L & M Insurance Group—your source for homeowners insurance

If you have questions about what is or is not covered under your Florida homeowners insurance policy, don’t hesitate to call your insurance agent. And if you need a quote for homeowners insurance, please consider giving L & M Insurance Group a call. We understand the importance of finding the right homeowners insurance coverage for your needs. We are an independent insurance agency partnered with many great homeowners insurance companies, and we’d love to help you find the most cost-effective coverage for your individual situation. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or click here to contact us online.

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How Inflation Is Affecting Your Insurance Rates and What You Can Do About It

Florida residents already pay some of the highest auto and home insurance rates in the country—and now inflation is making it worse. Some of the same factors driving inflation in general are driving premium increases across nearly all lines of insurance. These factors include supply chain issues, labor shortages, and the rising cost of goods and services. Insurance companies are businesses, and the cost of doing business has gone up considerably. Read on for how inflation is affecting your insurance, and for a few tips to help lower your premiums.

What’s driving up car insurance prices?

Cars have become so high tech that not only do they cost more to repair, they require new training for auto mechanics. Add that to an already existing shortage of qualified mechanics and getting a vehicle repaired becomes even more challenging. In addition, repair shops can’t get the parts they need to fix damaged vehicles so they’re forced to total them, resulting in larger claim amounts being paid out. These higher expenses are taken into account when insurance companies calculate their rates. You can learn more on how supply chain problems can affect your car insurance in a recent blog article.

Homeowners insurance and inflation

Homeowners across the nation are facing rate increases that Florida homeowners have been enduring on a larger scale for the past couple of years. Inflation-related drivers of these price increases include the cost of building materials and a labor shortage of construction workers. Simply put, houses cost more to repair or rebuild, so once again, insurance companies are calculating these costs when setting their rates. (In Florida, the homeowners insurance market faces even more challenges. See: “AOB Abuse and Fraud Help to Drive the High Cost of Insurance.”)

How can you reduce insurance premiums?

There’s only so much you can do in the tight insurance market we have here in Florida, but every little bit helps. Here are a few suggestions for saving money on your insurance premiums:

  • Shop for your insurance with an independent insurance agency. An independent agency like L & M Insurance Group has more options than captive agents when quoting a policy. We represent more than 80 high-quality insurance companies.
  • Improve your credit score. A higher credit score almost always results in lower insurance premiums.
  • Keep your driving record clean. Still one of the best ways to help you get the lowest rate possible.
  • Ask about discounts. You may be able to get small discounts on your auto or home insurance for things like safe driving, safety features or alarm systems, having no gaps in your insurance coverage, signing up for auto pay or paying in full, living in a gated community, and so on.
  • Reduce coverage. Sometimes if money is tight, it makes sense to reduce coverage in order to save on premiums. You’ll need to think carefully about your situation, and what you can handle financially if you were to have a loss. An L & M Insurance Group agent will be happy to help you consider your options.
  • Increase your deductibles. You’ll have to decide if the amount you save in premium is worth the additional amount you’ll owe out of pocket if you have a claim.

Talk to an independent agent

We know you have many choices when it comes to insurance, and we’d like to thank you for considering L & M Insurance Group for your insurance needs. If you have any questions about what coverage you need, or you need a quote for a car, home, or business policy, please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online. We’ve been helping our neighbors in Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Valrico, Tampa, and surrounding areas for more than 30 years.

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Insurance Tips for Back-to-School Season

Believe it or not, it’s already back-to-school season! Younger kids go back to school this week, and college students follow soon after. If you’re a parent, upcoming events in your kids’ lives could impact your insurance coverage. And whether or not you’re a parent, this time of year requires that all drivers take extra care while on the road.

Safety reminders for all drivers

The back-to-school season brings increased traffic, as well as kids walking, biking, or scootering to school. Tickets issued for violations related to school zones and buses are expensive, and will certainly affect your auto insurance rates. And it goes without saying that no one wants to injure a child.

Be especially alert near school zones, school bus stops, and intersections with crossing guards. Be aware that kids don’t always stay in crosswalks. Obey school zone speed limits and instructions from crossing guards, and stop for school buses. You may need to allow extra time to get to your destination so you’re not tempted to drive faster than is safe. Let’s all work together to keep kids safe on the roads!

If you do have kids, especially kids in high school or college, read on for information regarding how going back to school may affect your insurance coverage.

Parents of high school students

Will you have a new driver this year? Inexperienced drivers, such as high schoolers driving for the first time, may be prone to distraction. Stress to your young driver the importance of minimizing distractions while they’re behind the wheel. (And don’t forget to model the behavior you want!)

Be sure to add your child as a driver to your auto insurance policy as soon as he or she starts driving. If they’re not listed as drivers and they’re in an accident, your claim will almost certainly be denied.

Worried about your car insurance rates going up because you add an inexperienced driver to your policy? Give L & M Insurance Group a call for a rate comparison. As independent agents, we have access to companies with more affordable rates. And remember, if your child has good grades and/or has taken a safe driving course, you may be eligible for discounts.

Parents of college students

If you’re concerned about covering your college student’s personal belongings while they’re away at school, there are a couple of ways to handle that.

Will they live in a college dormitory or in an off-campus rented apartment? If your child lives on campus, your homeowners insurance may offer some coverage for their personal belongings (usually around 10 % of your policy’s contents coverage). However, if your child lives in a rented apartment, your homeowners insurance will probably not cover his or her belongings, and you may want to consider renters insurance. Even if your homeowners insurance would cover your child’s things, you may still want to consider a renters policy in order to avoid having to make a claim on your homeowners insurance and risking a rate increase.

Whatever you decide to do, make a list of the items your child is taking to school that you want to be covered. Keep receipts and take photos—this will be helpful if there’s a claim.

What about car insurance?

If your child won’t be taking a car to school and will be living away from home, can you take him or her off your policy? It’s not a good idea to do that, since they’re likely to drive a family car during breaks and over the summer. However, if they live 100 miles or more away, you may be able to get a discount on your policy—ask your insurance agent.

If your child is planning to take a car to school, you will need to notify your insurance agent about the vehicle’s change in primary location and find out if any changes need to be made to your coverage due to this new situation.

L & M Insurance Group is here for you

Whether you have questions about your existing coverage or you need a quote for a new policy, please consider locally owned and independent L & M Insurance Group for all your insurance needs. The agents at L & M Insurance Group are happy to review your situation and help you to find the right policies for you. Give us a call today at (813) 672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

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Protect Yourself from Lawsuits with an Umbrella Policy

Homeowners insurance and auto insurance play important roles in protecting your financial assets. Not only do they help to repair or replace your own property, your insurance policies cover your financial liability if you are at fault in an accident or if someone is injured while on your property. However, there are times when basic insurance policies might not be sufficient for your needs.

For example:

  • You are at fault in a serious car accident involving multiple vehicles and injuries
  • Your dog attacks and bites someone
  • A visiting child is hurt while playing in your pool
  • A guest trips and falls in your home or on your property

Any one of these scenarios may lead to your being sued and you may find yourself liable for a claim that is much higher than the limits of your homeowners or auto insurance policy. How will you pay for it? Rather than see your hard-earned assets disappear in a lawsuit, an umbrella policy can make up the difference.

How does umbrella insurance work?

Umbrella insurance is additional liability coverage once the limits of a primary policy (auto or home insurance) have been exhausted. Umbrella policies may also protect you if you’re sued for certain actions, including slander, libel, malicious prosecution, and shock/mental anguish.

Umbrella policies most often provide about $1 to $5 million in coverage. They also will pay legal expenses you incur while being sued, over and above the policy amount.

Umbrella policies protect your current assets, such as your property, retirement or investment accounts, as well as your future assets—like wages or an inheritance.

Your goal in buying umbrella insurance is to protect your net worth. Your L & M Insurance Group agent will be happy to help you decide how much coverage you need.

Who needs umbrella insurance?

If you feel it’s likely you could be sued if you’re liable for someone else’s injuries or damage to someone’s property, you need umbrella insurance. If you own property, have a dog, or often host houseguests and entertain, you may be more likely to be in a situation where you could be sued. And if you have a swimming pool, trampoline or play equipment (“attractive nuisances”), you likely need to carry an umbrella policy. Anyone who would like to have more peace of mind regarding asset protection should consider an umbrella policy.

Is there anything umbrella insurance doesn’t cover?

Since umbrella insurance is liability coverage, it doesn’t cover damage to your own property, or injuries to you or your household members. It will not cover business activities or liability you agreed to by contract. It also doesn’t cover damage that you or a covered member of your household causes on purpose. If you have questions about whether or not something is covered, please discuss these with an L & M Insurance Group agent.

Is umbrella insurance expensive?                    

Not compared to other types of insurance—or compared with losing your assets in a lawsuit. A policy with limits of $1 million generally runs only about $150-$300 per year. Cost is determined by factors including how much coverage you want, how many people will be covered by the policy, and how much property (such as homes and cars) you own.

However, since an umbrella policy is secondary to your existing homeowners or auto policies, usually you’ll be required to carry higher limits on those policies. For example, Bodily Injury limits of 250K/500K and Property Damage of 100K on your auto policy, and 300K-500K personal liability coverage on your homeowners insurance. If you don’t currently carry these limits, your premium for your homeowners and auto policies may go up.

L & M Insurance Group has you covered for all your insurance needs

An umbrella policy is an additional layer of insurance coverage you might need to safeguard your financial future. If you would like to know more, please call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100, or click here to reach us online. L & M Insurance Group agents can help with all your insurance needs, whether you need a homeowners policy, car insurance, commercial insurance, or life or health coverage. We are an independent agency, primarily serving Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding communities.

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Safe Grilling Tips for National Grilling Month

Ah, the smell of backyard barbecue—one of the best aromas of summer! July is National Grilling Month, and the height of “grilling season” across the US. And while most people go their whole lifetimes without an incident, July is also peak month for grill fires, resulting in thousands of injuries and millions of dollars of property damage each year. While fire is a covered peril under your homeowner’s insurance, no one wants to deal with the trauma and hassle of coping with a house fire.

So before you fire up that grill, protect your property and loved ones with these key grilling safety tips.

Grilling safety tips

Always operate your propane or charcoal grill outdoors in a well-ventilated area. In addition to posing a fire risk, grills produce deadly carbon monoxide fumes—so never use your grill inside your house or garage.

Position your grill well away from your home, garage, deck railings, overhanging branches, or shrubs. Make sure it’s on a flat and level surface so that it won’t tip over or roll. Don’t move the grill once it’s lit.

Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill, and never leave it unattended. Make sure matches and lighters are not where children can reach them.

Keep your distance from the heat and flames by using long-handled tools when grilling.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy in case of a grill fire. Grill fires are basically the same as grease fires, so using water won’t work and can be dangerous. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, you can try smothering the flames by closing the lid and grill vents to cut off oxygen to the fire. If you can do so safely, you may also pour baking soda on the flames.

If there’s any danger of the fire spreading to your home (or a neighbor’s), call the fire department immediately. House fires can spread rapidly.

If you have a gas/propane grill:

Before you grill for the first time this season, or if you haven’t already done so, check that tank hoses are in good condition with no leaks or blockages. Apply a 50/50 soap and water solution, and if you see bubbles, there’s a leak. Turn off the propane, and have the tank serviced professionally. You can use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear any blockages.

Make sure the lid is open when lighting the grill. If the lid is closed, gas can build up and cause a fireball.

Don’t lean over the grill as you light it.

If a burner won’t light or goes out after lighting, turn off the grill and wait at least five minutes before trying again.

Remember to turn off the gas when you’re done grilling!

Note: if you can still smell gas after you turn off the grill, call the fire department.

If you have a charcoal grill:

If you use starter fluid to light your coals, only use fluid specifically made for grilling. Once you’ve lighted the charcoal, do not add more lighter fluid. You might also want to try an alternate method for lighting charcoal, such as a charcoal chimney starter that uses newspaper as fuel.

Once you’re done cooking, close the air vents to let the coals begin to cool. Let coals cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container.

After you grill

Keep your grill clean. Not only will you avoid potential fire hazards, the food you cook will taste better! Scrape down grill grates and clean drip trays. Keep your grill covered to protect it from dirt, insects, and moisture.

Always store propane tanks outside and away from your house.

Maintain your grill, use it safely, and know what to do in an emergency, and you’ll be able to enjoy some good times and good food while grilling this summer. Let us know what time to come over—we’ll bring the potato salad!

Protect your home from fire as well as other perils by buying the right homeowners insurance for your situation. The agents at L & M Insurance Group will help you navigate the confusing Florida homeowners insurance market. Please call us at 813-672-4100 or email us for a free homeowners insurance quote. L & M Insurance Group is a full-service, independent insurance agency.

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Insurance News You Can Use

The Florida insurance market is especially volatile right now, with many factors influencing the price of coverage. At L & M Insurance Group, we follow developments in the insurance industry, and share them with our clients and prospective clients so you can understand some of what’s happening to the price of insurance. Here are three recent news stories that may affect you.  

Florida Homeowners Insurance Legislation

After a special session to address Florida’s homeowners insurance crisis, Governor Ron DeSantis signed bipartisan legislation intended to improve the situation.

“Lawmakers made changes that involve the broader market, such as allowing insurance policies to include new deductibles for roof damage, imposing restrictions on insurers that seek to refuse to write or renew policies based on the ages of roofs and placing additional restrictions on what are known as ‘bad faith’ lawsuits against insurers,” according to a story from News Service of Florida.  

The Florida homeowners insurance market remains in critical condition, with additional insurance companies going into bankruptcy or limiting the policies they write in Florida. It remains to be seen what relief homeowners will see, and how long it will take for them to see it.

Post-pandemic Distracted Driving

According to the 2022 Travelers Risk Index for Business, 30% of drivers are more anxious on the road and 54% believe distracted and aggressive driving have increased since before the pandemic. Contributing to this anxiety and distraction is the expectation that employees respond to work-related messages when out of the office during work hours. Employees feel pressured to answer work-related calls, emails, and text messages even while they’re driving.

Employers should address safe driving practices with employees, and refrain from calling or texting employees when they’re likely to be behind the wheel. Employees should not be required to read texts (or type them) while driving. An immediate response to a message isn’t worth a life!

Dog-related Claims Rising

In 2021, dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost homeowners insurance companies $881 million—or more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim payments. (Florida is second only to California in the number of claims made.) Aside from the cost of these claims, no one wants to be responsible for their pet injuring someone else.

Take time to train and socialize your dog, and teach children the basics of dog safety. Dogs may develop behavioral issues when left home alone when pet owners return to school or the workplace, so don’t hesitate to address these. Dog owners may also need to carry pet liability coverage and/or an umbrella policy. (Contact L & M Insurance Group if you need a quote for an umbrella policy.)

An independent agency for all your insurance needs

We understand that the insurance market in Florida can be confusing and volatile. L & M Insurance Group is a full-service, independent insurance agency serving Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, and surrounding communities for more than 30 years. We write auto, home and commercial insurance, and represent multiple quality insurance companies. We pride ourselves on finding the right coverage for each person, tailored to fit your specific situation. Please call us at (813) 672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

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Is Your Business Hurricane Ready?

Every year private residents hear a lot about preparing for hurricane season—but what if you own a business? Are there any hurricane-readiness actions Tampa Bay business owners should perform?

Business owners should also make plans for hurricane season. How you prepare depends on your type of business, and what assets, property, data, and people you need to protect.  Below are some general considerations for how to make your business hurricane ready. For detailed instructions, see ready.gov’s Ready Business Hurricane Toolkit.

Assess your risks

When a hurricane approaches, what will be the biggest risks to your business? Wind damage to structures, flooding, power outages, losing data, losing inventory? Will you and/or employees need to shelter in place?

Check your business insurance coverage—will it be adequate for your needs? If you have any questions, contact your insurance agent. (If you need a business insurance quote, please call us at 813-672-4100.)

Don’t wait until a storm is bearing down on you to decide what hurricane readiness plans you need to make for your business. Make a list of any items that need to be bought or stored, and set out in writing your business hurricane preparedness plan.

Create your business hurricane preparedness plan

Once you know which risks you need to account for, start preparing immediately. You should communicate with and include your employees in your plans, as they may have their own roles to play in your hurricane preparedness plans.

Some actions you might take to prepare include:

Make a checklist of things to do just before a hurricane. This downloadable hurricane preparedness checklist for businesses is a great resource.

If your business relies on stored data, sign up for data storage and/or backup services if you don’t already have them. If your business has physical files or other important physical documents, make sure you have waterproof containers to store them in.

Create an emergency communications plan to keep in touch with employees, clients, and suppliers. Make sure you have up-to-date contact information for these people, and that information is readily accessible. Include contact information for your insurance agent and business insurance company.

Find a place to store vehicles and movable equipment to protect them from wind and water damage.

If you own your own building, be prepared to secure it as you would your residence. In addition, examine roof-mounted and other signs, benches, vehicles, outbuildings, and other outside items, such as potted plants. Decide how you’ll secure or store them before a hurricane strikes.

Find a suggested evacuation route.

If you or any of your employees will shelter in place, stockpile a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food, flashlights, a battery-operated radio and cell phone charger, a first aid kit, and bedding where you will be staying. 

Locate a secondary location you can use for your business if your primary location isn’t safe or accessible.

Enact your plan

When a hurricane is forecast, track the storm using sources such as the National Weather Service and your local news station. Secure your property, evacuate, or shelter in place. Monitor local authorities using a radio or the internet if possible.

Return to work safely

Once the storm has passed, contact employees to check on them. Watch for any warnings from local authorities, and only return to your business when it’s safe to do so. Be careful of damaged buildings, downed power lines, and so on. If your business has been damaged, take photos or video, and call your insurance agent or insurance company to report the damage.

We at L & M Insurance Group hope the 2022 hurricane season passes us by, but in the event that it does not, we hope these tips prove helpful. If you need business or personal insurance, please consider calling us for a quote. You can reach us at 813-672-4100, or contact us online. We’ve been serving Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, Lithia, and surrounding communities for many years—and many hurricane seasons!

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Prepare Now for the 2022 Hurricane Season

It’s that time again. Just like death and taxes, preparing for the Atlantic hurricane season every year is inevitable for Tampa Bay residents. However, just because it happens every year, doesn’t mean you should become complacent or neglect your preparations. You and your loved ones have a much better chance of riding out the season safely if you take a few minutes to review your hurricane season plans. (And if this is your first Florida hurricane season, be sure to check out the links at the bottom of this post for more detailed information!)

Before the storms

One of the first steps you should take is to review your homeowners insurance policy limits and coverage. See the declarations page of your policy for this information. Are the policy limits adequate to repair or rebuild your home? What about coverage for your personal property? An up-to-date home inventory will help to make the process smoother if you need to make a claim. Take photos or video of your belongings, and keep receipts for big ticket items.

Remember, homeowners policies have a special deductible which applies only to hurricanes. It’s usually a percentage of your home’s insured value rather than a flat dollar amount, as with a fire or theft claim. While raising your deductible may save you a little money on your premiums, you’ll need to be sure you’re able to pay that deductible should you need to make a claim.

Please call your agent at L & M Insurance Group (813-672-4100) if you need help understanding your policy, if you need to adjust your policy limits, or you need a homeowners insurance quote.

Consider buying flood insurance, even if you’re not in a flood zone. Ninety percent of all natural disasters involve flooding, and flood damage is NOT covered under homeowners insurance. (Click here for a flood insurance quote.)

You might also consider sewer backup coverage, which is also not covered by standard homeowners insurance. It can usually be added to a policy for a nominal fee.

Important: If you decide to buy flood insurance, or make changes to your homeowners insurance policy, don’t wait until a storm is brewing. Coverage cannot be bound when a storm is approaching.

Store your insurance agent’s number and the claims number for your homeowners insurance company in your phone, and make a note of your homeowners insurance policy number.

Collect emergency supplies, especially water (one gallon per person/per day for at least seven days). You’ll also want to stash non-perishable food, extra batteries, first aid supplies, prescription medications, diapers and formula, and pet supplies.

Make plans for evacuation if you’re in an evacuation zone. Know where to go and what to take with you.

Make other basic preparations, including gassing up your car and checking air in tires, as well as oil and water levels. Have some cash on hand, charge your cell phone, tablet, and laptop, and refill prescriptions if possible. Have a portable, battery-operated or NOAA weather radio available for storm updates and instructions if the power is out.

Enable wireless emergency alerts on your cell phone.

Prepare your home and landscaping against a hurricane’s effects. Have trees and branches trimmed, especially those hanging over a structure. Consider installing storm shutters and a wind-rated garage door. Plan what to do with smaller items like potted plants, children’s toys, pool and patio furniture.

If a storm is imminent, turn the refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings to keep food cooler longer. You may also want to store some perishable items you’ll want access to in a cooler with ice if the power goes out. If you don’t open the door to the refrigerator or freezer, the food will also stay cooler longer. Please be mindful of food safety—click here for more information.

Clean and fill tubs and sinks with water to use for flushing toilets and washing.

During the storm

Stay inside and away from windows, glass doors, or skylights. The safest spot is an interior room with no windows. Close the garage door, exterior doors and windows, as well as all interior doors. Research found that closing interior doors helped to compartmentalize pressure inside a home, reducing pressure on the roof by as much as 30 percent.

Preparing for a hurricane ahead of time can help you minimize its impact. Spend a few minutes now reviewing what you plan to do, what supplies you have on hand, and which ones you need to replenish. Check out the links below for more detailed information. And remember, L & M Insurance Group is here to serve all your insurance needs. Please let one of our agents help you make sure you’ve got the homeowners insurance coverage that best fits your needs this hurricane season, and beyond. Call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

For more information:

Hillsborough County Disaster Planning Guide

Floridadisaster.org

Ready.gov

NOAA.gov

Weather.gov

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AOB Abuse and Fraud Help to Drive the High Cost of Insurance

If you’ve purchased or renewed homeowners insurance lately, you know that premiums are skyrocketing. While there are several factors driving Florida’s insurance crisis, our high insurance prices are, in part, due to fraud and assignment of benefits abuse.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening.

What is Assignment of Benefits (AOB)?

Assignment of benefits (AOB) is a legal agreement between a policyholder and a third party in which the policyholder gives (“assigns”) some of his or her rights and benefits under the policy to that third party. Under certain circumstances, this works well, such as when preapproved health care service providers bill your health insurance company directly for covered benefits. However, in the world of homeowners (and auto insurance), AOB abuse has become rampant, adding more strain to an already stressed insurance market. Most AOB abuse claims stem from homeowners insurance (primarily related to roofing scams or water losses), PIP claims, and damaged windshields. This article will address AOB abuse related to homeowners insurance claims.

What does AOB abuse entail?

In Florida, two things are at play. First, unscrupulous companies are submitting inflated or fraudulent homeowners insurance claims. One common scenario involves roofing companies canvassing a neighborhood after a storm, offering “free roof replacement” after they look for damage that may or may not exist or be caused by that storm. In this and other situations, fraudulent contractors also may do unnecessary repairs, overcharge for repairs, or in some cases, charge for repairs they don’t make.

Second, when an insurance company balks at paying an inflated claim, the fraudulent contractors are hiring attorneys to file excessive lawsuits alleging breach of contract or bad faith. In some cases, lawsuits have been filed even before the insurance company has been notified of the claim!

As we noted in a previous article, “Florida has, by far, the largest number of lawsuits related to homeowners insurance claims. For instance, in 2019, only 8.15 percent of all homeowners claims in the U.S. were filed in Florida, but more than 76 percent of property claim lawsuits were filed here. And what’s worse: only eight percent of the fifteen billion dollars that property insurance companies paid out in claims costs between 2013 and 2020 went to consumers. Seventy-one percent went to attorneys!”

Of course, not every claim is inflated, nor is every lawsuit unwarranted. But Florida currently has an environment of abuse.

AOB abuse “acts like a tax”

Put plainly, even if you’ve never had an insurance claim, AOB abuse and fraud are costing you money. Insurance companies have no choice but to pass legal costs to defend AOB lawsuits as well as the costs of inflated claims to all insurance consumers. According to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org), “…had legal costs tracked nationwide averages, the cumulative total savings for Florida homeowners insurers (and their policyholders) would have been nearly $1.6 billion.” This statistic only refers to legal costs themselves, not the amount of money paid out in inflated claims settlements. “AOB abuse acts like a tax on Florida consumers,” according to iii.org.

If you have a claim

If you have a homeowners insurance claim, contact your insurance company as soon as you can. Most have 24/7 claims service, either by phone or online. Insurance company representatives will be happy to walk you through the claims process. Don’t allow a contractor or water remediation company to contact your insurance company for you. You don’t need to sign an AOB to have your claim paid.

(For more information, see “Demolish Contractor Fraud.”)

L & M Insurance Group—your source for insurance

We hope this has helped you understand one of the major factors driving the skyrocketing costs of insurance in Florida. Please remember that reputable insurance companies, like the ones L & M Insurance Group represents, will be there for you if you have a claim. If you need a quote for personal auto, homeowners, renters, or business insurance, we partner with multiple insurance companies, and our agents are experts at finding the right match for your individual situation. Please call 813-672-4100 or click here to contact us online.

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3 Factors Raising Your Commercial Property Insurance Rates

There have been plenty of headlines lately about Florida’s skyrocketing homeowners insurance prices. Unfortunately, we’re also beginning to see rising commercial property insurance premiums as well. Some of the same troubling trends plaguing homeowners insurance are also driving up the cost of commercial property insurance. If you are wondering why commercial property insurance rates are increasing here are some of the major factors.

Troubling trends in commercial property insurance

As a business owner, you carry commercial property insurance to protect your company’s physical assets—such as office equipment, inventory, and the physical property you own or rent. You can buy commercial property insurance by itself, or as part of a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP). Covered perils generally include fire, explosion, storms, theft, and vandalism. Since the coverage protects your financial investment in physical property, the premium increases are being driven by factors which include:

Catastrophic losses—In the U.S., we’ve endured more frequent and catastrophic storms, floods, tornadoes and fires than usual. There have been 89 weather/climate/disaster events over the past five years with losses totaling more than 764 billion dollars, according to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Rising construction and replacement costs—Replacement cost is the amount needed to replace damaged or destroyed property without deducting for depreciation, up to the policy limit. Rising retail prices mean property items are more expensive to replace. In addition, construction costs have risen, largely driven by the cost of lumber and steel. Shortages in materials, project delays, and a shortage of skilled labor are also increasing the amount of time and money it takes to rebuild after a loss.

Cost of reinsurance—Reinsurance is “insurance for insurance companies.” It’s a way for insurance companies to limit the extent of their own losses in case of disaster. Global reinsurance rates have been rising for several years.

The danger of being underinsured

Even though the cost of business insurance is rising, it’s still an essential part of your business plan. As the U.S. Small Business Administration notes, statistics show 1 in 4 small businesses will have to close if hit by any type of catastrophe. Carrying the proper business insurance can help you avoid that fate. Even if you carry commercial property insurance, you should remain vigilant that you’re not underinsured, meaning you don’t have the right coverage or enough coverage for the risks your business faces. That’s where an expert in insurance can help!

L & M Insurance Group—your partner in commercial insurance

Is it time to review your commercial property insurance? Let L & M Insurance Group help you protect your business. We are an independent insurance agency, with the expertise to find the best coverage for your unique situation. Please call us at 813-672-4100 to discuss your commercial property insurance needs, or request a quote online.