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Insurance and Your College Student

Congratulations—your child is going off to college! While you’re packing up your student’s belongings and offering last minute advice, take a few minutes to think about how this new adventure affects your own and your college student’s insurance needs.

Car Insurance for your College Student

Car Insurance for College StudentsIs your child taking a car to school? If you’re supporting your student financially, he or she should be covered under your existing family car insurance policy. You will want to notify your L & M Insurance Group agent (give us a call at 813-672-4100), especially if the school is outside of Florida.

If your child is not taking a vehicle to school, you should still tell your agent—you may be eligible for a premium discount, especially if your child’s college is 100 miles or more from home. Also remember that you may be eligible for Good Student discount if your child maintains a certain grade point average, usually a B average or above, whether or not he or she takes a vehicle to school.

Protecting Personal Property of College Students

Another concern for parents of college students is protecting their child’s personal property. About half of all campus crimes involve burglary. While college students need items such as laptop computers, tablets, smart phones, and so on, if at all possible they should leave home any non-essential and expensive items such as electronics, or luxury watches and jewelry.

If your child lives in an on-campus dorm, his or her personal belongings are covered under your homeowners insurance policy, up to certain limits (check your insurance policy or ask your agent, and remember that your deductible still applies).

However, if your student lives off campus, he or she is not covered by your policy, and should buy a renters insurance policy. These policies are affordable, and also offer liability protection as well coverage for personal property.

Make a detailed inventory of what your student takes to school, and update it every year. Include copies of receipts and photos. This will help you get a claim paid faster in the event of a theft.

Remind your student to take common sense precautions, including locking dorm rooms and keeping personal items like backpacks, purses, and laptops with them instead of unattended in the library, cafeteria, or common areas.

If you don’t already have one, you might consider adding a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy. This could come in handy if your student is sued for posting something negative on social media!

If you have any questions about what is or is not covered, please give your L & M Insurance Group agent a call.

What about Health Insurance?

Depending on your health insurance policy, your college student may be covered under your policy. If he or she is going away to school, make sure there are in-network doctors and hospitals available in the new area. You’ll pay more for out-of-network medical services, or there may be no out-of-network coverage except for emergencies.

If there are no in-network providers in your college student’s area, most colleges offer student health plans that may be just what you need.

Other Insurance Concerns

If your income is paying for your child’s college education, do you have enough life insurance coverage in place to complete it if something were to happen to you? In general, you’ll want enough to cover expenses until your youngest child finishes school.

What about an umbrella policy? Umbrella policies cover all household members even when they’re away at school. This provides additional liability protection for both your college student and you as their parent.

When you wave goodbye to your budding young adult, rest easy knowing your insurance safety net will continue to protect you all. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your insurance needs, limits, or what your policy covers. You may also contact us online by clicking here.

We’re here to help!

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Hot Tips for Staying Cool—Don’t Let Summer Heat Make You Sick  

We all love to play outdoors during the summer—the kids are out of school, we have more time to enjoy our toys and take vacations. But while you’re having fun in the sun, remember to take some common sense precautions during summer’s hot, humid days.

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service, resulting in hundreds of deaths every year. Here in Florida, we especially need to be mindful of the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is considered along with air temperature. It’s not uncommon for us to have “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees during the summer. And temperatures that high can cause heat-related illness.

Anyone can be affected by the heat, but children younger than 2, people over 65, and those suffering from chronic disease or mental illness are most susceptible to heat-related illness. Here are some common-sense reminders to help you and your loved ones stay cooler and avoid heat-related illness this summer:

Heat Safety Tips At Home

During times of high heat, stay in air conditioning as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning or it’s not working, find air-conditioned places you can go for relief during the hottest hours of the day, such as a library, theater, or mall.

Keep shades or curtains closed on windows that receive direct sun, or install awnings or window tinting. This will help keep your home cooler.

Provide shade and plenty of cool water for pets outside, and check on them frequently to make sure they’re not suffering from the heat. During the hottest times of the day, bring them inside if possible.

Heat Safety Tips Outside

Even though it’s cooler inside, you probably won’t want to stay there all summer long! Here are some tips for staying safe when you venture outside:

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Schedule most outdoor activity, whether play, exercise, or work, for the cooler morning and evening hours.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. If no shade is available, limit outdoor activity to 15-20 minutes at a time during times of highest heat and humidity.
  • Take frequent breaks, and use the buddy system when working or exercising outdoors in high heat.
  • Stay hydrated. Sip cool water or a sports drink every 20 minutes. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.
  • NEVER leave children or pets alone in an enclosed vehicle. It only takes a few minutes for temperatures to reach a dangerous level.

Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Even if you take precautions, you’ll still want to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; and exhaustion. If you or someone you’re with shows these symptoms, move into a cooler environment, remove or loosen as much clothing as possible, and apply cold, wet towels to the skin. Every 15 minutes drink four ounces of a cool sports drink, juice, milk, or water, to replace lost electrolytes.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency, and occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and begins to stop functioning. Symptoms include very high body temperature, red skin which may be either dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures. If you suspect you or someone else has heatstroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Attempt to cool the body quickly by immersing it up to the neck in cold water if possible. You may also spray the person with cold water, or cover him or her with towels soaked with ice water, changing the towels frequently.

By taking proper precautions, you and your family can enjoy all the summer fun the Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, and Gibsonton areas have to offer. Remember, L & M Insurance Group is here for all your insurance needs. Whether you need to protect your home, car, boat, or business, just give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online.

 

For more information on heat safety, visit:

The Red Cross

National Weather Service

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Florida Flood Facts—Is Your Home at Risk?

If you live in Florida, the answer is probably yes, according to Roy Wright, former director of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Florida has the longest seacoast in the continental United States, as well as flat terrain and many rivers. It’s not just a hurricane that can cause flood damage. Flooding can be caused by storms, dams or levees breaking, or even new development that changes the way water flows. You don’t even need to live in an area known to be at high risk for flooding to find the water rising. More than 20 percent of all flood claims come from outside high-risk flood zones.

Here are some additional Florida flood facts:

  • Floods are the most common type of national disaster. Forty percent of all disasters worldwide involve flooding.
  • Just one inch of water in your home can cause more than $25,000 worth of damage.
  • Florida was affected by six of the 10 most significant flood events by NFIP payouts: hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Ivan, Irma and Matthew, and Tropical Storm Allison.
  • Residential properties in Florida have the most potential exposure to hurricane storm surge in the nation.
  • Of the most densely populated areas at risk for potential storm surge damage, Tampa ranks fourth, after the New York City metro area, Miami, and Virginia Beach.
  • In 2016, just 14 percent of homeowners in the South carried flood insurance. (The national average was 12 percent.)
  • NFIP policies provide coverage of up to $250,000 for your home’s structure, and up to $100,000 for your personal possessions. If you need higher limits, you’ll need a private flood insurance policy.
  • NFIP authority must be renewed by Congress periodically, and is due for renewal by July 31, 2018. If it is not renewed, the NFIP will stop selling and renewing policies, but claims will still be paid.
  • Private insurers have become more comfortable underwriting flood policies because of better models to predict flood risk. In 2017, 33 private companies wrote flood insurance, up from 20 in 2016. L & M Insurance Group represents several of these private insurers.
  • In 2016, the average amount of food coverage was $246,890. Average premium was $656.
  • The average flood claim in 2016 was $62,247.
  • After a flood, most federal assistance comes in the form of low-interest disaster loans which will need to be paid back. FEMA disaster grants don’t need to be paid back, but they are often much less than what you’ll need to recover. A flood insurance claim should provide the funds you need to get back on your feet.

Flood coverage is excluded under standard homeowners policies, but purchasing a flood insurance policy is more affordable than before. L & M Insurance Group represents several private insurance companies that will write flood insurance at competitive rates. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online—let us help you protect your home from the risk of flood damage.

 

For more information, visit: https://www.floodsmart.gov/

9 Summer Pool Safety Tips for Florida Homeowners

Who doesn’t love to hear the words, “pool party”?

 

Swimming and playing in a backyard pool is one of the best ways to have fun and stay cool during our hot Florida summers. However, homeowners need to be aware that swimming pools can be dangerous for children, especially young children who don’t know how to swim. Drowning remains the leading cause of preventable death for children ages 1-4 years old. Here are some pool safety tips to help you swim safe all summer.

 

  1. Create a barrier around your pool to prevent children from entering it without supervision. Your pool should be fenced or otherwise blocked off on all four sides. Fences should be at least four feet tall with no openings or protrusions that would enable a child to climb over or under them. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, with the latches out of reach of small children. Alarm the doors and windows that face the pool, especially if your house itself provides the fourth side of the barrier. For added protection, install a surface wave or underwater alarm that will alert you when someone goes in the pool.

If you have an above-ground pool, be aware that children leaning against soft sides can fall in. Surround it with a fence just as you would an in-ground pool. Remove the ladder or steps when the pool isn’t in use, and install a safety cover.

 

  1. When it’s time to swim, a responsible adult should always supervise children in and around the pool. Stay within arm’s reach of young children. Children should never be left unattended, even if they know how to swim.

 

  1. Keep rescue equipment, such as a life preserver and fiberglass shepherd’s hook, on hand. Also have a portable phone nearby when the pool is in use.

 

  1. Establish pool rules such as “walk don’t run,” “no diving,” and “never swim alone.” Make sure everyone in the family and all visiting children know and understand the rules, and be sure to enforce them.

 

  1. Sign children up for age-appropriate water safety and swimming lessons. Keep in mind that swimming lessons don’t “drown proof” a child.

 

  1. Get your CPR certificate. Knowing how to perform CPR could save a life!

 

  1. Avoid the drain. Suction from pool drains can catch bathing suits, hair, or jewelry and trap swimmers underwater. Make sure all drain covers are present and in good repair, and remind swimmers to stay clear of drains.

 

  1. Maintain the pool water. Pool water can be the source of earaches, rashes, and other more serious afflictions if it’s not maintained properly. Test water on a regular basis, and adjust the chemicals as needed.

 

  1. Make sure your homeowner’s policy carries adequate liability coverage in case of accident. Call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100 or contact us online if you have any questions about your limits, or for a free, no-obligation quote.

Happy swimming!

For more information on pool safety for children, please visit poolsafely.gov.

Insurance Coverage Options for Uber and Lyft Drivers

Insurance for Uber and Lyft Drivers

What Auto Insurance Coverage do Uber and Lyft Drivers Need

Thinking of making a little side income by becoming a rideshare driver* for Uber or Lyft? Before you sign up, make sure you’ve got insurance coverage. Will your personal auto policy be enough? Or do you need a commercial auto policy?

 

A typical personal auto policy only covers you for personal use, not when you’re using your vehicle for commercial purposes, as you would as a rideshare driver. However, since you only occasionally use your vehicle for commercial purposes, you probably don’t want or need a commercial auto policy. The company you work for will likely carry some coverage, but you’ll still need to carry coverage to protect your liability and your vehicle when you’re driving for them. What should you do?

 

Auto Insurance Endorsements for Uber and Lyft Rideshare Drivers

We’re happy to say that insurance companies have seen the need for endorsements that reflect the needs of rideshare drivers. Give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 to discuss your options.

Commercial Auto Insurance versus Insurance Endorsements

Remember, if you use your vehicle for your job—if you’re a realtor, an outside salesperson, or a professional construction worker, for example—you will need a commercial auto policy. We can help with that, too! Just give us a call, or contact us online for a free, no-obligation quote.

 

*A rideshare driver is an individual who provides taxi-like services to passengers via smart phone app for a Transportation Network Company (TNC), such as Uber or Lyft. Drivers use their own personal vehicles, rather than a limousine or taxi, to carry passengers.

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Hurricane Season Is Almost Here–Will You Be Ready?

After 2017’s Hurricane Irma impacted nearly the entire state of Florida, most of us in the Riverview and Brandon area are taking hurricane preparations seriously this year. Hurricane experts have already indicated that the 2018 season should have slightly above-average activity and probability that a major hurricane will make landfall along the continental United States.

 

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

 

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 on hurricane preparedness, please visit:

 

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If My Garage Burns Down and My Classic Car Is Destroyed, Am I Covered?

What you need to know about Classic Car Insurance in Brandon, Florida

You might think that if your classic car is damaged or destroyed by fire while locked in your garage that your homeowners insurance would cover the loss.

 

Think again. Your homeowners insurance will not cover your classic car, because it doesn’t provide coverage for motor vehicles. The good news? It’s simple to make sure your classic car is covered in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event by purchasing a classic car insurance policy that includes comprehensive coverage.

 

Classic car coverage—your best option

You could simply add your classic car to your conventional car insurance, but it likely will not cover the true value of your classic car. Unlike the car you drive every day, classic cars don’t depreciate over time—often they go up in value. Conventional car insurance covers your car up to actual cash value, but classic car insurance covers your vehicle up to a guaranteed amount agreed upon by you and your classic car insurance company. This amount is determined by appraisal, documentation, and/or consultation with a collectible car value guide such as the Old Cars Report Price Guide or the value guide at www.buyclassiccars.com.

 

What coverage is included in a classic car insurance policy?

While there are a few differences among insurance companies, a basic classic car policy will typically include the same coverage for liability, property damage, comprehensive and collision that a conventional policy does. However, since you don’t drive your classic car every day, you’ll probably pay less for equivalent coverage. Also, classic car policies often include coverage specific to classic cars, such as specialized repair or restoration, or special towing and spare parts. If you don’t plan to drive your classic at all, you may be able to purchase a comprehensive only classic car insurance policy.

 

While there is no single definition of a “classic car,” vehicles that may qualify for classic status include cars that are at least 25 to 30 years old, certain hotrods or modified vehicles, exotic luxury vehicles, muscle cars, or classic trucks. To be eligible for a classic car policy, your classic car cannot be used as a primary vehicle, and your insurance company may restrict the number of miles you can drive it each year. You must also store your classic car in a locked, covered enclosure, such as a garage or storage unit.

 

Get Started on Your Classic Car Insurance Policy with L&M Insurance Group in Brandon, Florida

If you need a classic car policy, please give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about covering your classic vehicle. We’re a locally-owned, independent agency serving the Tampa Bay area, including Bloomingdale, Sun City Center, Apollo Beach, Brandon, Valrico, and nearby communities, and our agents are experts in finding you the best coverage at a competitive price.

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Should You Carry Dog Bite Liability?

 

Most of us consider our dogs members of the family. They share our lives and our homes—but unfortunately, they may also leave us open to lawsuits. Even though it’s unlikely that your family pet will bite someone, it might be a good idea for you to make sure you have dog bite liability coverage, otherwise known as dog or animal liability.

 

In addition to dog bite claims, dog liability will also protect you if your dog knocks someone over, causes them to trip and fall, or damages their property. It will also protect you if your dog hurts another animal.

 

It used to be that your homeowners insurance policy covered you in the event that your dog injured someone. However, because of the rise in claims and litigation surrounding dog bites this is no longer a given. Florida ranks second behind California for the largest number of dog bite claims, and has the highest average cost per claim at $44,700. In fact, in 2017 dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost almost $700 million dollars and accounted for more than one third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some insurance companies exclude certain dog breeds, some exclude all animal liability, and others place limits on the amount they will cover. If you have a dog and are concerned about your liability, you should check with your homeowners insurance company or your L & M Insurance Group agent to make sure you have the coverage you need.

 

And it’s not only homeowners who should be aware of the necessity for this coverage. If you’re a renter, some landlords now require dog liability insurance before they will rent to you.

 

Please call your L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4200 (or contact us by email) if you have any questions about whether or not your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers dog liability—or if you have any other questions about your insurance needs.

 

If You Need an FR-44, We Can Help

Florida FR-44 Insurance

If you’re in the difficult position of putting your life back together after a DUI conviction, we can help.

Since 2008, Florida has required that drivers who’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs carry an FR-44.

 

What is an FR-44?

An FR-44 is a financial responsibility insurance certificate, similar to an SR-22. You’ll need to carry an FR-44 if you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because of this, you’re considered a “high risk” driver and the state of Florida requires you to show financial responsibility by purchasing a car insurance policy with high limit bodily injury and property damage liability, in this case, limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 bodily injury per person/$300,000 per accident, plus $50,000 property damage). In most cases, you must carry an FR-44 for three years.
As you can imagine, combining high limits with a driver considered high risk can make this type of coverage costly.

We can help

L & M Insurance Group is an independent agency and we have many quality insurance companies to choose from, including companies who can provide you with an auto insurance policy with the higher limits required for an FR-44 filing at a competitive rate. If you’re in Riverview or one of the surrounding communities such as Lithia, Gibsonton, or Wimauma, please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us for a free, no-obligation quote. We’d love to help you make a difficult situation a little easier.

Buyer Beware—Could That Car Be Flood Damaged?

Watch out for used cars with floodwater damageIf you’re in the market for a used car, be aware that hundreds of thousands of flood-damaged vehicles were left behind by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. And many of these vehicles may have hit the used car market. These vehicles, often sold at auction, or on Craigslist or via private ad, should be avoided, even if they appear to run fine. Damage from floodwater can be unpredictable and your new-to-you car could prove extremely unreliable.

 

Flood Damaged Used Car Warning Signs

Don’t be sandbagged—watch for these signs of a flood-damaged vehicle:

 

  • Unusually low price compared with similar models. (Check out a vehicle’s fair market value at kbb.com.)
  • A damp, mildew-y smell, or conversely, a strong smell of cleaning products—used to cover up a musty smell
  • Water damage or marks on carpets, upholstery, seat belts, or ceiling fabric
  • Brand new carpets or other fabrics in an older model car
  • Visible water lines on the headlights or taillights
  • Sand or silt under floor mats or under the spare tire
  • Rust on the inside of the car where water would not normally reach
  • Mud or debris in hard-to-clean areas
  • Electrical components that don’t work, such as windows, blinkers, or the radio

 

Your best protection with any used car purchase is still to have a trusted mechanic thoroughly inspect the vehicle. In addition, if you have the vehicle’s VIN, use CARFAX’s free flood check tool, or check its flood history at the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINcheck. Flood history is usually a part of the information you receive in any complete vehicle history report you purchase as well.

 

Be sure to give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 (or contact us via email) whenever you buy a new or used car. We’ve been serving the insurance needs of Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Dover, Gibsonton, Lithia, Apollo Beach, and surrounding areas for more than 10 years. As an independent agency, we specialize in providing quality insurance coverage at competitive prices.