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Own a Small Business? Protect It With This Liability Coverage

Doing business in the 21st century is both easier and more complicated that it used to be. Unfortunately, the employees and tools that help you serve your clients may also be the downfall of your business. Your hard work can be wiped out in the blink of an eye by the expenses of recovering from a data breach, or if you must defend yourself from a lawsuit brought against you by an employee.

At L & M Insurance Group, we think you should consider the following two types of liability coverage, in addition to a standard Business Owners Policy (BOP), if you’re a small business owner.

Cyber Liability Insurance

Many small businesses are not even aware that they are at risk for attack, believing cyber criminals are more likely to target large companies. Unfortunately, small businesses are more and more frequently the target of cyber attacks—for example, not long ago one small accounting firm in our area had to spend many hours and dollars recovering from having a hacker breach their system and access clients’ personal information.

Any business that collects and stores sensitive personal information is at risk. If your business handles or stores customer information such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and even addresses, you should carry cyber liability insurance.

It can cost your business thousands of dollars to recover from a data breach. You’ll face expenses related to investigating the crime, communicating the breach to your customers (which is required by law in most states), legal and public relations expenses, and costs you incur due to interruption of your business while you sort things out.

Cyber liability insurance protects both you and your customers from financial losses related to a data breach. It covers a range of threats, including hacking, network failures, or a breach related to the loss or theft of an employee’s laptop or smart phone.

Insurance companies have been working to make this coverage more affordable, as well as suit the needs of businesses of all sizes.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance

Another type of liability coverage you should consider buying is Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). This coverage protects your business from lawsuits brought by employees claiming discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discipline, wrongful termination, retaliation, and so on.

Small businesses can be especially vulnerable to these claims because, unlike large corporations, they may not have an employee handbook or a legal department spelling out what procedures to follow when hiring, disciplining, promoting, and firing employees. You can be sued even if you’ve done nothing wrong!

Most EPLI covers legal costs (whether or not you win the lawsuit), judgments, and settlements. Most policies cover the business itself, officers and directors, management, and employees.

For your protection, please consider adding these two types of liability coverage to your insurance plan, either by endorsement or by purchasing stand-alone coverage.

At L & M Insurance Group, we understand the challenges of small business because we’re a small business ourselves. Please call one of our trained agents at 813-672-4100 to discuss your small business insurance requirements, or contact us by email. As independent agents, we can tailor your insurance coverage to fit your specific needs.

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Is Your Homeowners Insurance Company Going Out of Business? Let Us Help

Florida homeowners insurance is some of the most expensive in the nation, and the homeowners market here is one of the most complex for property insurers. Homeowners insurance companies in Florida must deal with many financial challenges, including claims from major hurricanes like Irma and Michael, fraudulent insurance claims, and the high cost of litigation due to Assignment of Benefits abuse.

Demotech, a company that monitors the financial stability of property insurers, reported recently that nearly half of the 40 property insurance companies it monitors face the possibility of having their Financial Stability Rating (FSR) downgraded from A status.

What Losing an A Rating Means for you

Losing their A rating is a serious matter for these companies, indicating that they are in financial trouble. Most companies that lose their A rating eventually go out of business.

These insurance companies, which have not been publicly named, will now have to undertake measures to strengthen their financial position. Companies that don’t improve their financial condition risk failing altogether, reducing the number of options Florida consumers have when choosing a homeowners insurance company. Less choice almost always means higher premiums.

If your homeowners insurance company is downgraded, you may want to or even have to change insurance carriers. For instance, the company that holds your home mortgage may require you to find an insurance carrier that retains an A rating.

What if your insurance company goes out of business?

If your insurance company does go out of business, several different things could happen. If another insurance company has bought or merged with your company, your policy may remain the same as long you continue to pay your premiums. In other cases, you may be notified that your policy will be cancelled or non-renewed. No matter what happens, you should receive notification ahead of time, with instructions of what you should do so that you won’t have a lapse in coverage.

If you have a new or ongoing homeowners insurance claim, it will likely be handled by the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA). FIGA handles covered claims for property and casualty insurance companies that have been ordered liquidated. 

If your policy is canceled before the end of the term, if there is any money left over after the insurance company’s financial affairs are wound down, policyholders will receive any applicable refunds.

If your homeowners insurance company goes out of business, or you’re concerned about its financial stability, please give L & M Insurance Group a call. We strive to partner with financially stable, A-rated homeowners insurance companies. As independent agents, we can work with you to find the most cost effective policy for you. We serve Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Tampa, and surrounding areas. Give us the chance to help you protect your most valuable asset—your home. You can reach us at 813-672-4100, or email us for a no-obligation quote.

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Commercial Auto Insurance Options for Small Businesses to Fleet Vehicles

The start of a new year has many of us thinking of new goals. Maybe one of yours is to start or expand a business. If that’s so, remember that an important protection is the right insurance. Commercial auto insurance is not just for businesses with a fleet of vehicles. It’s also a crucial financial protection for small businesses and individuals who use their vehicles for business purposes. L & M Insurance Group, an independent insurance agency, writes with many different insurance companies to find you the most affordable coverage, as well as a policy tailored to meet your specific needs.

Don’t take the chance of having a claim denied because you have a personal auto policy but are using your vehicle for business purposes. A commercial auto policy is not always more expensive than a personal auto policy; it might even cost less! That’s just one reason why you should not try to hide business use of your vehicle from your agent.

Do you need commercial auto insurance?

Commercial auto insurance, also known as business auto, is intended to protect you financially if you or a company employee driving a company car is at fault in an accident, and injures someone or damages property. A commercial auto policy will cover the cost of the claim up to the policy limits. You need some form of commercial auto insurance if you use your vehicle for work purposes other than driving back and forth to your job. This might include:

  • Delivering packages or food
  • Transporting people, such as driving for Uber or Lyft
  • Driving to job sites or transporting clients or other employees
  • Transporting tools and equipment to a construction site
  • Vehicles registered in a business name or bearing a commercial license plate
  • Pulling a trailer in relation to your work

Several types of commercial auto policies are available for several different scenarios, including:

  • Occasional business use—a policy that covers one main driver, and often his or her spouse, who uses a vehicle occasionally for work.
  • Business use for multiple drivers—a policy that covers business use by multiple drivers.

L & M Insurance Group—your partner in business

Independent insurance agencies like L & M Insurance Group are ideal places to purchase your commercial auto insurance. Why? Because we work for you. We’re knowledgeable about the options available to you, and can compare insurance rates among the multiple companies we represent. We’re also local—and available to discuss options, look for discounts, and customize an insurance policy to meet your needs. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online for a quote, or if you have any questions about a commercial auto policy.

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Florida Drivers, Remember Texting While Driving Is Against the Law

Texting while driving has been illegal in Florida since 2013, but law enforcement could only ticket you for it if they pulled you over for another violation. Not anymore. The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law went into effect July 1, but officers have been issuing warnings rather than ticketing drivers during a grace period which ends Dec. 31. After that, they will issue tickets.

What is/is not allowed

The law forbids texting, emailing and instant messaging—anything that involves you manually typing multiple characters into your phone.

You may still use your phone or GPS for navigation, but be sure to type in the address before you start driving. Use the voice feature so that you don’t have to look at your device while you’re on the road.

Hands-free requirements for certain zones

Another change is that while it’s still legal to talk on your hand-held phone while driving (though it’s not recommended), the new law prohibits using a hand-held phone if you are in a school zone or construction zone. If you use a hands-free device, you may still talk on your phone in one of these zones.

Your rights

If you are stopped by law enforcement for texting, the police officer must inform you of your right to decline a search of your phone. He or she may not search your phone without a warrant, confiscate your phone while waiting for a warrant, or coerce you into allowing him or her to search your phone.

We all know how dangerous distracted driving is. In 2016, Florida had nearly 50,000 accidents caused by distracted driving (233 of which resulted in death), according to statistics cited by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And, of course, texting is not the only thing that can distract you from your driving. We at L & M Insurance Group encourages you to abide by this law, as well as minimize any other activity that could distract you while you’re behind the wheel. Not only will you be more likely to avoid an accident that could harm you or others, you’ll also avoid getting ticketed for a violation that could raise your insurance rates.

Have a happy and safe holiday season! 

L & M Insurance Group is a locally owned, independent insurance agency, serving Riverview, Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding communities. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or email us if you need any assistance with your personal or business insurance needs.

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Builder’s Risk Policy Basics

There are some instances when a standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover your property, such as when you’re building a home from the ground up, or you own a vacant property undergoing renovations. What happens if your property burns to the ground, or incurs another type of serious damage or loss? To protect your under-construction or renovation properties, you’ll need a builder’s risk policy.

What is a builder’s risk policy?

A builder’s risk policy provides insurance coverage for either residential or commercial buildings under construction or renovation. If you’re a homeowner, property investor, builder, or contractor building or remodeling a building, this is the policy you’ll need to protect your financial interest. You can purchase a policy for as short a term as one month, all the way up to a year, depending on how long you think the construction process will take. If the project doesn’t finish in the expected time, you can extend coverage. You can also cancel the policy if the building is finished before the end of the policy term.

Depending on what perils you choose to include, builder’s risk policies cover loss or damage at construction sites, including building materials being used to remodel or complete ground-up construction of a building. You can buy a builder’s risk policy with varying deductibles and levels of coverage—your L & M Insurance Group agent can help you decide what policy features are best for you.

What builder’s risk doesn’t cover

Builder’s risk policies do not typically cover liability for accidents or injuries on the construction site that are related to the construction itself. Also, a builder’s risk policy is different from a vacant dwelling policy, which is just what it sounds like: a policy that covers your home or investment property when it is vacant, but not under construction.

L & M Insurance Group has many years of experience helping clients in Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, Gibsonton and surrounding areas choose the right insurance coverage to protect their financial interests. We understand the insurance needs of property investors as well as private individuals, and would love to help you with all your property insurance needs. Please contact us via phone at 813-672-4100 or click here to email us.

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Tips for a Safer Thanksgiving

As you prepare to gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, L & M Insurance Group wants to thank you for your business, and wish you a happy holiday. We also want to remind you of a few Thanksgiving safety precautions to take to ensure that you also have a safe holiday. Thanksgiving can be a surprisingly perilous day.

While your car and homeowners/renters insurance should protect you financially if you face one of these Thanksgiving mishaps, we hope you will never have to spend any of your holiday time making a claim. Here’s a look at the more common accidents that happen on Thanksgiving, and some tips for avoiding them.

Car accidents

Millions of motorists hit the roads during the four-day Thanksgiving break. Unfortunately, many of them will be distracted or driving while under the influence of alcohol. The National Safety Council estimates that 417 people will die in traffic accidents during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, and 47,500 injuries will occur. If you’re driving to a Thanksgiving celebration, take extra care. Buckle those seat belts, put away your phone. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving celebrations, make sure you designate a driver, or use a ride service. If you’re the host, don’t be shy about arranging a ride home for a guest who’s had too much to drink. 

Fires

On Thanksgiving Day, cooking fires are three times more common, do more property damage, and claim more lives than on any other day of the year. Unattended cooking is usually the culprit, so keep a close eye on the stove and oven when they’re in use. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, and know how to use it. Check the batteries in smoke detectors and make sure they’re functioning before the festivities start.

Candles left burning are another source of home fires. Be sure to blow them all out before leaving the house or going to sleep. And never leave children unattended in a room with a lit candle.

Falls

To prevent a slip or trip and fall, keep all high traffic areas clear. Watch out for kids playing, toys, purses, or bags where people will be walking. Check handrails for sturdiness, and warn guests of any slippery spots on your driveway or walkways.

Pet problems

Holiday parties can be stressful to pets, and cause even friendly ones to bite or scratch. If you have pets, for both their safety and that of your guests, provide a safe and quiet place for them to retreat while you have company. A dog bite or cat scratch can quickly spoil a party. (Click here for more information on dog bite liability.)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at L & M Insurance Group. We thank you for allowing us to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to call (813-672-4100) or email us if you have questions about your insurance needs. We’re here to help.

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Bad Credit Affecting Your Auto Insurance Rates? Don’t Despair—We Can Help

Insurance companies use many factors when they calculate what to charge for their policies, and more than 90 percent of them consider credit history when setting auto insurance rates. Insurers have found a strong correlation between bad credit and a higher likelihood of a client filing an insurance claim.

Therefore, if you have bad credit, it’s likely costing you money in your car insurance premiums. According to Nerd Wallet, Florida drivers with bad credit pay an average of $1,898 more per year, or $158 more per month, for their auto insurance than drivers with good credit.

While it’s true that having good credit is one way to help keep your insurance premiums low, even if you have bad credit, or little to no credit history, L & M Insurance Group can help.

We’ll do the checking for you!

If your credit is less than stellar, you should definitely compare the insurance rates of several different companies before buying a policy. While there are insurance companies that don’t use credit as a rating factor, they may charge higher rates overall. A better option may be an insurance company that penalizes you less for your credit score than other companies do! (And don’t worry—getting multiple auto insurance quotes does not lower your credit score.)

Sound confusing? It doesn’t have to be. L & M Insurance Group can do the checking for you! We represent more than 25 quality auto insurance companies, and have more than 30 years in the insurance business. We’re committed to helping all our clients find the most cost-effective policies possible.

Improved credit equals lower insurance rates

It’s still a good idea to improve your credit by paying bills on time, maintaining a low credit utilization rate, and checking your credit report to make sure it’s accurate. If you don’t have much credit history, you can build one by applying for credit judiciously—just don’t apply for too many lines of credit, because that can also hurt your credit score. You may need to start with a secured card, or by becoming an authorized user on a trusted family member’s account.

As your credit score improves, you may be able to save money on your insurance premiums. Be sure to ask your L & M Insurance Group agent to compare rates at renewal if your credit has improved.

No matter whether your credit is good or bad, L & M Insurance Group has an insurance option for you. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or email us for an auto insurance quote today!

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Extra Protection With American Integrity

During October, we’ve introduced you to one of our trusted partners, American Integrity. Not only does American Integrity offer programs for small boat owners and owners of high value homes, they also write coverage for more modest homes, condos, manufactured homes, renters insurance, and more, including:

Coverage for rental properties. If you own rental property, American Integrity writes DP-1 and DP-3 policies.

Umbrella policies.

Cyber attack coverage. In conjunction with a homeowners or renters policy.

Golf cart coverage.

Home Systems Protection. This policy covers repairs or replacement when certain home systems, such as your central air conditioning or conventionally installed water heater, break down and cause physical damage. Most standard homeowners policies don’t cover this kind of damage. Home Systems Protection is included in their Silver, Gold, and Diamond Reserve endorsements for your homeowners or condo insurance, or can be purchased as stand-alone coverage under certain programs.

Identity theft insurance. This coverage includes identity restoration case management as well as reimbursement for the expenses you face when restoring your identity. This coverage is also included in American Integrity’s Silver, Gold, and Diamond endorsement bundles, or as stand-alone coverage for a $25 fee in conjunction with a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Don’t forget the discounts!

American Integrity also offers many different types of discounts, including discounts for newly-built homes (within the past five years), alarm systems, secured communities, recent updates to your roof and/or other major systems like electrical or plumbing—even a discount if the policyholder is 55 or older. Be sure to consult with your L & M Insurance Group agent to see if you’re receiving all the discounts you’re entitled to.

If you have any questions about American Integrity, or any of our other carriers, please call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100 (or click here to email us). As your local independent insurance agency, we want to help you find the insurance coverage that will give you financial peace of mind. 

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Watch Out for Scary Homeowners Insurance Surprises

A standard homeowners insurance policy covers many perils, such as damage or loss caused by theft, fire, or storms. It also protects you if you could be held legally responsible if someone is hurt or killed on your property.  But it doesn’t cover everything. Don’t be caught off-guard by these scary homeowners insurance surprises.

  • No coverage for flood. If your home is damaged by floodwaters, you won’t be covered unless you have a separate flood policy. (If you need a quote for flood insurance, call us at 813-672-4100. We work with several quality private flood insurance carriers.)
  • No coverage for septic or sewer backup. A standard homeowners insurance policy protects against the overflow of water from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning if it originates on your property. But if the backup damage comes from outside your property, such as if heavy rains cause a sewer backup, you might not be covered.  This coverage may often be added by endorsement.

Also be aware that certain types of damage will not be covered at all. For example:

  • If your roof has had an ongoing issue of minor leaking, and you decide to make a claim after a rainstorm causes more serious water damage to your home, you may not have coverage. To be covered, an event has to be sudden and unexpected. Damage caused by lack of proper maintenance won’t be covered.
  • Business activity is not covered under a homeowners insurance policy. If you conduct business out of your home, you’ll need to carry business insurance.
  • A gator breaking into your house. Remember the news story in July about the alligator that crashed through a Clearwater woman’s kitchen windows and damaged her kitchen? Her insurance company denied her claim, noting that damages associated with wildlife were not covered under her policy—and that’s true for most homeowners insurance policies.

One more scary surprise—you may be paying too much for your coverage!

We encourage new and existing clients to review their homeowners insurance policy, as well as all other insurance coverage at least once a year. Make sure all information is up to date, and your coverage is still appropriate for your financial protection.  It’s also a good time to check to make sure you’re still getting the most cost effective deal.

Please let L & M Insurance Group take the fright out of homeowners insurance coverage. Our agents would love to help you with your financial peace of mind—just give us a call at 813-672-4100, or email us with your questions or to request a free quote. We are a locally owned, independent agency based in the Brandon/Riverview area, and our agents have been serving the community for more than 30 years.

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Your Dream Home Is Covered With American Integrity’s High Value Home Program

Your home is your pride and joy. Not only does it shelter your family and welcome your friends, it’s likely your most valuable financial asset. That’s why it’s so important to purchase the right homeowners insurance. And for those of you who own high value homes, you need a program designed especially for the unique needs of high value homeowners.

Do you need high value home coverage?

There are several reasons why you might need high value home coverage, including:

  • The value of your home is $750,000 or greater
  • Your home has unique features or design elements, such as a “green” roof or environmentally-friendly design
  • Your home was professionally decorated by an interior designer, or contains high-priced appliances, fixtures or décor not found at a standard retailer
  • You own priceless art, rugs, jewelry, wine, or another collection worth a great deal of money
  • Your home is considered a heritage home and has unusual construction features

American Integrity, one of L & M Insurance Group’s partner companies, offers a specialized high value home insurance program to give you peace of mind. Their program has Coverage A limits of $750,000 to 10 million dollars, and no minimum premium. Their Silver, Gold, or Diamond Bundle packages offer further upgrades to coverage and limits to more precisely meet your needs.

In addition, their flood endorsement covers up to $5 million in damages, $3 million more than most other companies and there is no waiting period before coverage goes into effect. And unlike many other homeowners insurance companies, American Integrity will write high value beachfront properties (using risk modeling), and will also write X-wind coverage.

Additional benefits

American Integrity also offers additional benefits to policyholders, such as specialized claims adjustors and access to a preferred contractor network.

Suffering damage or destruction of a home could be one of your most devastating financial setbacks. Let L & M Insurance Group help you make the right choice to protect your home with a high value homeowners insurance policy through American Integrity. And if American Integrity is not the best choice for you, we represent many more quality homeowners insurance companies—please call us at 813-672-4100 or email us if you have any questions, or you would like a homeowners insurance quote.