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Is Your Homeowners Insurance Rate Going Up? Here’s Why

Central Florida is a great place to live—we have great beaches, warm temperatures, and a laid-back lifestyle. We also have the second highest average homeowners insurance premiums in the U.S., and our rates are most likely about to go up again.

5 Factors for Why Homeowners Insurance Rates are Going Up

Even though Florida homeowners rates are higher than average, they have been stable, or even going down slightly, for the past 10 to 15 years. Insurance companies have not been increasing their premiums at a rate that matches the reality of the Florida homeowners insurance marketplace, and we are now seeing some big rate increases on the horizon. Here are five factors that have contributed to this situation:

Insurance companies have paid out billions in claims and litigation

Despite nearly 15 years of low hurricane activity, in the past couple of years, Florida has been seriously impacted by hurricanes. Hurricane Irma cost insurers $11 billion in claims, and Hurricane Michael cost $7 billion. Insurers are also seeing something called “loss creep,” which means that the loss estimates are increasing considerably over what the insurance companies predicted they would be, not because of poor planning, but because of a rise in lawsuits (see below).

In addition to hurricanes and loss creep, water damage losses and roof replacement fraud have also increased insurance companies’ cost of doing business in Florida.

Potential Demotech downgrades

Demotech rates the financial stability of more than 40 Florida homeowners insurance companies. They recently announced they plan to downgrade a number of these companies if the companies don’t take steps to become more financially stable. One of the recommendations is that carriers raise their rates to an “actuarially sound” level. (Read more about what this downgrade means here.)

Reinsurance costs are rising

Simply put, reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies. When catastrophic losses occur, reinsurance helps insurance companies cover those losses. Like it or not, the worldwide reinsurance market has been affected by disasters all over the globe—not only hurricanes, but also such catastrophes as the recent California and Australian wildfires.

Some reinsurance companies have pulled out of Florida, while others are asking for substantial rate increases. Reinsurance rates are expected to rise by 15 to 20 percent at the June renewal period, and insurance companies, who operate on razor thin margins, are forced to pass this expense on to their policyholders or face going out of business altogether.

Lawsuits have increased

Insurance companies are spending increasingly more money defending themselves against lawsuits. In addition to the expense of assignment of benefits litigation, one homeowners carrier noted that the percentage of claims represented by an attorney has risen from four percent to 36 percent, and another company reported a 727 percent increase in lawsuits.

Legislation recently passed that should help curb assignment of benefits lawsuits, but another aspect of the legal system is still causing insurance companies’ legal costs to rise. Under current law, attorneys can earn up to three times their hourly rate for a basic insurance lawsuit. This was originally intended to help consumers who couldn’t afford to sue an insurance company. However, now some attorneys are using it as an excuse to collect large fees, and many lawsuits are frivolous or fraudulent. Insurance companies who don’t want to risk losing in court wind up settling out of court. Even if they do so, it costs them much more than paying a claim to an individual not represented by a lawyer.

The homeowners market is hardening

More and more companies are pulling out of the Florida homeowners insurance market or tightening their underwriting rules, making it harder for consumers to get insurance at all. As rates rise and coverage options shrink, the market is said to be hardening. That’s what appears to be happening right now.

At L & M Insurance Group, we understand that this may be a challenging time for Florida homeowners. As an independent agency, we remain committed to finding you the best coverage at the most affordable rates. We represent dozens of financially sound insurance companies, not just one. We pride ourselves on offering personalized service to all our clients. Review your homeowners policy when it comes up for renewal, and give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to compare rates for you. If you prefer, contact us via email by clicking here.

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L & M Office Tentatively Set to Reopen to the Public May 4

As you may know, for the month of April, we decided to close our office to the public in order to protect both our employees and our clients from possible exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus.  During this time, we have still been able to serve the needs of our clients by working remotely, just a phone call, live chat, or email away. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this challenging time.

We are happy to announce that after monitoring the local situation, the L & M Insurance Group office has a tentative reopening date of May 4. Our office will continue to monitor coronavirus developments, and act according to directions from local and national authorities.

Continued enhanced cleaning and social distancing

When we do reopen, rest assured that we will continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. We will continue to practice social distancing, and we’ll also continue enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the office, including sanitizing desks, chair arms, door handles, and so on. Employees will continue frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizers, and using face masks when customers visit.

And remember, as much as we love to see you, before you come to the office in person, we’d like to encourage you to call or email first to see if we can help you over the phone or Internet so that we can continue to reduce physical contact. We also suggest that, if possible, only individuals essential to the transaction at hand come into the office.

We’re always here for you

We’re proud of the way our community has come together to protect the most vulnerable among us, and we’re also proud to be able to serve your insurance needs. If you need a quote, have questions about coverage, need to make a claim or a change to your insurance, we are always here for you. Please call us at 813-672-4100, use the live chat option on our website, or click here to contact us via email.

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L & M Insurance Group—Déjenos Servirle

Si esta buscando un nuevo agente de seguros, o si es nuevo en el area de Tampa Bay, queremos su negocio! Permitanos presentarnos.

Una Agencia de Seguros Independiente

L & M Insurance Group es una agencia de seguros independiente, con mas de 30 años de experiencia. Servimos a clientes de Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Valrico y otras comunidades de los alrededores en el area de Tampa Bay/Hillsborough County. Nuestros agentes son expertos en líneas personales, como polizas de automovíles, propietarios de casa, inquilinos, botes y paraguas. También escribimos todos los tipos de seguros comerciales, incluidos los de responsabilidad personal, seguro de inversionistas y auto comercial. Y también podemos proporcionarle un seguro de salud y de vida, así como cobertura complementaria de medicare. Queremos ser su agente de seguro de por vida!

Razones para seleccionar nuestra agencia independiente

Como agencia independiente, no trabajamos para ninguna compañia de seguros– trabajamos para usted. Cuando usted llama para una cotización, le haremos algunas preguntas que nos ayudaran a determinar que poliza de seguro se adapta mejor a sus necesidades únicas. Cuantos mas detalles pueda proporcionar mejor podremos servirle. Nosotros representamos a mas de 30 compañías de seguros de alta calidad para que nuestros clientes tengan muchas opciones para elegir. Estamos dedicados a encontrar la mejor cobertura posible al mejor precio posible para usted.

Hay agentes que habla español

En L & M Insurance Group, estamos orientados al servicio al cliente. Nosotros proveemos un toque personalizado y personal—alguien con quien puede hablar sobre sus necesidades de seguro. Nuestro personal tiene la experiencia, el conocimiento y el compromiso para encontrar la cobertura de seguro que lo protegera a usted, a su familia y a su propiedad, y tenemos personal que habla español listo para ayudarlo. Por favor llámenos al 813-672-4100 para obtener una cotización de seguro o si lo prefiere, contactenos por correo electronico haciendo clic aquí.

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Insurance for Real Estate Investors

What Kind of Insurance do you need as a Real Estate Investor and other Insurance Help to protect your real estate investment

As a real estate investor, you have specialized needs when it comes to insuring investment properties. You may have multiple properties, some of which may be vacant. And those properties may be titled in the name of an individual, an LLC, a corporation, or a land trust. Insurance for real estate investors is different than insurance for home owners. You may have questions about which type of policy to buy, and what it covers.

L & M Insurance Group has extensive experience helping real estate investors with their unique insurance needs. On March 3, L & M’s president, Mark Holley, along with colleague Larry Johnson, made a presentation to the general meeting of the Suncoast Real Estate Investors Association (SREIA) covering several points of interest to real estate investors. Here is some key information from the presentation:

DP3 vs. DP1 policies

The DP3 and DP1 policies are two types of tenant-occupied policies that real estate investors should consider. Typically, the DP1 form only covers named perils that are listed on the policy, including fire, smoke, wind, hail, lightning, explosion, and so on. DP3 policies cover all perils except those that are specifically excluded in the policy documents. Basically, the DP3 form is for property owners who want a tenant-occupied policy with all the bells and whistles. If you need to save money, or are interested in assuming more risk yourself, choose the DP1 form. Be sure to talk to your agent about what is included and what isn’t, so you can get the policy you need.

Builder’s risk vs. vacant dwelling

Builder’s risk provides insurance coverage for either residential or commercial buildings under construction or renovation. Vacant dwelling covers a dwelling that is unoccupied.

One thing to remember is that the liability coverage included on a builder’s risk policy doesn’t cover exposure to claims related to renovation, so the people you hire should carry general liability and list you on their policy as an additional insured.

4 point inspections and wind mitigation reports

If you own a home or rental property older than 30-40 years, a homeowners company may require a 4 point inspection before they’ll sell you a policy. A 4 point inspection looks at the four main systems of the property: the roof, the plumbing system, the HVAC system, and the electrical system. These inspections generally cost between $75-$100, and are good for three years. If the inspection reveals something unacceptable to the underwriting rules of the insurance company, they may decline to cover you. You may then choose to fix the problem(s), or try another insurance company. Your independent L & M Insurance Group agent can help you determine which company will be most likely to cover your property.

Even if the insurance company will write the policy, certain things will cause premiums to be higher, including aluminum wiring, an old or patched roof, and plumbing or heating/cooling systems that have not been kept updated.

Wind mitigation reports tell us about your roof, and what credits can be applied to your policy. The inspector will examine and report on your roof’s covering, roof deck and roof wall attachment, roof geometry (hip, flat, or other), secondary water resistance, and opening protection.

In addition to certain physical features that cause your premiums to be higher, certain situations may also increase the cost of your insurance. These include lapses in coverage, short-term rentals, and property being held in a land trust or a land trust with multiple entities.

Our partnership with you

L & M Insurance Group’s goal is to write your real estate investment insurance policy for the best price with a company that will pay your claim if you have one. That’s one of the reasons we need full and accurate information about your properties when we’re quoting your policy. You can help us by answering our questions truthfully and fully. We have markets that will write almost any kind of situation, but we need to know certain details in order to place your policy with a company that is right for you.

Have questions? Please give us a call at 813-672-4100, and let L & M Insurance Group help you protect your real estate investments. 

Are you sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 coronavirus? We can serve your insurance needs without seeing you in person! Please call us at 813-672-4100 or email us by clicking here if you need an insurance quote, have to make a claim, or have any questions about your insurance needs. We also have a live chat feature on our website.

Our office is temporarily closed to the public in order for us to follow social distancing guidelines and protect the health of our employees and customers. If you need to make a cash payment, please call our office at 813-672-4100 for instructions.

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Consumers Beware: Your Cheap Insurance Is Probably Cheap for a Reason

No one wants to pay too much for their insurance, but Tampa Bay area consumers need to be cautious if they get insurance quotes that seem too cheap. There’s usually a reason for that—such as the cheap insurance policy being quoted is stripped down to the bare minimum. As is the case for many things, with cheap insurance, you get what you pay for.

Financial trouble ahead

In an attempt to bring in business, some agents will quote bare bones, stripped down insurance policies that don’t provide the coverage most people need. We understand that money’s tight and no one really likes to spend money on insurance—a product you hope you’ll never have to use! The reality is, if you buy a stripped down insurance policy that covers only the bare minimum, you may find yourself in major financial trouble.

The purpose of insurance is to protect you financially in the event of an accident or other covered peril—this means replacing your own damaged or destroyed property, paying for your injuries, and paying for any damage you cause or are responsible for, even something as seemingly innocent as a trip and fall accident that takes place on your property. Insurance protects both your physical possessions and your liability.

Cheap Car Insurance Example

In the case of car insurance, for example, the minimum coverage to meet the Florida Financial Responsibility law requirement is bodily injury coverage of $10,000 per person/$20,000 per accident/$10,000 property damage coverage. When you get a car insurance quote, you may be quoted only the bare minimum. Many car accidents easily exceed these limits, especially if multiple vehicles or injured parties are involved, and then what happens? The injured parties are likely to come after you in court.

Cheap Homeowners Insurance Example

You should also be careful when comparing homeowners insurance. If you have a lender, they will require that you carry a certain amount of coverage to protect them. However, will that be enough to enable you to afford to rebuild if your home is completely destroyed? Will you have enough coverage for your contents if you need to replace them? When comparing quotes, ask if you’re being quoted replacement cost or actual cash value.

Compare Apples to Apples

Remember, when you request insurance quotes, make sure each quote is for the same coverage type and for the same limits so you can make a true comparison.

Let L & M Insurance Group help

The good news for you is that more complete coverage might not cost you much more that a stripped down policy. With multiple insurance companies to choose from, L & M Insurance Group is ideally positioned to find you the best coverage at the most cost effective rate. And your L & M Insurance Group agent can also help you find discounts that help lower your costs.

Yes, there are times in everyone’s life when the bare minimum is all you can afford. But during those times, you probably have the “bare minimum” to protect as well. Once you’ve begun to accumulate assets, such as a home, a newer model car, or expensive personal possessions, you’ll want to be sure your insurance coverage keeps pace. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or email us, if you’d like a quote, or have any questions about your insurance needs.

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Five Reasons You Might Need an Umbrella Policy

You might think that if you have homeowners and auto insurance, you have enough insurance coverage in place to protect you financially if you’re responsible for an accident of some kind. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true. If you are sued because of an accident (car, trip and fall on your property, etc.), you may find your coverage isn’t adequate and you’re on the hook for a devastating payout.

That’s why purchasing an umbrella policy can be a smart move for many people.

What is an umbrella policy?

An umbrella policy is excess liability coverage that will protect you financially if you’re sued because of injury or property damage for which you’re responsible. This coverage is over and above what you carry through your personal auto or homeowners insurance. For example, say you’re in an auto accident and you’re deemed responsible in a lawsuit. The judgment is 900,000 and your insurance policy only pays up to 300,000 per accident—you ’re responsible for the remaining $600,000.

You can buy an umbrella policy in increments of $1 million dollars, and your goal is to purchase enough coverage to protect your net worth. Your L & M Insurance Group agent can help you determine how much coverage you need.

Who needs an umbrella policy?

If one or more of the following examples applies to you, you should consider purchasing an umbrella policy:

1. You have a swimming pool, trampoline, or play equipment in your yard. These “attractive nuisances” can be great fun for you and your family, but can pose accidental danger for house guests, visitors, even neighborhood kids who sneak onto your property without your permission. If someone is injured using one of these, your homeowners insurance liability limits may not be high enough to cover damages from a resulting lawsuit. In addition, some homeowners policies don’t cover these items at all.

2. You have assets that could be lost in a lawsuit. Assets such as savings, investment properties, second homes, and non-retirement investment accounts can be at risk if someone sues you.  And even if you don’t have much now, a lawsuit can wipe out not just your current assets, but also your future earnings if your wages are garnished.

3. You own a dog. Sad but true, man’s best friend can also cause you financial problems. If your dog bites someone or knocks them down and injures them, you could be at risk for a lawsuit. (Click here to learn more about dog bite liability coverage.)

4. You spend a lot of time on the road. If you drive a lot, especially during rush hour, you have a higher chance of being in an accident.

5. You entertain frequently. Again, with more people visiting your home, your exposure to a possible lawsuit if someone is injured on your property is higher.

An umbrella policy can be a great choice for financial peace of mind, and most policies cost only a few hundred dollars per year.  If you’d like to know more about umbrella policies, or any other insurance products, L & M Insurance Group would love to help. We’re an independent Florida insurance agency located in the Tampa Bay area, serving Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, and surrounding communities.  Call us at 813-672-4100 to learn more, or if you prefer, reach us via email by clicking here.

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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.