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Assignment of Benefits Abuse Continues to Expand

Why are Florida Insurance Premiums so high?

Florida consumers pay some of the highest insurance premiums in the country for auto and homeowners insurance, and it’s not because we are worse drivers or live in a state where hurricanes are prevalent. A major contributor to our higher insurance rates is assignment of benefits abuse. When we first wrote about assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse in July 2016, we mainly discussed AOB abuse related to homeowners insurance and water claims. Unfortunately, AOB abuse is still growing, and is spreading across insurance lines and across the state.

AOB Abuse is growing in Florida

AOB abuse started with Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims, moved into homeowners claims (often water or roof damage), and is now spreading to the auto glass repair industry. After 2012 PIP reform, PIP AOB abuse cases dropped, but they’re on the rise again—and will likely cause the cost of PIP to rise once more.

AOB agreements have long been used in the auto glass repair industry in order to settle claims efficiently. Unfortunately, there’s been a large increase in bulk lawsuits for glass claims—in the Tampa Bay/I-4 corridor area alone (where much of the abuse is centered) auto glass lawsuits jumped from 3,723 to 17,165 between 2013 and 2017.

AOB abuse equals higher premiums

AOB is a contract between a policyholder and a business in which the policyholder turns over (“assigns”) his or her rights and benefits under the policy. There are many occasions where this type of contract is standard practice and works well, such as in health insurance and auto physical damage claims.

It becomes abuse when a vendor submits inflated claims, provides unnecessary repairs, or doesn’t do the repairs at all but still bills the insurance company. If the insurer balks at paying the claim, the vendor’s attorneys sue the insurance company. Some consumers don’t even know litigation is taking place in their name.

Inflated claims and large attorneys fees drive up insurers’ costs above the national average, and they pass on those costs to Florida consumers in the form of higher insurance premiums. The average homeowners insurance premium rose 30 percent between 2007 and 2015, and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation blames AOB abuse for this large increase. Insurer’s legal expenses in Florida are growing at more than twice the national average. If legal costs had followed the national trend, the cumulative savings to Florida insurers and their policyholders would have been nearly $1.6 billion, according to an Insurance Information Institute report.

More than just higher premiums

There are other problems for consumers besides higher insurance premiums when AOB abuse runs rampant. If you as a homeowner were involved in an AOB lawsuit, whether or not you even knew about it, you may now have a large claim on your loss history. This can result in even higher premiums and make it harder to get homeowners insurance. In addition, an AOB agreement can also give contractors and suppliers the legal right to recover unpaid bills from the homeowner if the insurer delays or denies payment, even to the extent of placing a lien on your home.

Obviously, not every claim is inflated and not every lawsuit is unwarranted, but the situation is such that Florida consumers should be extra cautious if they’re approached by a business asking for an AOB agreement. If you’re in a claim situation, and a company or contractor wants you to sign an AOB contract, think twice. Before you sign anything, talk to your L & M Insurance Group agent or to your own insurance company, especially if you’re being pressured to sign or being asked for a substantial up-front deposit before repairs can be started.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency serving eastern Hillsborough County, Tampa, Riverview, Lithia, Valrico, Seffner, Bloomingdale and surrounding areas for more than 25 years. If you need help with any of your insurance needs, please give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100, or request an insurance quote by clicking here. We represent you, and we’re here to help!

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Distractions and Driving Don’t Mix

We’ve all done it. We hear the telltale ping or ring of our cell phone while driving. Surely it will be OK just to sneak a peek at the screen to see who is trying to reach us? Maybe even answer the phone?

Unfortunately, all too often it’s not OK. Instead of focusing our full attention on the road, we’re driving distracted.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,450 people were killed in 2016 in “distraction-affected” crashes—92 percent of all crash fatalities. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted driving.

Using a cell phone while driving increases crash risk, but phones aren’t the only things distracting us on the road. Eating or drinking, interacting with passengers (or pets), adjusting the radio, consulting navigation, and personal grooming (applying makeup, combing hair) all keep our full attention from being on our driving. Distracted driving is driving while doing any activity that takes full attention away from driving, whether it takes our eyes off the road, our hands off the steering wheel, or our minds off our driving. Texting is the worst thing we can do, since it involves all three of those things. Sending or reading a text for even five seconds at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with our eyes closed!

Many states already ban hand-held cell phone use and texting. The Florida Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit drivers from texting, reading data, or talking on hand-held devices. Texting while driving is now only enforced as a secondary offense when a driver has been stopped for another infraction.

Whether or not the bill passes, for our safety and the safety of others on the road, we should decide to put aside all distractions and keep our full attention on our driving. We also need to share this information with our teens, some of the worst offenders when it comes to phone use while driving.

So the next time a call or text comes in while you’re driving, do the right thing and keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road until you get to your destination, or you can pull off the road safely to check your phone. We promise we will, too.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency. Our staff has been serving eastern Hillsborough County, Tampa, Riverview, Lithia, Valrico, Seffner, Bloomingdale and surrounding areas for more than 25 years. We represent more than 15 quality auto insurance companies, and strive to provide our customers with the best coverage at the most competitive rates. If you need help with your auto insurance, please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or request an insurance quote by clicking here.

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Stock Your Car With a Roadside Emergency Kit

Roadside Emergency Kit Benefits

Even though you take good care of your car, you never know when an emergency will arise. Stocking your car with a roadside emergency kit will may help you get back on the road more quickly if you have a breakdown. At the very least, you’ll be safer and more comfortable while you wait for help.

What to Put In your Roadside Emergency Kit

You can buy pre-made roadside emergency kits, but when you make your own, you know exactly what’s in it, and you can tailor it to the needs of your local climate. (In Florida, we don’t need kitty litter for icy roads, for example!) In addition to the supplies needed to change a tire, here are some basics your kit should contain:

  • First Aid supplies: antiseptic, Band Aids, hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment, insect repellent, tweezers, Ace bandage, instant cold compress, etc.
  • Road flares or reflective triangles
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher intended for automotive use. Use to fight a small fire, but if your car is on fire, don’t try to put it out yourself. Move to safety and wait for emergency help.
  • Rain poncho
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Baby wipes
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Blanket
  • Can of tire inflator, such as Fix-a-Flat
  • Gloves

You may also want to add a car cell phone charger, and pen and paper to your kit. If you drive an older vehicle, include oil, anti-freeze, and brake fluid.

Store your kit in a plastic container with a lid, a cardboard box, or other storage item and keep it in your trunk. Arrange everything neatly, preferably in a single layer so you can see what you have and get to it quickly. Also, do an inventory every few months, making sure to replace anything you use up or that expires.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money to create a roadside emergency kit. Stock your vehicle with one, and you’ll be prepared if you’re ever stuck by the side of the road.

Remember, if you need car insurance, we’re here to help.  Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online for a free quote.

Start the Year Right With Insurance Savings

Insurance Savings

Shopping for insurance is no one’s idea of a good time, but here at L & M Insurance Group, we try to make it as simple and painless and cost-effective as possible. We are an all-lines, local independent agency based in Riverview, and we work hard to get you the best insurance savings:

  • Write many different types of insurance, including auto, home, renters, boat, RV, general liability, commercial auto, life, and health.
  • Represent dozens of A-rated insurance companies (including more than 15 different car insurance companies), not just one.
  • Offer “one-stop shopping.” Instead of calling multiple insurance companies for your needs, call us! We’ll do the comparison shopping for you.
  • Represent YOU. We’ll help you understand your insurance needs, help you through the claims process, and treat you like a person, not a policy number. After all, this is our community and you are our neighbors!

Insurance Savings for the New Year

Our goal is always to find you the right insurance plan for your needs at the most affordable price, and in many cases, we’re able to save our clients hundreds of dollars per year while also improving their coverage. Our staff has been serving Riverview, Brandon, Lithia, Valrico, Bloomingdale, and surrounding areas for 25 years, and we’d love to serve you!

Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your insurance, or if you’d like a quote. If you prefer, click here for an auto quote, or here for a homeowners quote. For general inquiries, click here.

As 2018 winds down, L & M Insurance Group would like to thank you for letting us serve you. Have a happy and safe New Year!

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Four Ways You Can Drive More Safely on Florida’s Roads

 

Challenges to Safe Driving in Florida

While Floridians don’t have to cope with driving in extreme winter weather the way other parts of the country do, just like everywhere else, we do have challenges to safe driving. Challenges like distractions, traffic, construction, and yes, weather (think driving home from work in the pouring rain!). Since one of the best ways to lower your car insurance premiums is to keep your driving record clean, here are four ways you can drive more safely Florida’s roads.

 

Watch out for weather conditions

We may not get snow, but we do get rain, fog, and even sometimes smoke. Whenever visibility is reduced, slow down and make sure your low beams are on (high beams can reflect back and further impair your ability to see). Unless it’s unsafe, try to drive with the flow of traffic and avoid changing lanes. (Click here for tips on safe driving in the rain.) Don’t drive with your hazard lights on.

 

Don’t stop on the road. If you must stop, after signaling, pull safely as far off the road as possible. Then you may put on your hazard lights.

 

Ditch the distractions

While you’re behind the wheel, put your phone away, turn off the radio if it’s distracting you, and avoid having animated and engrossing conversations—save those for when you’re safely at your destination. Try not to let anything distract you from your driving. It only takes a moment of inattention to cause an accident.

 

Maintain your vehicle

Proper maintenance will help you avoid breakdowns or equipment failures, both of which might cause an accident. Click here for car maintenance tips.

 

Drive defensively

We know you’re a good driver, but what about everyone else on the road? We share the road with other drivers, bicyclists, motorcycles, and even pedestrians, some of whom are distracted or drive recklessly. Drivers who speed, change lanes abruptly, or drive much slower than the flow of traffic create a dangerous environment. Slow down and change lanes to allow reckless drivers to pass, or stay a safe distance away from them. Watch for pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles. Also be sure to move over a lane when passing emergency vehicles or an accident at the side of the road.

 

Two areas of special concern are construction zones and areas where there are children. In construction zones, follow posted speed limits, and watch for debris in the road—change lanes if possible to avoid running over it. Also be mindful of workers in the area who may be near traffic or need to cross the road.

 

Where children are present, such as in school zones or near parks, use extra caution. Children are unpredictable and can be hard to see. Slow down and be prepared to stop. (And click here for back-to-school safe driving tips.)

 

And we don’t need to remind you to use your turn signal when preparing to turn, do we?

 

Follow these tips to drive safely, keep your driving record clean, and reduce your car insurance premium. If you have any questions about insurance, or you need a quote, please call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100, or contact us online.

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Affordable Auto insurance for Your Teen Driver

Your teenager just got his driver’s license. How exciting—and how expensive!

 

Why your insurance rates go up when you add a teenage driver

There’s no way around it. Teen drivers do cause the family’s auto insurance premiums to go up, because statistically immature drivers are at higher risk for accidents. Teen drivers aged 16-19 are three times more likely to be in a crash than drivers aged 20 or older. The good news is L & M Insurance Group is here to help you protect your financial assets and make the most cost-effective auto insurance choices possible.

 

How to make auto insurance more affordable when you add a teen driver

Here are some ways to make adding your teen driver to your auto insurance more affordable while still keeping your financial assets protected:

  • First, if you haven’t already added your teenager as a driver on your auto insurance policy, do so now. If you don’t and he or she is in an accident, you may not be covered.
  • If you’re buying a car for your teen driver, choose wisely to avoid the most expensive premiums. Save on premiums by choosing a safe vehicle that’s not too expensive or sporty.
  • It’s almost always more cost effective to add your teen’s car to your family’s auto insurance policy so that you benefit from discounts like multi-car and homeowner’s. Another benefit is that your teen will be covered if he or she needs to drive another of the family’s vehicles.
  • Emphasize safety rules with your teen driver. The best way to keep insurance costs down is for everyone to maintain clean driving records. If your teen driver is also a safe driver, your premiums should eventually decrease.
  • Ask your insurance agent about all available discounts, including those for safety features, good student discounts, and for taking a recognized driver’s education course.
  • Make sure you have adequate liability coverage. That may seem counterintuitive, but insurance premiums are never as expensive as being sued! If your teen driver is at fault in an accident where someone is injured and your policy doesn’t have bodily injury coverage, you’ll be required to carry an SR-22. And if you only carry the state minimum, that may not be enough to protect you from a lawsuit. Depending on your assets, once your teen starts driving, you may want to carry higher liability limits, or even an umbrella policy. Your L & M Insurance Group agent should be able to help you understand and adjust your needs for liability insurance.

Why parents choose L&M Insurance Group to insure their new teenage drivers

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency, and we represent more than 15 auto insurance companies. Let us find the most cost-effective auto insurance policy for you and your teen driver. Call us at 813-672-4100 or email us for a free, no-obligation quote. Our staff has been serving Riverview, Brandon, Lithia, Valrico, Bloomingdale, and surrounding areas for 25 years, and we’d love to serve you!

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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!

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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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.

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.