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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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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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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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Just Married? Time to Review Your Insurance Coverage

Now that you’ve opened the presents and returned from your honeymoon, it’s time to consider some of the changes getting married will bring to your financial life. For instance, if you haven’t done so already, you should review, compare and consolidate your insurance policies. Good news—you may get a discount just for being married, because many insurance companies consider married people a better risk than single people.

Review your existing coverage

Car insurance

Compare your car insurance policy limits and coverage. It may be less expensive to combine all your vehicles onto one policy because you will be eligible for a multi-car discount. Get a quote from each of your car insurance companies to see which is the better deal. If you change policies, make sure new coverage goes into effect before the old coverage is cancelled so you don’t have a lapse in coverage.

Homeowners or renters insurance

If you’ve been living separately, you may have both been carrying homeowners or renters insurance. You should be able to cancel one policy if you no longer own or rent that second home, but make sure the policy you’re left with is appropriate for your needs. 

For example, you may need to increase your personal property limits now that all your belongings are under one roof. You may also need special coverage for high value items like your wedding and engagement rings, high-end electronics, or expensive wedding gifts.

And remember to officially add your spouse to your policy!

Health insurance

Now that you’re married, you have a limited time to enroll in a new health plan or join a spouse’s plan—usually 60 days. If either or both of you have employer-based plans offering spousal benefits, you’ll want to compare these three scenarios: you each keep your current plan; you join your spouse’s plan; your spouse joins your plan. Ask questions about monthly premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs. If you don’t have health insurance through work, you can buy or change your coverage through your state or federal exchange. See healthcare.gov for more details.

Life Insurance

Consider buying life insurance—even if neither of you have children. The death of one partner could lead to financial difficulties for the surviving spouse if you have bills or a mortgage one person can’t afford on their own.

One more thing: be sure to update your beneficiaries and emergency contacts.

Need help? We’ve got you covered!

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be! Your friendly L & M Insurance Group agent can help you make sense of it all. Whether you’re an existing client or a new one, we will be happy to help you sort through your options. As an independent agency, we represent many financially sound insurance companies and will help you make the best choices for your financial situation. Call us today at 813-672-4100, or email us for a car, home, renters, health, or life insurance quote.

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Got Great Credit? Let Us Save You Money on Your Auto and Home Insurance!

What does your credit score have to do with insurance rates? Plenty. Since the 1990s insurance companies have been using consumers’ credit scores to help set insurance premiums. Industry studies have indicated that using credit-based scores helps insurance companies better predict risk.

What does that mean for you? It means that if you have good credit, you’ll likely save money on your home and auto insurance.

“Just as insurance scores help insurance companies assess and price risks, so too can these scores help insurance customers—particularly if they are considered good risks,” according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org).

Insurance scores are different from credit scores, though they are both based on your credit report. And each insurance company makes those calculations a little differently. For an insurance score, “Emphasis is placed on those items associated with credit management patterns proven to correlate most closely with insurance risk, such as outstanding debt, length of credit history, late payments, collections and bankruptcies, and new applications for credit,” according to iii.org.

Therefore, the higher your insurance score, the lower your insurance rates.

What if your credit isn’t so good?

If your credit scores could be better, lower insurance rates are one more reason to improve them. If you want to improve your score, start by keeping a closer eye on it. Make sure there are no errors in your credit history. Make payments on time, avoid high “credit utilization” (the amount you owe divided by your credit limit), and don’t make too many applications for new credit. Remember, credit scores aren’t the only factor used in determining insurance rates. For car insurance, driving history and type of vehicle are also crucial. For homeowners insurance, your location, the size and age of your home, as well as your level of coverage will also affect your rates significantly. However, improving your credit score could make a significant difference in your insurance premiums. According to creditkarma.com, improving from one credit tier to the next can save you an average of 17 percent per year. And Consumer Reports noted that drivers who improved their credit score from the “good” level to the best paid an average of $214 less per year for their car insurance.

If you have good credit, let L & M Insurance Group help you reap the benefits with lower car and homeowners insurance rates. Call us today at 813-672-4100 for a free quote, or drop us an email. For more than 30 years, L & M Insurance Group has helped customers within Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach and Tampa. We also work closely with many customers throughout Hillsborough County, Manatee County, Pinellas County, and Clearwater.

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Is The Hartford Advantage Right for You?

As an independent insurance agency, L & M Insurance Group represents many quality insurance carriers—not just one. We pride ourselves in finding YOU the best match for your individual insurance needs and financial situation. From time to time, we’ll draw attention to one of our carriers and what they specialize in. This month: The Hartford.

If you’ve moved to Florida from up north, you’ve probably heard of The Hartford. They have more than 200 years of experience in insurance—in fact, they insured the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned! The Hartford provides personal lines coverage (home, auto, renters, umbrella) as well as business insurance, such as workers comp or general liability, and employee benefits, like group disability or life insurance. The Hartford specializes in insurance for the 50-and-over age group, and for the past 30 years, they have been the only direct auto and home insurance program nationally endorsed by the AARP.

The Hartford’s Open Road Advantage auto insurance policies offer benefits such as:

  • Lifetime Repair Promise: When you use a repair shop in The Hartford’s approved network, they guarantee the workmanship for as long as you own the vehicle.
  • New Car Replacement Benefit: if your new car is totaled during the first 15 months or 15,000 miles, whichever comes first, The Hartford will pay the cost of a brand new car of the same make and model with no depreciation.

The Advantage Plus program offers these additional benefits:

  • First Accident Forgiveness: If you qualify, your insurance premium won’t go up if you have an accident.
  • Disappearing Deductible: If you stay accident-free, your deductible decreases over time.
  • Optional 12-Month policy term: lock in your rate for a full year if you so choose.

If you’d like to see if The Hartford coverage is right for you, please call us at 813-672-4100 or email us for an auto or home insurance quote. And even if you don’t think they’d be right for you, one of our other quality insurance companies may be just right—call us, and we’ll be happy to help you find coverage that is right for you.

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Moving to Florida 101: Registering an Out-of-State Car

If you’re a new Florida resident, or are thinking of moving to Florida, you may have questions about your car insurance and what steps you need to take to get your vehicle registered. We get a lot of calls from people moving to Florida who have questions about this process, and we’re happy to answer them, and to welcome them to the state.

Once you move to Florida, you have 30 days to get a Florida driver’s license, but only 10 days to buy insurance and title/register your vehicles. Where should you start? Before you register your vehicle, you’ll need to buy insurance valid in Florida. And coverage requirements here are a little different than in other parts of the U.S.

Coverage requirements

Currently, to register a car in Florida, you must have an insurance policy with a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and $10,000 Property Damage liability (PD).  PIP covers injuries you or certain others receive in a crash, regardless of who is at fault. (It also covers your injuries if you’re hit while you’re a pedestrian.)  PD protects your liability if you’re at fault in an accident and you damage someone else’s property, such as a vehicle, building, or telephone pole. Please note that this is the minimum coverage required to drive legally in Florida, but such low coverage is not recommended for most people because it is most likely inadequate to protect you financially if you’re in an accident.

In addition, Florida has something called the Financial Responsibility law, which “requires that any person at fault in a crash resulting in bodily injury and property damage to others must have in effect at the time of the crash full liability insurance coverage.” This means that if you are at fault in an accident and you injure someone, you must be carrying at least $10,000 per person Bodily Injury (BI) coverage in addition to PIP and PD coverage at the time of the accident.

Click here if you’d like to get a car insurance quote—you’ll need the driver’s licenses of all drivers in the household, as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle. Have your current car insurance policy handy so you can tell your new insurance agent what coverage you currently have as well as what you would like to have on your new policy. 

For additional information on insurance coverage in Florida, please see “New to Florida? Here’s What You Need to Know About Car Insurance.”

Remember: before you can transfer the title or registration for your vehicle to Florida, you have to have proof of insurance.

In addition to proof of insurance, you’ll also need proof of identity, your out-of-state title/registration, and you’ll have to have your vehicle’s VIN verified by inspection. (Please click the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department link below for printable application forms and complete details on what you’ll need to do to register your vehicle and get a Florida driver’s license.)

Your local independent insurance agent

When moving to Florida, you’ll want to find a local independent insurance agent to handle your insurance needs—an agent familiar with Florida’s insurance laws. An independent agent will also be able to check rates with multiple insurance companies, so he or she can shop for the best rates for you rather than being exclusively tied to one company.

L & M Insurance Group is a locally-owned, independent insurance agency with more than 30 years experience helping customers in Riverview, Valrico, Brandon, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Tampa, and surrounding areas. We represent more than 15 financially sound car insurance companies. We want to be your Florida insurance agents—so please call us at 813-672-4100, or email us so we can help you begin your new life in the Sunshine State!

For more information:

Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Florida Department of Financial Services • Division of Consumer Services Florida Auto Toolkit

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

Need Car Insurance and Have PIP claims?

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Why Florida Drivers Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Despite the fact that insurance is required, too many Florida drivers go without it. In fact, Florida has the highest rate of uninsured drivers in the nation at 26.7 percent! If an uninsured driver injures you and/or your passengers, you’ll have to pay your own medical expenses, and you know how quickly those can skyrocket. One way to be sure you can protect yourself financially if an uninsured motorist hits you is to carry uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) basics

First, let’s look at how uninsured motorist coverage protects you—and how it doesn’t.

Uninsured motorist (UM) pays your and your passengers medical bills if you’re in an accident caused by an uninsured driver. In addition, it reimburses you and your passengers for things like pain and suffering, wrongful death, and loss of enjoyment of life. It also covers you if the other driver is under insured—that is, if his or her insurance policy limits don’t cover the extent of the injuries caused by the crash. And it will pay if an uninsured motorist hits you while you’re a pedestrian, or if a hit-and-run driver injures you.

What uninsured motorist does NOT do is pay for damages to your vehicle. You’ll need to carry collision insurance if you need or want your vehicle covered if an uninsured motorist damages it.

UM limits are indicated using two figures, such as 25,000/50,000. The first number is the limit of what the policy will pay per person, the second number is the limit per accident. You can only buy UM if you also purchase bodily injury (BI) liability, and you can’t purchase UM coverage higher than your BI limits.

Stacked vs. non-stacked

There are two types of UM coverage: stacked and non-stacked.

Non-stacked is cheaper to buy, but doesn’t offer as comprehensive coverage as stacked UM does.

Stacked UM provides higher limits and more complete protection. There are two ways in which stacked is more comprehensive than non-stacked.

If you insure more than one vehicle on your policy, the amount you’re able to collect can be “stacked”—that is, the maximum policy limit is multiplied based on the number of vehicles on your policy. So if you have limits of 25,000/50,000 and three vehicles on your policy, you can multiply the 25/50 limits by three, which means limits of $75,000 per person, $150,000 per accident will be available to you and your passengers.

What if you only have one vehicle to insure? Would you still want to carry stacked UM? Possibly. There are several scenarios in which you could be injured by an uninsured motorist where non-stacked insurance would not pay but stacked would. For example:

  • You ride a motorcycle. If you’re injured by an uninsured driver while riding, stacked UM from your auto policy will pay for your injuries. It will also pay for injuries to a passenger riding with you. Non-stacked will not. Stacked UM coverage on a personal auto policy is generally cheaper to buy than UM coverage on a motorcycle policy as well.
  • You are a “snowbird” who keeps one car in Florida and one car at your other home. You’re injured by an uninsured motorist while driving your “up north” car, but you don’t carry UM on that vehicle. You do carry stacked UM on your Florida vehicle—and that coverage will pay for your injuries, even though you were driving a vehicle you own that is not listed on your Florida personal auto policy.
  • You own a pickup truck which you use for business purposes and insure on a separate commercial auto policy, but you’ve chosen not to carry UM coverage on that policy. If you’re injured while driving the truck, and you carry stacked UM on your personal auto policy, it will cover your injuries.

We think UM coverage is important to carry, especially in Florida where so many drivers either have no insurance or don’t carry enough insurance. If you have any questions about uninsured motorist coverage, or anything else on your auto insurance policy, please call your L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100, or email us. We will be happy to discuss your financial situation to determine what coverage makes sense for you.