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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.

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“When thunder roars, go indoors!”—Lightning Safety for You and Your Family

Even though summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, we’re already experiencing increased thunderstorm activity in Riverview, Brandon, and nearby areas. Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries in the past 50 years. While the odds of being struck by lightning are only 1 in 500,000, you’re at increased risk if you often work or play outdoors—and with summer activities soon to be in full swing, that’s most of us!

Since June is Lightning Safety Month, here are a few lightning safety reminders from your neighbors at L & M Insurance Group.

Check the forecast

If you plan to spend a lot of time outside—going out on a boat, going dirt biking, hiking, or canoeing, for example, be sure to check the weather forecast. If thunderstorms are predicted, adjust your plans. And even if the forecast is favorable, be sure to keep an eye on the weather once you’re outside. Know where you can go for safety if a storm blows up. Your best options are an enclosed shelter not made of concrete (the metal wires and bars in concrete walls and flooring can conduct lightning), or a metal-topped vehicle.

“If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you,” according to the National Weather Service. Another rule of thumb: if you see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before you get to 30, go inside. Don’t go back outside until 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap. Lightning can strike before or after rainfall, and as far away from rain as 10 miles.

If you’re outside

During storms with lightning, if you’re outside, you’re at risk. Doing the following may make you slightly safer:

Avoid open areas, isolated trees, towers, metal fences, or bodies of water—though these things don’t attract electricity, they do conduct it. If you can’t get inside a metal-topped vehicle or fully enclosed building, get as low to the ground as you can, with as little of your body as possible touching the ground.  Look for a low spot such as a ditch or depression.

What if you’re inside?

You should still be cautious even if you’re inside when lightning is present—one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur inside. During thunderstorms, avoid using water (no showers, baths, hand washing, or doing dishes), electronics, or a corded telephone. These things all conduct electricity and you could be injured if lightning strikes nearby while you’re touching them. It’s safe to use a portable or cell phone. Also stay off porches, balconies, lanais, and out of open garages.

Also remember your pets during storms—a doghouse or screened porch is not a safe place for your pet. Bring him or her indoors until the storm passes.

If someone is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR if you have training. Strike victims often need immediate first aid and touching them will not give you a shock. Only 10 percent of lightning strike victims die, but many of the rest live with serious aftereffects such as severe pain, neurological disabilities, or depression.

If lightning hits your home, most standard homeowners insurance policies cover structural damage and damage to personal property caused by lightning. If your car is hit by lightning, if you carry comprehensive insurance, it should be covered, less your deductible. Be sure to report the lightning strike to your insurance company or to your L & M Insurance Group agent as soon as possible.

Please feel free to call us at 813-672-4100 or contact us online if you have any questions about your insurance needs and coverage. And stay safe this summer!

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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!