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Yes, We Can Insure Your E-bike!

The popularity of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, has soared over the past couple of years—sales were up 145 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to market research firm NPD Group. If you’re one of the many people zipping around for fun, or even commuting to work with a little help from an e-bike, you might wonder if you need insurance for your new toy.

Do I really need insurance for my e-bike?

While Florida doesn’t require insurance for e-bikes as long as they’re not capable of going more than 28 miles per hour, it’s not a bad idea to carry it. Here’s why:

The main reason is that while your homeowners or renters insurance policy may provide some coverage for an electric bike under personal property (be sure to check with your insurance company for details), that coverage will likely be limited and subject to your deductible. In addition, you’ll need to make sure you have adequate coverage for your injuries if you’re hurt while riding, and for protection for your liability if you injure someone or damage property while riding your e-bike.

Since e-bikes are heavier and more complex machines, and they travel faster than a pedal-only bike, the potential for injury (to rider or pedestrian) and property damage is greater. And since e-bikes are more expensive than standard bikes, if yours is stolen or damaged, you may find it a financial hardship to replace it. Quality e-bikes often cost thousands of dollars.

What does e-bike insurance cover?

The good news is that a standalone e-bike policy is usually inexpensive—policies start at around $100 a year. Cost depends on the coverage you choose, the value of your e-bike, and your deductible.

Basic bike policy coverages include:

  • Physical damage to your bike if you hit something—another vehicle, a curb, a tree, and so on.
  • Liability if you’re at fault and you injure someone or damage property.
  • Theft and vandalism—coverage to repair or replace your bike if it’s stolen or vandalized.
  • Uninsured motorist—coverage that pays for your injuries if you’re hit by an uninsured driver (and unfortunately, we have many of those in Florida).

Whether you use your e-bike to commute or just for recreation, protect your investment and your personal liability with a standalone electric bicycle insurance policy. Give L & M Financial Group a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online for a quote. Happy riding!

We can insure your e-bike!

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Protect Your Vacant Investment Properties

Property investors who own rental properties, or who buy, renovate and resell homes, may occasionally find they have vacant properties on their hands. If your property is vacant, it could be a magnet for trouble, attracting thieves, vandals, squatters, even neighborhood kids looking for a place to hang out. Here are seven steps to take to protect your vacant investment properties:

1. Secure the property

Make it hard to get in by ensuring doors and windows have sturdy locks, and keep them locked! If a tenant has recently moved out, have the locks changed or re-keyed. You may also consider reinforcing exterior doors with metal doorjamb or hinge shields in case someone tries to kick down the door.

2. Monitor and maintain the exterior

Check on your vacant property frequently to make sure it’s secure. Keep landscaping tidy by pruning shrubs and keeping lawns mowed. Make sure plants and trees don’t provide hiding spots or cover for thieves or vandals. Remove any mail or newspapers that arrive—nothing says no one is home more quickly than a stack of newspapers in a driveway or an overflowing mailbox.

To guard against fire, remove any flammable debris around the structure, including construction materials, dead vegetation, paper, cardboard, and so on.

3. Light the property at night

To deter thieves and vandals, make sure your property has working exterior lighting, either on a motion sensor or a timer. In addition, have a few lights on timers inside the property to help it make it look like someone is there. These simple measures can make a casual thief or vandal think the property is occupied.

4. Set up an alarm system

In some cases, you may want to set up security cameras or an alarm system to protect your investment property. Even if you don’t have an alarm system, simply placing a sign or sticker saying you do may help to deter thieves.

5. Make friends with the neighbors

If possible, become friendly with the neighbors near your property. They can act as an extra set of eyes and ears when you’re not around. Give them contact information, yours or your property manager’s, to call regarding any suspicious activity.

6. Advertise wisely

While you want potential buyers or renters to know your property is available, you should be careful about how you share information. Don’t share too much with people calling or inquiring online. Some professional thieves locate vacant properties to hit this way. You’ll probably want to leave a For Sale sign up, but you might consider whether leaving a For Rent sign at your vacant property may attract unwanted attention.

7. Carry insurance

Vacant properties and properties being renovated still need insurance coverage, to protect the structures themselves, and your liability as a property owner. You may need a builder’s risk policy that provides coverage for damage to the insured structure and liability coverage during renovation. Or perhaps you need a vacant dwelling policy, which covers properties that do not meet the requirements for a builder’s risk policy, properties that are between tenants, or those waiting for a buyer. If you have any questions about what type of insurance you need…

We can help!

The agents at L & M Insurance Group have years of experience working with property investors, and we’re familiar with the insurance requirements of properties purchased in the name of an entity such as a land trust, LLC, or corporation. We are proud to partner with companies that also understand your needs—like REInsurePro, an insurance program specifically designed with real estate investors in mind.

Please allow us to help you with all your insurance needs including protecting your vacant property. You may reach us by phone (813-672-4100) or contact us online by clicking here. For more than 30 years, L & M Insurance Group has been serving the personal and commercial insurance needs of Riverview, Brandon, Tampa, Apollo Beach, Gibsonton and surrounding communities.

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L & M Insurance Group Combines Personalized Service with Insurance Companies You Can Trust

Independent insurance agencies like L & M Insurance Group, offer many advantages to insurance consumers. One of the main ones is that we are independent—we represent many different insurance carriers, and therefore are able to offer our clients a choice of tailor-made policies. Part of our commitment to you is that we’re always trying to find new and better markets for our clients.

Many clients turn to an independent insurance agency to save money. But just because you go the independent route doesn’t mean you’ll have to scrimp on service or sign up with an insurance company you’ve never heard of. While it’s true that we do represent some smaller, lesser-known companies, here are a few of our partner companies that you might not realize we work with:

Did you know?

We now represent Allstate, a company that historically has only sold policies through their own captive agents. Allstate may or may not be a good fit for you, but they are well known for their leadership and expertise in personal lines, claims and customer service, as well as their financial stability.

We also represent Nationwide Insurance. The Ohio-based insurance carrier provides a range of insurance and financial services, including auto, home insurance, and commercial policies.

Travelers has been around for more than 165 years and is a top-10 writer of personal insurance in the U.S. In addition to personal lines, they also write landlord policies and commercial policies for many types of businesses.

Mercury Insurance has been named one of “America’s Most Trustworthy Companies” by Forbes Magazine several times. They offer auto, home, condo, renters, and business insurance. We’ve found that Mercury is a good fit for families with young drivers.

The Hartford offers a full line of personal and commercial policies. They also have special programs for drivers over 50, and The Hartford is the only direct auto and home insurance program endorsed by the AARP for their members. 

In addition to the companies listed above, we also represent Progressive, Safeco, GMAC, and many other financially stable insurance carriers. Whether you need insurance for your home, car, motorcycle, boat/personal watercraft, or you need commercial insurance for your business, we can get you covered.

Personalized service

So if you want to combine the personalized service of an independent agency with the benefits of a big-name insurance company, look no further than L & M Insurance Group. We will be happy to compare insurance rates of both well-known insurance companies (like Allstate) with our lesser-known carriers, and explain the benefits and drawbacks of your options. Give us the chance to serve you—please call us at 813-672-4100 if you’d like a quote, or get things started online by clicking below for an auto or homeowners insurance quote.

Home insurance

Auto insurance

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Don’t Let Your Holiday Go Up in Flames!

The holiday season is upon us—finally something to celebrate in this challenging year! Most of us are decorating the house, wrapping or mailing gifts for loved ones, and planning (cautious) holiday meals. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a season of accidents, fires, and other mishaps. Just because you’re celebrating, don’t neglect safety precautions. No one wants to have to file a homeowners insurance claim in the middle of their holiday celebrations.

Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

One of the major and most devastating holiday risks is a house fire. Here are some holiday fire safety reminders from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Red Cross:

Christmas trees

  • If you have a live tree, make sure you keep it watered. A dried out Christmas tree can catch fire and burn in an instant (click here to see a video).
  • Even if your tree is artificial, be sure to turn off the lights on your tree before going to bed or leaving the house.

Electrical

  • Make sure holiday light strings are in good condition, with no loose or damaged wires or connections that could shock you or start a fire.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets or connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together—use a power strip if you need more than three strings of lights.
  • Don’t pinch cords or force them into small spaces, put them under rugs, or use staples or nails to position them. Keep all cords away from heat sources.
  • Make sure you hang light strings where they’re intended—some are only for use indoors or outdoors, not both.

Fires and candles

Flickering candles and firelight are certainly beautiful and festive, but they can also lead to home fires.

  • Make sure all open flames are at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire—two out of every five decoration fires happen because decorations are too close to an open flame.
  • Don’t leave candles or fires burning when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Make sure children and pets are not left unattended in a room where there is a fire or burning candles.
  • If you’re celebrating with a menorah or kinara that uses candles, make sure to keep all flammable items at least three feet away, and place it on a non-flammable surface, like a tray covered in aluminum foil.
  • Consider using battery-operated candles, since candles cause more than a third of home decoration fires.
  • If you have a fire in the fireplace, use a fire screen to keep sparks from flying out and starting a fire. Keep clothes, wrapping paper, and decorations at least three feet away.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high and locked away to keep little ones safe.

Cooking

Historically, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have been two of the three leading days for home fires caused by cooking (Thanksgiving is number one).

  • Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking on the stovetop.
  • Turn pot handles toward the back to help keep kids from grabbing them.
  • Make sure all flammable items are kept well away from the stove.

One more thing…

Remember to make sure your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. And if you have one, review your emergency fire escape plan with your family.

No matter how you celebrate this year, we hope you have a very happy and safe holiday season. And remember that if you’re in need of insurance, L & M Insurance Group is here for you. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online. Happy holidays!

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Hurricane Preparation in the Age of COVID-19

The 2020 hurricane season started June 1, and we’ve already seen Tropical Storm Cristobal impact Louisiana and beyond. Even though many of us are already feeling stressed and anxious about the COVID-19 coronavirus, this is not the year to be blasé about preparing for a hurricane. This year more than ever before, it’s crucial to be as prepared as possible. Here are some suggestions for preparing for a hurricane in the age of COVID-19.

Emergency supplies

If you haven’t already done so, check your emergency supplies and use up or donate any items that will expire in the next few months. Take an inventory to be sure you have enough food, water, medicine, and other essential supplies (like toilet paper!) to keep your household going for at least three to seven days—and possibly more. (Click here for a list of items to have on hand.)

Allow more time than usual to collect your emergency supplies of food, water, and medicines. We are just now beginning to see grocery shelves refilling as we cautiously begin to go about our business in a more normal fashion. With social distancing measures in place, and some businesses closed or working reduced hours or at reduced capacity, we should not take for granted our ability to find what we need to shelter in place if a storm comes through the Tampa Bay area. At the same time, only buy what your family needs, so that others who are preparing will also be able to find what they need.

While you’re collecting your emergency supplies, minimize your possible exposure to the coronavirus by opting for at-home delivery or curbside pickup whenever possible. If you need or prefer to do your shopping in person, be sure to follow social distancing and other precautions recommended by the CDC. When collecting medications or prescriptions, limit in-person contacts in pharmacies by calling in your prescriptions, using the drive thru, or signing up for at-home delivery.

Collect copies of essential paperwork, such as medical records, insurance policy information, and personal identification. Keep them in a waterproof container, and remember to take them with you if you need to evacuate.

Will you need to evacuate?

Have several ways to receive weather alerts for approaching storms, and follow local authorities’ guidance about when and where to shelter. Find out whether or not you live in an evacuation zone, and if you do, begin planning where you will go if forced to evacuate. Designated shelters may have changed because of COVID-19, and if you plan to evacuate to a friend or family member’s home, be prepared to take special precautions to protect yourself and others from spreading the coronavirus. If you live in a well-built house not in an evacuation zone, your safest place is probably your home.

Remember to make a plan for your pets. Not all shelters accept animals. Make sure you have plenty of food and medications for your pets as well.

If you are planning to evacuate, be sure to include items to protect your family from catching or spreading the coronavirus in your “go kit.” These items include face masks (two per person), hand sanitizer, and bar or liquid soap. Remember, children under the age of 2 should not wear a face mask, nor should anyone who is experiencing difficulty breathing.

If you must go to a shelter, try to maintain social distance between yourself and non-household members. Wash hands often and follow shelter instructions regarding face coverings. Try to avoid touching high touch items, such as doorknobs or handrails.

We at L & M Insurance Group sincerely hope our clients will be stay safe during the 2020 hurricane season. We share this information in order to remind you not to be complacent, especially since community conditions are different this year. Please give our office a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your insurance coverage during hurricane season (or any time!).

For more information:

https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/residents/public-safety/emergency-management/find-evacuation-information

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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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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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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.