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Protect Yourself from Lawsuits with an Umbrella Policy

Homeowners insurance and auto insurance play important roles in protecting your financial assets. Not only do they help to repair or replace your own property, your insurance policies cover your financial liability if you are at fault in an accident or if someone is injured while on your property. However, there are times when basic insurance policies might not be sufficient for your needs.

For example:

  • You are at fault in a serious car accident involving multiple vehicles and injuries
  • Your dog attacks and bites someone
  • A visiting child is hurt while playing in your pool
  • A guest trips and falls in your home or on your property

Any one of these scenarios may lead to your being sued and you may find yourself liable for a claim that is much higher than the limits of your homeowners or auto insurance policy. How will you pay for it? Rather than see your hard-earned assets disappear in a lawsuit, an umbrella policy can make up the difference.

How does umbrella insurance work?

Umbrella insurance is additional liability coverage once the limits of a primary policy (auto or home insurance) have been exhausted. Umbrella policies may also protect you if you’re sued for certain actions, including slander, libel, malicious prosecution, and shock/mental anguish.

Umbrella policies most often provide about $1 to $5 million in coverage. They also will pay legal expenses you incur while being sued, over and above the policy amount.

Umbrella policies protect your current assets, such as your property, retirement or investment accounts, as well as your future assets—like wages or an inheritance.

Your goal in buying umbrella insurance is to protect your net worth. Your L & M Insurance Group agent will be happy to help you decide how much coverage you need.

Who needs umbrella insurance?

If you feel it’s likely you could be sued if you’re liable for someone else’s injuries or damage to someone’s property, you need umbrella insurance. If you own property, have a dog, or often host houseguests and entertain, you may be more likely to be in a situation where you could be sued. And if you have a swimming pool, trampoline or play equipment (“attractive nuisances”), you likely need to carry an umbrella policy. Anyone who would like to have more peace of mind regarding asset protection should consider an umbrella policy.

Is there anything umbrella insurance doesn’t cover?

Since umbrella insurance is liability coverage, it doesn’t cover damage to your own property, or injuries to you or your household members. It will not cover business activities or liability you agreed to by contract. It also doesn’t cover damage that you or a covered member of your household causes on purpose. If you have questions about whether or not something is covered, please discuss these with an L & M Insurance Group agent.

Is umbrella insurance expensive?                    

Not compared to other types of insurance—or compared with losing your assets in a lawsuit. A policy with limits of $1 million generally runs only about $150-$300 per year. Cost is determined by factors including how much coverage you want, how many people will be covered by the policy, and how much property (such as homes and cars) you own.

However, since an umbrella policy is secondary to your existing homeowners or auto policies, usually you’ll be required to carry higher limits on those policies. For example, Bodily Injury limits of 250K/500K and Property Damage of 100K on your auto policy, and 300K-500K personal liability coverage on your homeowners insurance. If you don’t currently carry these limits, your premium for your homeowners and auto policies may go up.

L & M Insurance Group has you covered for all your insurance needs

An umbrella policy is an additional layer of insurance coverage you might need to safeguard your financial future. If you would like to know more, please call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100, or click here to reach us online. L & M Insurance Group agents can help with all your insurance needs, whether you need a homeowners policy, car insurance, commercial insurance, or life or health coverage. We are an independent agency, primarily serving Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding communities.

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Make These Insurance Resolutions for the New Year

At the start of a new year, many people resolve to get their finances in order. L & M Insurance Group would like to remind you that appropriate insurance coverage is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from financial disaster. Insurance can protect your most valuable assets, like your home and your vehicle, protect you from lawsuits, and even care for your family after you’re gone.

Here are a few things you can resolve to do now to make sure you have the financial protection you need—for the lowest possible insurance premiums.

Review your life changes. Was 2021 was an eventful year for you? Did you experience any major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child? Did you renovate your house, buy a new vehicle, turn 55, or start a business? Become an empty nester? Even if you already notified your insurance agent about these changes, now is a good time to do a more thorough review of your insurance coverage to make sure you’re properly protected.

Review your coverage. Once you’ve reviewed your personal situation, you’ll want to see how it lines up with your insurance coverage. Insurance is meant to protect your financial assets in case of accident, crime, or disaster, including providing liability protection in case someone sues you. Some common areas of concern we see frequently include:

For auto insurance, do you carry bodily injury in high enough limits? (Insurance experts recommend 100,000/300,000 for most situations, even though Florida state requirements are much lower.) Do you carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage? (In Florida, we have many un- or under-insured drivers on the roads, so we recommend carrying UM coverage.)

For home insurance, does your policy provide replacement cost coverage? Your home should be insured for enough to rebuild, repair, or replace it and your personal possessions with comparable quality—not just for how much you owe on your mortgage or the home’s market value.

And speaking of personal possessions, did you buy or receive any expensive items in 2021—such as jewelry, art, or home electronics? High value items may need special coverage, over and above what is covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Consider your life insurance needs. Do you have life insurance? Do you need it? If you do have life insurance, be sure that your policy is up to date with the correct beneficiary, and any other details that may have changed. Life insurance is surprisingly affordable, especially for younger people who are most in need of it to help safeguard their families’ futures. If you don’t have life insurance but would like to explore your options, please call 813-672-4100, or click here for an online quote.

Keep your driving record clean. Still one of the most basic things you can do to keep your auto insurance rates down!

Maintain or improve your credit record. Many insurance companies look at your credit when calculating insurance premiums. Boosting your credit record can result in cheaper insurance rates and more policy options to choose from. (Even if your credit is not great, L & M Insurance Group can still help. Give us a call at 813-672-4100.)

Work with an independent agency. Independent agencies, like L & M Insurance Group, represent multiple insurance carriers instead of just one. This means we have more flexibility to shop for the best policy and insurance company for your individual situation. We can also write just about any type of insurance you need, including personal and commercial auto, home, life, renters, and business insurance. And OUR number one new year’s resolution is to help YOU find the best insurance deal! Give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online for all your insurance needs.

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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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Plan Ahead Before a Natural Disaster Strikes

While we in Florida are fortunate not to have to deal with the freezing cold and heavy snows of more northern states, we’re not exempt from nature’s wrath. In fact, we have quite a few natural disasters to be prepared for—in addition to hurricanes, Florida experiences floods, fires, and tornadoes! The good news is that some simple planning—and the best homeowners insurance coverage—can help you be ready for the disasters you might face.

Learn the basics of what to do for each natural disaster

For example: If a tornado is sighted in your area, know where you should seek shelter in your home or office. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, sign up for alerts, and have an evacuation plan in place. Don’t walk, drive, or swim through flood waters—just six inches of moving water can knock you down. And be sure that you have a disaster plan in case of a hurricane (see below). Check out websites like floridadisaster.org and ready.gov for information about handling natural disasters.

Make or review your family’s disaster plan

According to floridadisaster.org, start your planning by discussing these four questions with household members:

Tip: Find emergency information specific to the Hillsborough County area here.

Prepare a disaster kit

Stock up on food, water, medicines, pet supplies, and other necessities if you must stay home for a few days. If you might need to evacuate, be sure you also have a portable “go kit.” (Click here for the Hillsborough County Disaster Preparedness Guide.)

Make sure you have the best homeowners insurance coverage

Do you enough coverage to rebuild your home and replace your belongings if they’re destroyed by a natural disaster? Do you know what your hurricane deductible is, and have money set aside to pay it? Do you have flood insurance? (Flooding is not usually covered in a standard homeowners insurance policy, so please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you need a flood insurance quote!)

Let us help

If you need help deciding which insurance coverage you should carry in your area, please give L & M Insurance Group a call. We are a local, independent agency, and we live in the same community you do. We’ll be happy to discuss your options, and help you be sure you have the homeowners insurance policy that is right for your financial situation. (If you prefer, contact us online by clicking here.)

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Insurance 101: Terms You Should Know

Just like any specialized industry, insurance has its own vocabulary. When you’re shopping for a new policy—or trying to make sense of the policy you already have—it helps to understand some of the most commonly used insurance terms. Plus, understanding these terms can also help you get the best insurance rate. How? Because understanding a few key terms will help you compare policies accurately, buy the coverage you need, and even help determine how much money you’ll receive if you make a claim!

General terms

There are a few general terms that apply to several different types of insurance. For instance, you probably know that a deductible is the amount you’ll pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. An endorsement (also known as “rider”) is an amendment to the insurance policy that changes its coverage, terms, or conditions. Some examples of endorsements include a change of address when you move, adding or removing a vehicle or driver on an existing auto policy, or adding coverage for sewer backup to a homeowners insurance policy.

Homeowners insurance terms

One of the most important sets of terms you should know is actual cash value versus replacement cost. These terms are most often found in a homeowners insurance policy.

Actual cash value refers to the amount you would be reimbursed for replacing damaged or destroyed property with comparable new property, minus depreciation. Replacement cost is the amount needed to replace damaged or destroyed property or personal belongings without deducting for depreciation, up to the policy limit. If you make a claim thinking you have replacement cost but you actually have actual cash value, you could receive thousands of dollars less than you expect.

Car insurance terms

Occasionally, clients become confused about the different types of injury and liability coverage available in a car insurance policy.

Some states, including Florida, are no-fault states, meaning that drivers must carry insurance for their own injuries, regardless of who is at fault in an accident. This coverage is called personal injury protection (PIP). It covers both the named insured and his or her passengers.

Property damage pays for damage you cause to another vehicle if you’re at fault in an accident.

Bodily injury refers to coverage for injuries you cause in an at-fault accident.

Uninsured motorist pays for your injuries (once you have used up your PIP) if you’re hit by a driver who does not have bodily injury liability insurance or is underinsured.

Still have questions?

These are just a few of the more commonly asked-about insurance terms. There are many more. If you still have questions, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to explain. Personal service is one of the prime benefits of working with an independent insurance agency like L & M Insurance Group. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have questions about your policy. Please click here for a car insurance quote, or here for a homeowners insurance quote.

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Medicare Annual Enrollment: It’s Time to Review Your Coverage Options

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, the annual fall Medicare annual enrollment period (Oct. 15- Dec. 7) is the perfect time to review your Medicare coverage options to see if they are still right for you. If you currently have original Medicare and would like to try a Medicare Advantage plan, or if you’d like to change Medicare Advantage plans, this is also the time to do it. Any change you make will take effect beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

A quick reminder: Medicare Advantage plans combine Part A (hospital coverage), Part B (medical coverage), and usually Part D (prescription drug coverage) of original Medicare. The plans, offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare, may also contain additional coverage, such as vision or dental.

To help you decide which option is best for you, think about what medical services and treatments you need—do you take prescription medication, or need vision or dental care, for example? What about specialized care or physical therapy? Once you know what types of benefits you need, you can compare plans to see which one is right for you.

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If you need help deciding which Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Supplement is right for you, please call us at 813-672-4100

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Due to COVID-19, another increasingly popular Medicare Advantage plan benefit you might want to consider is “telehealth”—the ability to consult with medical professionals virtually without leaving your home. More and more plans are offering this now.

Whether you are signing up for Medicare Advantage for the first time, or are considering renewing your current plan, here are some things to consider:

  • Are your doctors and preferred hospital part of your plan’s network of providers?
  • What will your out-of-pocket costs be? Can you afford the co-pays and deductible?
  • Do you need vision and dental benefits?
  • Does the plan cover you when you’re away from your primary residence? This is an important consideration for “snowbirds,” because some plans only offer emergency coverage if you’re away from home.

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Staying with original Medicare but concerned about out-of-pocket costs? Ask us about a Medicare Supplement (“Medigap”) plan.

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Medicare coverage can be confusing, so if you’d like to talk to a local agent, L & M Insurance Group is here to help. Let us work with you to find the Medicare option that best fits your situation. We offer plans from Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and others.  Please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

For more information on Medicare benefits and plans, please see https://www.medicare.gov/

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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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Five Reasons You Might Need an Umbrella Policy

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

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

What is an umbrella policy?

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

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

Who needs an umbrella policy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Builder’s Risk Policy Basics

There are some instances when a standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover your property, such as when you’re building a home from the ground up, or you own a vacant property undergoing renovations. What happens if your property burns to the ground, or incurs another type of serious damage or loss? To protect your under-construction or renovation properties, you’ll need a builder’s risk policy.

What is a builder’s risk policy?

A builder’s risk policy provides insurance coverage for either residential or commercial buildings under construction or renovation. If you’re a homeowner, property investor, builder, or contractor building or remodeling a building, this is the policy you’ll need to protect your financial interest. You can purchase a policy for as short a term as one month, all the way up to a year, depending on how long you think the construction process will take. If the project doesn’t finish in the expected time, you can extend coverage. You can also cancel the policy if the building is finished before the end of the policy term.

Depending on what perils you choose to include, builder’s risk policies cover loss or damage at construction sites, including building materials being used to remodel or complete ground-up construction of a building. You can buy a builder’s risk policy with varying deductibles and levels of coverage—your L & M Insurance Group agent can help you decide what policy features are best for you.

What builder’s risk doesn’t cover

Builder’s risk policies do not typically cover liability for accidents or injuries on the construction site that are related to the construction itself. Also, a builder’s risk policy is different from a vacant dwelling policy, which is just what it sounds like: a policy that covers your home or investment property when it is vacant, but not under construction.

L & M Insurance Group has many years of experience helping clients in Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, Gibsonton and surrounding areas choose the right insurance coverage to protect their financial interests. We understand the insurance needs of property investors as well as private individuals, and would love to help you with all your property insurance needs. Please contact us via phone at 813-672-4100 or click here to email us.