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Tips for a Safer Thanksgiving

As you prepare to gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, L & M Insurance Group wants to thank you for your business, and wish you a happy holiday. We also want to remind you of a few Thanksgiving safety precautions to take to ensure that you also have a safe holiday. Thanksgiving can be a surprisingly perilous day.

While your car and homeowners/renters insurance should protect you financially if you face one of these Thanksgiving mishaps, we hope you will never have to spend any of your holiday time making a claim. Here’s a look at the more common accidents that happen on Thanksgiving, and some tips for avoiding them.

Car accidents

Millions of motorists hit the roads during the four-day Thanksgiving break. Unfortunately, many of them will be distracted or driving while under the influence of alcohol. The National Safety Council estimates that 417 people will die in traffic accidents during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, and 47,500 injuries will occur. If you’re driving to a Thanksgiving celebration, take extra care. Buckle those seat belts, put away your phone. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving celebrations, make sure you designate a driver, or use a ride service. If you’re the host, don’t be shy about arranging a ride home for a guest who’s had too much to drink. 

Fires

On Thanksgiving Day, cooking fires are three times more common, do more property damage, and claim more lives than on any other day of the year. Unattended cooking is usually the culprit, so keep a close eye on the stove and oven when they’re in use. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, and know how to use it. Check the batteries in smoke detectors and make sure they’re functioning before the festivities start.

Candles left burning are another source of home fires. Be sure to blow them all out before leaving the house or going to sleep. And never leave children unattended in a room with a lit candle.

Falls

To prevent a slip or trip and fall, keep all high traffic areas clear. Watch out for kids playing, toys, purses, or bags where people will be walking. Check handrails for sturdiness, and warn guests of any slippery spots on your driveway or walkways.

Pet problems

Holiday parties can be stressful to pets, and cause even friendly ones to bite or scratch. If you have pets, for both their safety and that of your guests, provide a safe and quiet place for them to retreat while you have company. A dog bite or cat scratch can quickly spoil a party. (Click here for more information on dog bite liability.)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at L & M Insurance Group. We thank you for allowing us to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to call (813-672-4100) or email us if you have questions about your insurance needs. We’re here to help.

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Bad Credit Affecting Your Auto Insurance Rates? Don’t Despair—We Can Help

Insurance companies use many factors when they calculate what to charge for their policies, and more than 90 percent of them consider credit history when setting auto insurance rates. Insurers have found a strong correlation between bad credit and a higher likelihood of a client filing an insurance claim.

Therefore, if you have bad credit, it’s likely costing you money in your car insurance premiums. According to Nerd Wallet, Florida drivers with bad credit pay an average of $1,898 more per year, or $158 more per month, for their auto insurance than drivers with good credit.

While it’s true that having good credit is one way to help keep your insurance premiums low, even if you have bad credit, or little to no credit history, L & M Insurance Group can help.

We’ll do the checking for you!

If your credit is less than stellar, you should definitely compare the insurance rates of several different companies before buying a policy. While there are insurance companies that don’t use credit as a rating factor, they may charge higher rates overall. A better option may be an insurance company that penalizes you less for your credit score than other companies do! (And don’t worry—getting multiple auto insurance quotes does not lower your credit score.)

Sound confusing? It doesn’t have to be. L & M Insurance Group can do the checking for you! We represent more than 25 quality auto insurance companies, and have more than 30 years in the insurance business. We’re committed to helping all our clients find the most cost-effective policies possible.

Improved credit equals lower insurance rates

It’s still a good idea to improve your credit by paying bills on time, maintaining a low credit utilization rate, and checking your credit report to make sure it’s accurate. If you don’t have much credit history, you can build one by applying for credit judiciously—just don’t apply for too many lines of credit, because that can also hurt your credit score. You may need to start with a secured card, or by becoming an authorized user on a trusted family member’s account.

As your credit score improves, you may be able to save money on your insurance premiums. Be sure to ask your L & M Insurance Group agent to compare rates at renewal if your credit has improved.

No matter whether your credit is good or bad, L & M Insurance Group has an insurance option for you. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or email us for an auto insurance quote today!

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Just Married? Time to Review Your Insurance Coverage

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

Review your existing coverage

Car insurance

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

Homeowners or renters insurance

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

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

And remember to officially add your spouse to your policy!

Health insurance

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

Life Insurance

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

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

Need help? We’ve got you covered!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if your credit isn’t so good?

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

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

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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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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.

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!