What is Accidental Death Insurance, and do you Need it?

Accidental death insurance, also known as accidental death and dismemberment insurance, is a type of limited life insurance often acquired for a nominal fee or added to an existing policy. As the name suggests, it releases a benefit if the policyholder dies from an accident or suffers a dismemberment. 

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Accidents kill an estimated 160,000 Americans a year and are far more common amongst men aged between 18 and 44. Many of these deaths occur as a result of falls and motor traffic accidents, both of which are covered by most accidental death insurance policies.

When You Don’t Need Accidental Death Insurance

If you already have life insurance, you can probably overlook accidental death insurance. In such cases, it will simply increase the value of the payout when you die, known as “double indemnity” coverage.

Unlike whole-life insurance policies, it does not provide policyholders with a separate investment vehicle that they can cash out at a later date. Generally, accidental death insurance doesn’t offer anything that a traditional life insurance policy can’t provide, and it may therefore be deemed an unnecessary expense.

However, there are exceptions.

When You Need Accidental Death Insurance

An accidental death benefit can’t provide you with anything that you won’t get from a traditional life insurance policy. However, it’s a different story with dismemberment insurance. This will cover you in the event that you lose a finger, toe or arm, which means you’ll have the money you need for medical costs and may be compensated for lost work.

Accidental death insurance can also help to cover any additional medical fees that result from necessary treatment taken after an accident and before death. Your family may be forced to cover these bills, and an additional death benefit can help them with that. 

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance is not something we would recommend in lieu of traditional life insurance, but if you have the option to add it to an existing policy for a few bucks a month, it’s well worth considering.

How Much Does Accidental Death Insurance Cost?

The price of your accidental death insurance premiums will depend on your payout as well as your risk factor. The average person can expect a charge of roughly $5 per month for every $50,000 of coverage, which means a benefit of $100,000 could cost as little as $10 a month.

But, as we have discussed many times before, underwriters focus on probabilities. The more likely you are to die from an accident, the higher those premiums will cost. For instance, if you’re an 18-year-old who has just started driving and enjoys a few high-risk hobbies, you may see those premiums climb.

How Long Does Accidental Death Insurance Last?

Accidental death insurance policies typically run for up to 40 years. You choose the desired term at the start and this is used to calculate your premiums, with longer terms leading to higher prices on account of the increased risk.

What is Not Covered by Accidental Death Insurance?

Accidental death insurance generally doesn’t cover all accidents and all dismemberments. The exact coverage will depend on the policy, and it’s possible to tailor your policy to include some of the things not traditionally included, but this may increase the premiums.

Suicide

Suicide is a tricky one. Many life insurance policies will payout if the policyholder commits suicide, but only if it occurs after the first two years and it is proved that they committed suicide so their loved ones would benefit (although this is not easy to prove).

However, accidental death insurance policies tend to rule suicide out altogether. Many deaths caused by misadventure may be queried as suicide, such as falls and drownings, but unless there is actual proof that they intended to take their life, the death will often be ruled as misadventure, in which case an accidental death insurance policy may payout.

War Injuries

Accidental death insurance rarely pays out for deaths resulting from war injuries. This is true whether the policyholder is shot or dies from an explosion or fall. That death was certainly not intentional, so you could argue that the policy should pay, but most insurers will refuse.

Illness and Disease

An accidental death insurance policy is not designed to payout in the event that you die from an illness or disease. Your beneficiaries may also face some resistance if you had a serious illness or disease at the time of your death but an accident was ultimately the thing that killed you.

For instance, if you have a serious mobility problem and this causes you to fall, hit your head, and die, then technically an accident killed you, but that accident wouldn’t have happened if not for the illness, creating some technicalities that will no doubt lead to problems when filing a claim.

Drugs or Alcohol

An accidental overdose is rarely covered by accidental death insurance. There will be no benefit for your loved ones if it leads to your demise, and no benefit for you if it leads to long-term health complications.

This is not true for all policies, however, and there may be exceptions for drugs that were prescribed.

How Can the Cause of Death be Proved?

As alluded to already, the cause of death isn’t straightforward. With a traditional life insurance policy, if the policyholder dies outside of the contestability period, the insurers will rarely get involved. That changes if they have suspicions about the death and believe that a crime was committed (fraud, murder) but it’s rare.

With accidental death insurance, however, there are many more nuances. As a result, an official investigation may be ordered, and this can include an autopsy.

How Does the Dismemberment Payout Work?

If the policyholder losses an appendage as a result of an accident, they may receive a partial benefit paid direct to them. The policy will dictate how much is paid and why, but generally the payout will be made following a non-excluded accident that results in the loss of:

  • An arm
  • A leg
  • A finger
  • A toe
  • Sight

Higher payouts may also be provided if the policyholder suffers complete paralysis.