Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Written by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Nov 26, 2022

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Quick Facts

  • Accidents are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States
  • Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance pays additional benefits for fatalities caused by unforeseen and unavoidable accidents
  • You can buy accidental death benefit riders on life insurance for as low as $4 per month

Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance is a type of life insurance with no waiting period —  you can get covered quickly and without a medical exam. 

With coverage, your beneficiaries receive an additional payout for death, loss of limb, or paralysis caused by some of the most common accidents, including auto collisions. AD&D benefits are available along with your life insurance death benefits, and beneficiaries can use this money to pay for funeral costs, mortgage payments, or other debts you’ve left behind.

AD&D policies may be available through your employer as a group life insurance rider. You can sometimes buy the policy on its own, but this isn’t very cost-effective. In addition, AD&D coverage is very restricted, and policies don’t necessarily apply to the kinds of accidents you’d expect them to.

Keep reading if you’re curious about what is considered an accidental death. This guide discusses how insurance companies define accidental death and dismemberment and how coverage applies to the kinds of accidents you may encounter.

Scroll down to find out if you need AD&D insurance and start comparing life insurance quotes right away with our free comparison tool below.

What is accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) insurance?

AD&D insurance is usually sold as a rider on traditional term life insurance vs. whole life insurance. Customers can use this coverage to supplement their existing benefits if they die suddenly in an accident or cannot work due to serious injury or paralysis. 

Accidental death and dismemberment plans are also called “double indemnity” riders because your surviving beneficiaries will receive an additional payout on top of your life insurance benefits. 

What does accidental death insurance cover? Coverage depends on the type of policy you buy, and a company can restrict policy coverage based on how it defines accidental death and dismemberment. Explore these insurance definitions below to learn what is covered by AD&D insurance.

What is accidental death?

AD&D insurance is limited to accidental deaths only and will not cover health-related deaths, such as heart failure or stroke. Each company will restrict the kinds of accidents it covers, but policies generally pay out for deaths caused by:

  • Auto collisions
  • Homicide
  • Workplace incidents
  • Exposure to the elements
  • Fire-related injuries
  • Falls
  • Heavy machinery accidents
  • Drowning

Your beneficiaries will receive an AD&D life insurance benefit if you die from injuries sustained from a serious accident, like the ones listed above. However, most companies will only pay out if the insured dies within 90 days of the accident. 

Further restrictions also apply to coverage for paralysis, loss of fingers and limbs, or loss of one or more of your senses, known as dismemberment coverage.

What is dismemberment?

According to Local Government Federal Credit Union, dismemberment means the loss of a limb or bodily function, including sight, hearing, or ability to walk. Some companies may limit the types of dismemberment covered by the policy and how much of your accidental death benefits you receive.

For example, most insurers will pay half of the policy’s benefit if you lose only one limb or vision in one eye. However, you may receive the full benefit if you lose two or more limbs. Other companies will only pay a portion of the benefit for partial paralysis or triplegia.

When it comes to the definitions of accidental death and dismemberment, AD&D coverage will have a lot of restrictions. So, read the fine print of your accidental death insurance policy to find out what’s covered and when.

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What is the difference between life insurance and AD&D insurance?

The main difference between life and AD&D insurance is the coverage restrictions. While AD&D insurance will only pay out for certain unavoidable accidents, life insurance benefits are available no matter how the death occurs. 

A few restrictions do apply to life insurance, but that list is far shorter than the catalog of exceptions restricting AD&D coverage. 

Another big difference is the price. Life insurance — especially permanent life insurance — is much more expensive than AD&D coverage. Accidental life insurance can cost as little as $4 per month with some group insurance plans, so it’s essential to shop around and talk with your employer about what kind of coverage is available.

Take a look at this table for more key differences between AD&D and term life insurance.

Accidental Death Vs Term Life Feature Comparison

Accidental DeathTerm Life
Most affordableAffordable
Can be added as a rider to an existing term life or group life policyBetter rates for better health
Can add spouse and family to policyCan add riders like Return of Premium
Can provide additional benefits to beneficiaries depending on deathMedical exam may be required
No medical exam requiredNo-exam available for eligible, low-risk individuals
No medical questionsCovers deaths due to accidents and natural causes
Insures up to age 70Generally excludes death from military service and other high-risk activities
Only covers deaths due to accidentsAdditional exclusions may apply during contestable period
May also include work accidentsApplication can take anywhere from one day to several weeks
Also excludes death from suicide, military, illegal activities, drugs, alcohol, private aviation
Can be approved and covered within a day
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If you’re looking for affordable life insurance options, consider shopping for term life insurance quotes before buying a standalone AD&D policy. Term life comes with lower rates than whole life and much broader coverage than accidental death. Still, you can buy AD&D as a rider to your term policy if you want additional peace of mind. 

Understanding Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) Insurance Policies

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance sounds straightforward enough, but insurance companies like to make special considerations to the type of coverage they offer with this plan.   There will be exceptions to the accidents covered and a difference in who pays the premiums.

Scroll through the following sections to learn more about different kinds of AD&D policies and what is and is not covered.

What is voluntary AD&D?

Voluntary AD&D (VAD&D) insurance is typically offered with an employee group insurance package. Beneficiaries receive a cash payout on top of any life insurance benefits. These plans are designed for additional financial protection against accidental deaths and serious injury.

VAD&D insurance rates are based on the amount of coverage you buy. The good news here is that most group voluntary options are covered by the employer up to a certain amount. This is why voluntary AD&D is usually offered to employees with high-risk occupations.

You can choose to buy more coverage, but you will receive the minimum amount with no increase to your rates. 

Does AD&D cover heart attacks?

AD&D benefits apply only to accidents. This kind of insurance does not cover heart attacks, and policy restrictions prevent coverage from applying to any other deaths caused by natural causes. 

Even if a sudden heart attack leads to an accident that causes death, accidental death insurance will not pay out. In this case, only life insurance or burial expense coverage would apply.

What doesn’t AD&D insurance cover?

Along with heart attacks, AD&D insurance will not cover other health-related deaths such as strokes, cancer, or drug overdoses. Accident life insurance benefits also won’t apply to drunk driving fatalities, criminal behavior, or high-risk activities.

This means that if you need life insurance for extreme sports like skydiving or BASE jumping, you likely won’t qualify for AD&D insurance.

Other special considerations are suicide and wartime injuries. Most often, companies will exclude these deaths from your accidental life insurance policy. However, some insurers allow for exceptions. For example, suicides may be covered if death occurred at least two years after the policy start date. 

Exceptions and coverage restrictions will vary by company, so always compare quotes from at least three insurers and ask about the exclusions with each. You may find that AD&D insurance doesn’t cover what you need it to or that you’re already covered by your life or health insurance policy. 

How much does AD&D insurance cost?

AD&D coverage is considered a more affordable alternative to life insurance, as monthly quotes are often less than $30 per month. Employers can also offer AD&D coverage at no additional cost to you.

Many companies charge between $4-$7 per month per $100,000 in benefits for an accidental death add-on, and average rates increase as you buy more coverage. Your rates will also be higher if you choose to buy AD&D as a standalone policy.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of AD&D Insurance

The most significant advantage of AD&D insurance is the low annual rates. Through an employer, it’s much cheaper than the shortest-term life insurance plan and covers some of the most common accidents.

However, the multiple exclusions on AD&D policies are the most significant disadvantage.

Pros And Cons of AD&D Insurance

ProsCons
No medical exam and minimal health requirementsOften only available as a life or health insurance add-on
Affordable ratesToo many exclusions
Can get coverage quickly
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Because the AD&D claims process is so strict, most insurance companies require an autopsy before a payout is made and exclude many common accidental deaths from natural causes. AD&D insurance may not cover what you need it to, making the low monthly cost irrelevant if your beneficiaries can never use the policy.

AD&D Insurance: The Bottom Line

Is accidental death insurance worth it? That depends on your lifestyle and the needs of your family. Young parents and couples without adequate life insurance can benefit from the additional coverage offered by accidental death insurance. 

If you have the option of getting voluntary AD&D through your employer, it can be a great way to supplement your life insurance for very low out-of-pocket costs. However, you may not need AD&D insurance if you have enough coverage through a term or whole life policy. 

AD&D insurance also comes with a long list of restrictions and exceptions that may not apply to your lifestyle. Shop with multiple life insurance companies to find out what kind of accidental death coverage is available near you. Get started today by entering your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below.

Frequently Asked Questions About AD&D Insurance

Need to know more about AD&D insurance? Read through the questions below.

Do I need both life insurance and AD&D?

The best way to buy accidental death & dismemberment insurance is as a life insurance add-on. Annual rates are cheaper, and your beneficiaries have the chance to receive two death benefits should you die as a result of an accident. However, AD&D coverage may be redundant if you already have adequate life insurance coverage. 

How is AD&D different from life insurance?

AD&D comes with many more restrictions than traditional life insurance. In addition, most policyholders and beneficiaries are unlikely to see any benefits from an AD&D policy since covered claims are so rare.

On the other hand, life insurance will pay out for any kind of death as long as rates were paid on time throughout the policyholder’s life.

Does AD&D cover cancer?

Accidental death insurance does not apply to natural causes, which include cancer and other health-related deaths. Term or whole life insurance are much better options for finding coverage for cancer.

What are examples of accidental death?

The most common examples of accidental death covered by AD&D insurance are car accidents, plane accidents, homicide, drowning, exposure to the elements, workplace accidents, fires, falls, and accidents caused by heavy machinery.