Accidental Death vs. Term Life Insurance

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Navigating the world of life insurance can be confusing. By now, you’ve probably come across accidental death insurance (as well as accidental death and dismemberment, or AD&D) and want to evaluate whether it’s a good option for you. 

The truth is, accidental death insurance really could be a great choice for you and your family, but it’s important to understand what exactly it covers. As you’ve probably surmised, accidental death covers accidental death. But so does term life insurance. Why would someone choose one over the other? Here’s what you need to know. 

What is Term Life Insurance?

Before digging into accidental death coverage, let’s briefly explain what term life insurance is and how it works. 

Term life insurance is a type of policy that lasts for a set term for a set amount of coverage (for example, a 20-year term for $250,000 in life insurance coverage). The coverage amount selected at the time of purchase is what the beneficiaries would receive tax-free should the person insured pass away during the term. 

During that 20-year period, premium payments are made in order to keep the policy active. There are some exclusions, but in general, these policies cover nearly any type of death during the term.

Term life is a top pick for many because of its simplicity — there’s no need to worry about building up cash value like a whole life policy — and it’s affordability. However, due to insurance underwriting guidelines, it’s not possible for everyone to qualify for a term life policy. 

What is Accidental Death Insurance?

Accidental death covers accidental death and excludes natural causes. This means that if the person insured dies as a result of things like cancer, heart disease, or suicide, the beneficiaries would not be eligible for any type of death benefit through the accidental death policy.

The unfortunate reality is that accidents are the third major cause of death in the U.S. If you’re not eligible for a term life policy due to your health, an accidental death policy is affordable alternative. Plus, if you have access to a group life policy through work, this can be another way to take care of your family.

Also good to know about, additional benefits — these may even be available to you at no extra cost. For example, the travel accident benefit may pay an additional amount  to your beneficiaries (sometimes 100% of the benefit) should you die while riding on public transit. 

Do you need a medical exam in order to get an Accidental Death policy?

Because an accidental death policy doesn’t cover natural causes, a medical exam is not required in order to get one. Heck, they won’t even ask you medical questions. You can apply and get approved for accidental death coverage within a day and can even buy coverage up to age 70 to keep until you’re 80!

Term Life vs. Accidental Death

Here’s an overview of the difference between the two so you can compare a little more closely. Keep in mind that these are general and can vary by insurance company. 

Accidental Death Term Life
  • Most affordable
  • Can be added as a rider to an existing term life or group life policy
  • Can add spouse and family to policy
  • Can provide additional benefits to beneficiaries depending on death
  • Affordable
  • Better rates for better health
  • Can add riders like ROP
  • No medical exam required
  • No medical questions
  • Insures up to age 70
  • Medical exam may be required
  • No-exam available for eligible, low-risk individuals
  • Only covers deaths due to accidents
  • May also include work accidents
  • Covers deaths due to accidents and natural causes
  • Also excludes death from suicide, military, illegal activities, drugs, alcohol, private aviation
  • Generally excludes death from military service and other high-risk activities
  • Additional exclusions may apply during contestable period
  • Can be approved and covered within a day
  • Application can take anywhere from one day to several weeks 


Bottom Line

Don’t be so quick to discount an accidental death policy. If you’re unable to get life insurance coverage because of your health, you can apply for accidental death and get some much-needed protection that way instead. And if you already have existing coverage, accidental death can provide an extra boost of confidence that your loved ones will be taken care of.

Annette Salinas

Annette Salinas is a content strategist and writer based in Austin, TX. She began her career as a call center representative at an insurance company, advising and educating customers. Today, she's a writer and editor specializing in insurance and personal finance.

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