Accidental Death Insurance vs Life Insurance: Key Differences


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When it comes to protecting your family in the event of your demise, you want to make sure you are getting the absolute best in terms of coverage.

“Life Insurance” coverage is supposed to make sure bills are paid, funeral expenses are taken care of, and that your family doesn’t have to worry about anything when you are gone.

But shopping around for policies can be confusing. Words like term, whole, and accidental death insurance get thrown around a lot. If you aren’t sure of the differences, it’s easy to get less coverage than you need.

One type of policy that sounds like a great idea, but may not give you adequate coverage, is Accidental Death Insurance.

Sounds promising, right? After all, that’s what you want to protect your family against; Your accidental death (or dismemberment, since most AD&D plans cover that as well).

Not only that, but AD&D is often significantly less expensive than standard life insurance. This makes it attractive to the budget-savvy among us.

But is Accidental Death and Dismemberment coverage really a worthwhile investment, and does it protect your family as well as you think?

Accidental Death Insurance VS Life Insurance

If you aren’t familiar with the various kinds of death benefits, or if this is your first time shopping around, AD&D and Life insurance may sound very similar.

Both pay out benefits in the case of your death or catastrophic injury, and both make sure your family is taken care of.

So what is the difference here? Are they just two names for the same thing? Isn’t one just as good as the other?

Let’s take a look at both.

What is Accidental Death Insurance?

Accidental Death Insurance or AD&D Coverage does exactly what its name implies.

It provides a payout in the event of your death or dismemberment as the result of an accident.

Usually, there are various payout levels.

For instance, the full amount of your plan will be paid out in the event of your death. The loss of a limb might result in only a quarter or half of the full value of the policy.

Losing two limbs, however, would result in a full payout, as would the loss of both eyes or hearing in both ears.

This sounds like a good idea, especially if you work in a hazardous field, like mining or logging, where death and dismemberment aren’t uncommon.

Limitations of AD&D

When you are shopping around for death coverage, it’s important to remember a few things.

Firstly, if something that seems comparable is a great deal less expensive than other options, there is probably a reason. that AD&D has a few significant drawbacks and limitations.

Secondly, that accidental death insurance has a few significant drawbacks and limitations.

It is a very specific type of insurance that isn’t right for every consumer. Think of it like dedicated cancer coverage offered by some short-term disability companies.

Let’s explore a few of these limitations.

1. AD&D pays out ONLY in the event of an accident

This means that your family only receives benefits in the event of a true accident-related death.

Surgery doesn’t count, and neither does war, suicide, or complications arising from or leading to an accident.

So while a car crash would qualify your family for benefits, a car crash resulting from driving drunk would not.

By the same token, death from a machine explosion on the job counts, but death from complications of surgery because of said explosion do not.

The parameters here are narrow and very easy to fall outside of due to technicalities.

2. Accidental Death is less common than you might think

Humans are very, very bad at assessing risk.

This means that we are more aware and more frightened of freak accidents than we are of things that have a legitimate risk of killing us.

The number one killer in America? It’s not plane crashes or workplace accidents.

It’s heart disease, followed by cancer and respiratory failure.

Accidents don’t show up until the number four slot, and it’s bookended on both sides by medical problems.

Which means that AD&D only covers a very tiny slice of the myriad causes of death that are likely to carry you off in the end.

A morbid thought, perhaps, but one worth bearing in mind.

3. AD&D is Time-Sensitive

In the event of an accident, you only have so much time to actually die before your AD&D plan will refuse to pay out benefits.

Which seems inconsiderate, when you think about it.

The actual time frame differs plan to plan, but the average is about three months.

Let’s say that you are involved in a car accident, unaffected by any other extenuating circumstances.

If you are in a coma for four months before dying, your family is unlikely to see any benefits from your accidental death insurance. This is even though you meet all the criteria for an accidental death.

4. It Depends on What you Mean by “Death”

AD&D policies are very strict and picky about what sorts of things they will pay out for.

Anything requiring payout has to be purely an “accident”. This means no other complications or mitigating circumstances.

This means surgical complications, accidents where you may have been at all at fault, and things like war are completely out.

These limitations are the reason that AD&D can offer such attractive prices.

The companies that offer AD&D are taking on a much smaller amount of risk than they would if they offered term or whole life insurance. This means they can charge less.

However, this means a plan that is not nearly comprehensive enough to protect a family for all eventualities.

How Does Life Insurance Differ?

Life insurance differs from accidental death insurance in several key ways. Most of these differences have to do with how comprehensive benefits are in the plan.

Life insurance, be it term insurance or whole life insurance, pays out money to your beneficiaries if you die.

Costs and plan specifics may vary based on age, health conditions, or other factors. In general, though, standard life insurance doesn’t quibble on what it deems a “qualifying death”

This means that whether death is the result of a work accident, or medical condition and even old age, life insurance will pay out full benefits.

Are There Limitations to Term or Whole Life Insurance?

There are, but not to the same degree as accidental death insurance. Where AD&D only covers one very specific cause of death, term or whole life covers death regardless of circumstance.

Most policies will not cover death by suicide until two years after the policy has been purchased. They also may want extensive proof if the insured dies at all within two years of the purchase date, since this can indicate possible fraud.

Different insurance plans may have different policies related to death due to drug use or illegal activities, but those things should be laid out in your plan.

It’s also important to consider term vs whole life insurance.

Term life insurance is only bought for a stated amount of time, such as ten or thirty years. While you can buy a new policy after your current plan expires, the plan will not pay benefits for a death beyond its specified range.

Whole life insurance, on the other hand, is yours for the duration of your life. So no matter how long you live from the time you buy your policy, you family is covered.

It’s basically the difference between buying and leasing insurance, and whether you do one, the other, or both is up to you and your unique situation.

Should I buy Accidental Death Insurance or Life Insurance?

If you want to ensure that your family is covered in the event of your death, regardless of the circumstances, your best option is going to be life insurance.

Life insurance will ensure that your families bills are paid and that there is a modicum of financial security regardless of whether your death is the result of an illness of injury.

Accidental Death Insurance CAN be valuable if it is used as a supplement to regular life insurance. Life insurance is not as likely to cover injury the way AD&D does.

An Accidental Death Insurance policy is also a great option for those who may not qualify for traditional life insurance due to high risk health conditions.

Since AD&D insurance applications do not require medical approval, qualifying for a policy is much more easier than life insurance.

If you work in an industry that has a high risk of catastrophic injury, AD&D can be a wise investment in addition to, not independently of regular life insurance.

This is an especially good idea if your employer offers accidental death insurance free or very inexpensively, as many do. After all, if it isn’t a huge financial consideration, it can only be helpful.

Pros & Cons of Accidental Death Insurance


  • More affordable than traditional life insurance
  • Health is not a qualifying factor to apply
  • No exam needed
  • Up to $1,000,000 in AD&D coverage
  • Rates are generally locked in until you cancel or make changes to the coverage


  • Death benefit is only paid out in a result of a qualifying accident

As you can see there are many positives to purchasing an accidental death policy. If you think this is coverage you would like to explore more, please fill out the form below and a licensed agent will call to help assist you.

For more information on how life insurance can work for you and your family, contact our qualified insurance agents or visit us here

Jeffrey Manola

Jeffrey Manola

Jeffrey Manola is an experienced life insurance agent and the founder of Top Quote Life Insurance. His mission when he created Top Quote Life Insurance was to provide online consumers searching for life insurance with the absolute best quotes for term life insurance, permanent life insurance, no medical exam life insurance, and burial insurance.

Not only does he strive to provide you with the best rates for your life insurance coverage, but he also wants you to be well informed about the different types of life insurance options that are available. You will also find a significant amount of valuable information on the multiple life insurance companies that can provide you with coverage.

Jeffrey Manola is licensed to provide expert advice and help aid in the purchasing process of life insurance products. He is licensed with the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) in the following states:

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Never hesitate to reach out to Jeffrey if you need help. Top Quote Life Insurance is more than just an online quoting agency. We want to help you save money, protect your future, and earn your trust (888) 777-7574.

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